Soap & Candles
Soap has been
produced for many centuries and over that long period of time the method of
production changed very little. Neutral oils or fats, including beef and mutton
fat and whale oil, were boiled with alkalis, particularly potassium and sodium
hydroxide, to form metallic salts of fatty
acids, or soaps. Glycerol was liberated as a valuable by-product. The
quality of soap produced depends very much on the quality of the materials used.
Early soap production used ash, produced by burning various vegetable
materials, including kelp, as a makeshift source of alkali. The
production of ash from kelp was a major industry in Scotland in the Western and
Northern isles during the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Kelp Industry was introduced to Orkney as early
as 1722 by a progressive landowner, James Fea of Whitehall,
Stronsay. There was some suspicion of the Industry to begin with as the kelp was
a useful fertiliser. The seaweed was burnt to produce alkali which
had uses not only for making soap but
also glass. The seaweed washed ashore, known locally as 'tangles'
was collected and usually burned in shallow stone-lined pits, which were seen in
many places around the Torry shores, and became a valuable Scottish
Industry, bringing in during the French Wars,
some £20,000 per annum, and employing up to 3000 people. The success of
the industry produced large profits and led to attempted innovations. On Papa
Stronsay large kilns were built to replace the simple stone-lined pits. It is
not known if these kilns were a great improvement on the more traditional
By the middle
the homes of the wealthy upper classes were generally lit by
Candles were once made from tallow and beeswax until after about 1850,
they were made mainly from
a high quality
purified animal fats (Stearin). Today, most candles are made from Paraffin
Wax. Candles can be made from beeswax, other plant waxes and tallow (a
by-product of beef-fat rendering).
Eventually whale oil was replaced by
and ultimately, electricity.
A candle is a solid
block of wax with an embedded braided cotton wick, which is ignited to provide
light, and sometimes heat, and historically was used as a method of keeping
time. A candle manufacturer is traditionally known as a chandler.
For a candle to burn, a heat source (commonly a naked flame) is used to light
the candle's wick, which melts and vaporises a small amount of fuel, the
paraffin wax. Once vaporised, the fuel combines with oxygen in the
atmosphere to form a flame. This flame provides sufficient heat to keep the
candle burning via a self-sustaining chain of events: the heat
of the flame melts the top of the mass of solid fuel; the liquefied fuel then
moves upward through the wick via capillary action; the liquefied fuel finally
vaporises to burn within the candle's flame. As the mass of solid fuel
is melted and consumed, the candle grows shorter. Portions of the wick that are
not emitting vaporised fuel are consumed in the flame. The incineration of the
wick limits the exposed length of the wick, thus maintaining a constant burning
temperature and rate of fuel consumption. Some wicks require regular trimming
with scissors (or a specialised wick trimmer), usually to about 1/4"
(~0.7 cm), to promote slower, steady burning, and also to prevent smoking.
In early times, the wick needed to be trimmed quite frequently, and special
candle-scissors, referred to as "snuffers" until the 20th century,
were produced for this purpose, often combined with an extinguisher. In modern
candles, the wick is constructed so that it curves over as it burns, so that the
end of the wick gets oxygen and is then consumed by fire - a self-trimming wick.
On 8 March 1750, George Leslie,
a Merchant trading in Aberdeen, applied to Aberdeen Council for a warrant to cut
and burn Kelp. He wanted to undertake this work as part of what he described as
his ‘Soapere’ In the 1830s it was noted that kelp gathering for soap production had
the discovery of cheaper sources of the
have long since rendered the business un-remunerative.
Jessie - recalled
"the string o' cairts" she "minds windin' awa' the wye o'
the Brig o' Dee wi' the last load o' kelp fae the
Bye o' Nigg."
In 1881 there were 3 Soap and Candle manufacturers in Aberdeen
Alexander Mearns, Soapmaker, 2, Burnett's Close
A Soap Factory was in Albion Street at the junction of Fish Street Lane. c.1867
A Ogston & Sons, Victorian Soap and Candle Factory (1802),
Alexander M Ogston, was a flax dresser
who went on to establish a successful business manufacturing Soap and
Candles. By the time the Alexander Ogston died in 1869, he was
resident in a fine Town House in the recently developed Golden Square (No.9),
and the firm became a household name as Ogston & Tennant under his Son,
Col James ‘Soapy’ Ogston, and clearly this was a 'major' concern.
William Smith, Sr (b1820) came from the North country, and was a Warehouseman (Soap
Works) in A. Ogston & Sons. He died some years before his highly respected
son. He was a man of gentle nature, capable in his work and conscientious in his
duties in the sphere in which he lived and moved.
William Smith Jr., (b.1851) belonged to Banchory, Aberdeenshire. He was a
Dispatch Clerk c.1877 with A. Ogston & Sons
'Soapy' Ogston's Premises
A Ogston and Son
an old established Soap and Candle maker
based in the Gallowgate area and was founded in
Colonel James Ogston later
to be known as
inherited the business from his father.
he merged the Company with
based soap and candle works of
Charles Tennant & Co. Ltd.
Ogston and Tennant.
Aberdeen Soap and Candle Works, 92 Loch Street;
Ogston & Tennant Limited
Female operatives are busy wrapping and stacking soap bars into trays and an
earlier fly-press swings dangerously in the background surrounded by mechanical
drives and travelling belts on flywheels. Repetitive work for dexterous women
with hungry families.
& Tennant were
on August 13th
suffered a huge fire - the date of 4th Feb
is also reported.
in flowing paraffin wax which threatened to block the
On 28 June 1910 they suffered a great fire which
engulfed and destroyed the Factory. Reports mention machinery crashing through
the floors. Damage totalled £80,000. In 1911 the Company agreed to
an "Association" with Lever Brothers and after the 2nd World War, they
became part of the Company until they ceased trading in the 1970s.
South Deeside Road, Banchory-Devenick, was built in 1878 in the Scottish
Baronial style and was designed by James Matthews (1819-98) for
the Aberdeen soap-maker, Alexander Ogston. Interior work by
Alexander Marshall McKenzie Architect. in 1883.
Ardoe House was later sold and converted into a Hotel in 1947.
The White Lady,
the spirit of a former owner’s daughter Katherine Ogston who committed
suicide has been seen in various parts of the Hotel.
Norwood Hall Hotel, Garthdee Road, Cults is said to have 3 ghosts
whose apparitions have been seen on several occasions. One is said to be
that of Col James Ogston (a previous owner), his wife, and his
mistress. In 1861 Mrs Helen Morrison, wife
of Baillie William Adamson (a London stockbroker) bought the property of
Norwood. Mr Adamson liked the name of Norwood and gave it to the
house that he built on the land his wife had bought. Mr Adamson died shortly
after the house was built in 1886. Mrs Morrison then sold the
property to John Taylor of Regent’s Park just 2ears later. It was then later
resold again in 1872 to a Colonel James (Soapy) Ogston, who
partly rebuilt the house in 1881 before moving his family across the
River Dee to Ardoe House and moving his mistress into Norwood.
It is believed that James originally purchased Norwood
in 1872 and rebuilt it in 1881 for his mistress so they could
meet whilst he lived in Ardoe House across the River Dee with his
young family. After years of torment both his his wife Anne and his
mistress wanted James to leave the other but James refused. It is
said that Norwood is now haunted by the 2 lovers and his wronged wife
who longs for revenge for the torrid years she had to endure. The
apparition of James has been seen standing in front of the log fire
in the dining room. The ghost of his mistress has been reported to
haunt the main stairs (perhaps looking for her lover). His wife is
the most active of the 3 with reports of her being seen in the hall,
the kitchen, and also the dining room. On the grounds of
Norwood is were the Pitfodels Castle once stood.
The 17th and 18th centuries
were largely a period of steep decline for Kildrummy Castle . The exceptionally
high quality of its stone led to its use
a handy quarry for the area, and the mighty Snow Tower collapsed in
1805. However, in 1898 the castle was acquired by Colonel James
Ogston, who until his death worked steadily to restore parts of it. He died
Kildrummy's New Castle
Kildrummy Castle Hotel overlooks the ruins of the
13th century Kildrummy Castle. The house was originally built and owned by
Colonel James Ogston, being known as Soapy Ogston as he made his
money from a soap factory in Aberdeen. He accumulated much wealth and owned
several big houses at least 2 of which are now Hotels. He purchased the
Kildrummy Estate but as the existing house was not to his taste he built a new
home which was finished in 1900. The house was lived in until 1954.
Esquire, Colonel (ret.) 1st Aberdeenshire Volunteer Artillery, J. P. and D. L.
for County of Aberdeen. Born May 29,
being the 2nd son of
of Ardoe, Kincardineshire, and his wife, Elliot,
Argent, 3 mascles sable, on a chief 2 lions passant of the first, armed
and langued gules, in the middle chief point a cres
cent also of the first, for difference. Mantling gules, doubled argent.
Crest - On a wreath of his liveries, a lion as in the
arms; and in an escroll over the same this Motto, " Vi et animo."
Married, Oct. 7,
Anne Leslie Jamieson.
Aberdeenshire. Clubs — Arts',
(Aberdeen), Scottish Conservative (Edinburgh).