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Collection GD014 - Harris Tweed Authority

Identity area

Reference code

GB3002 GD014


Harris Tweed Authority


  • 1898-2017 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

17 linear metres mainly textual material but includes some photographic. audiovisual and artefacts

Context area

Name of creator

Harris Tweed Authority (1909-)

Administrative history

The Harris Tweed Authority (1993-present, successor to the Harris Tweed Association, 1909-1993) is the guardian of the Harris Tweed Orb trade mark, and as such plays a regulatory role in the industry. Harris Tweed is a cloth that is made exclusively in the Western Isles, or Outer Hebrides, of Scotland. In the modern day industry, wool is dyed, carded and spun in mills, before being sent to weavers who weave the yarn into tweed using manual looms in their own homes. The tweed is then transferred back to the mill for finishing, before being stamped with the Orb mark by an HTA representative to prove its authenticity.

The Harris Tweed Association (HTA) was formed in 1909, though the industry had begun in around the 1840s with the Dunmores. Landowners of the Isle of Harris at the time, they promoted the homespun cloth among their aristocratic friends, and created an external market. This grew through sales from both Harris and Lewis in the latter part of the 19th century. By the beginning of the 20th century, Harris Tweed's profile had risen to such a level that imitations were appearing. This catalysed the creation of the Harris Tweed Association, whose founding members included two women with prior interests in the industry - Mary Stewart-Mackenzie and the Duchess of Sutherland - as well as individuals from the Western Isles and from England. The purpose of the Association, then as now, was to hold a trade mark to protect genuine Harris Tweed, and to promote its purchase. The Harris Tweed Orb trade mark was registered in 1910, and began to be stamped onto Harris Tweed cloth in 1911.

The original trade mark definition for Harris Tweed described it as an entirely handmade product. In the early part of the 20th century however, mills began to operate in the islands. Initally these were carding and dyeing mills, but they soon began to provide spinning machinery as well. As more weavers got their wool carded and spun in mills, the amount that qualified for stamping by the HTA diminished. This lead the Association to amend the regulations in 1934 to include tweed that had been made with millspun yarn. By the 1950s another problem arose - that of wool being spun on the mainland, or in some cases all processes barring the weaving being carried out off the islands. This lead to two court cases in the early 1960s, of which the Court of Session case in Edinburgh was arguably the more significant. Taking place from 1961-64, it was the largest court case in Scotland at the time, and lead to Lord Hunter's judgement in 1964 that to be called Harris Tweed, all the processes in its production had to be carried out in the Outer Hebrides.

Harris Tweed manufacture peaked in the 1960s, and suffered various rises and falls in popularity thereafter. In the 1970s, the HTA and the HIDB (Highlands and Islands Development Board) were involved in restructuring proposals that would have seen the introduction of powered looms. This was voted down in a ballot of weavers in 1975. By the 1980s, it was clear that the industry required some form of new loom, as the Hattersley looms, in use since around 1920, were reaching the end of their working life. The development of the new double-width Bonas Griffiths loom occurred from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, and it is now the loom used by the majority of weavers. In conjunction with this innovation, the Harris Tweed Act was passed in 1993, creating the Harris Tweed Authority as the successor to the Association and protecting Harris Tweed legally rather than relying on trade mark law. In the 21st century Harris Tweed has enjoyed a return to popularity, and the Harris Tweed Authority carries on the work of the Harris Tweed Association.

The Harris Tweed Association began life in London, before moving its headquarters to Inverness in 1962 and to Stornoway in 1992. The HTA had premises in Garden Road, Stornoway, from at least the 1960s, before moving into Stornoway Town Hall in 2012.

Archival history

The first accession (A2012/001) was held by the Harris Tweed Authority at their Garden Road premises until February 2012 when it was deposited with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, as part of the Tasglann nan Eilean Siar project.

The second accession (A2017/015) was held by the Harris Tweed Authority at their new premises in Stornoway Town Hall until June 2017, when it was deposited with Tasglann nan Eilean during the 2017-18 cataloguing project after being appraised by the Project Cataloguing Archivist.

The third accession (A2017/033) was deposited with Highland Archives, possibly around 1990, after being held by the HTA in commercial storage. These records were surveyed in 1992 by the Archivist of the Business Archives Council (Scotland). They were kept at the Regional Archive in Nairn for many years. They were transferred from Highland Archives in Inverness to Tasglann nan Eilean in October 2017.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Deposit : Harris Tweed Authority : February 2012; Harris Tweed Authority : June 2017; Highland Archive : October 2017.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The HTA collection comprises a variety of records, with an emphasis on correspondence and papers relating to the activities of the Harris Tweed Association (1909-1993) and the Harris Tweed Authority (1993-present). It is arranged into nine subfonds. Some parts of the catalogue exist to item level, while other parts are available only to subseries.
The full catalogue is available here:
GD014/1, Administrative, contains founding documents and the minutes of the Committee of Management and later the Board of Directors, as well as the minutes of other committees and groups involving the HTA, and papers relating to its facilities and staff.

GD014/2, Financial, contains account books and ledgers, and more recent accounts, financial statements and tax information.

GD014/3, Correspondence, reports and papers, is one of the largest subfonds. It consists of correspondence, reports and papers relating to the main activities that the HTA is involved in - protecting the Harris Tweed trade mark, liaising with the rest of the industry, and promoting Harris Tweed, as well as correspondence with funding organisations and individuals.

GD014/4, Harris Tweed court case (1961-1964), is the largest subfonds, and contains material produced or gathered in the course of the case in the Court of Session in Edinburgh before Lord Hunter. Since a vast volume of evidence was collected for the case, this section is particularly useful for researching the industry in the first half of the 20th century.

GD014/5, Industry, contains records produced by the different component parts of the industry, from role of the HTA in stamping the cloth, to the weavers, mills, and retailers and designers who make products from the fabric.

GD014/6, Marketing and promotion, consists of material produced in the course of the HTA's promotion of Harris Tweed. It includes leaflets, point-of-sale boards and limericks, as well as marketing reports and plans for a visitor centre.

GD014/7, Media, illustrates the industry's portrayal in the media through press cuttings, magazine articles and a TV programme.

GD014/8, Education, art and research, shows how Harris Tweed has been used in a creative capacity, with school and college projects, photography, poetry and theatre represented, as well as drafts of Janet Hunter's history of the industry, 'The Islanders and the Orb'.

GD014/9, Photographic material, contains images of the industry, including many fashion images of Harris Tweed clothing, in a variety of formats.

Throughout the catalogue, the acronym HTA has been used to refer to both the Harris Tweed Association (1909-1993) and the Harris Tweed Authority (1993-present).

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

Material was appraised by the Project Cataloguing Archivist throughout the 2017-18 cataloguing project. A large quantity of duplicate correspondence was removed, though some still remains.



System of arrangement

Collection is arranged partly functionally and partly by subject in nine subfonds, with photographic material having its own section. Correspondence within files has been left largely in original order. GD014/4 contains material transferred from Highland Archives which had been catalogued already (A2017/033), and most of this arrangement and text was retained.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Some records closed for business confidentiality purposes - 25 years. Some closed for data protection reasons - 100 years.

Conditions governing reproduction

Some photographic material carries the copyright of the photographer.

Language of material

  • Chinese
  • Dutch
  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Japanese
  • Norwegian
  • Scottish Gaelic

Script of material

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Mainly paper, both A4 and legal size. Some fragile fax paper. A number of volumes of varying sizes, and some outsize items. Several large pieces of textile, and some other small pieces of textile among paper files. Photographic material at GD014/9 - transparencies, slides, negatives and prints, as well as audiovisual (CD, video).

Finding aids

Full catalogue available here:

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Publication note

Hunter, J., The Islanders and the Orb : The History of the Harris Tweed Industry 1835-1995 (Stornoway 2001)

Notes area

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion




Archivist's note

Catalogue created by Victoria Woodcock (Project Cataloguing Archivist (Harris Tweed Authority) Mar 2017-Jun 2018), funded by a grant from The National Archives National Cataloguing Grants Programme.

Entries for GD014/9/5/1 created Nov 2017 by Dawn Macdonald (Collections Assistant).

Entries for GD014/7/1 and GD014/7/3 created Jul 2017-Jun 2018 by Gemma Malcolm (volunteer).

Entries for GD014/7/2/1-170 created Jul 2017-Jun 2018 by Caroline Brick (volunteer).

Entries for GD014/9/4/1-2 created Jul 2017-Mar 2018 by Anna Mackenzie (volunteer).

Transcriptions of GD014/5/1/1/1 and GD014/5/2/1/1-2 created Jul-Nov 2017 by Ella Macaulay (volunteer).

Rights area

Accession area