View authority record

Harris Tweed Authority

Identity area

Type of entity

Corporate body

Authorized form of name

Harris Tweed Authority

Parallel form(s) of name

  • Harris Tweed Association

Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules

Other form(s) of name

Identifiers for corporate bodies

Description area

Dates of existence



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.


Legal status

Functions, occupations and activities

Mandates/sources of authority

Internal structures/genealogy

General context

Relationships area

Control area

Description identifier


Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used


Level of detail

Dates of creation, revision and deletion




Maintenance notes