Jesse Ness

Jesse was a chemist, at the cutting edge of the Industrial Revolution in Newcastle manufacturing dyes and drugs, and subsequently, following the financial failure of this business, as a distiller and nursery gardener in Edinburgh. His career is an example of Edinburgh's participation in the dynamic, turbulent economic development of the Regency period.

- August 1811
Lochrin Distillery (now the site of Lochrin Place) from 1807-1811
Religious views
His son John was baptised in infancy but was 'christened' by Sandford. Elsewhere in the register Sandford explains the distinction: 'privately baptised at birth, and afterwards received into the church (christened)' (7).
Prior to coming to Edinburgh he had been a manufacturer of chemicals in Newcastle, his main partner being Frederick Glenton. They are described variously as 'Chemists, Druggists, and Colourmen' and 'Manufacturers of Sal Ammoniac'. In 1800 the firm was 'Taylor, Glenton and Ness', but that year John Taylor was replaced by John Peacock (8). In 1803 the firm folded, and the process of resolving the business's affairs continued until 1809: he was finally certified bankrupt in July 1808 (8,9). By 1807 he was in Edinburgh and appears to have been a clerk at Lochrin Distillery (3) and in business in James Campbell's nursery (6). Lochrin Distillery was founded about 1780 by John Haig. The still house was excavated in 2005 prior to the site's residential development. Lochrin was a large industrial operation, investing in new technology, and running into financial trouble, as it tried to keep ahead of the excise. The Haigs also had a distillery at Canonmills. There was a boom in industrial whiskey production in the 1780s following the ban on private stills, and much was imported to England for gin until a prohibitive excise caused this trade to collapse. The distillery ran into trouble in 1810 but appears still to have been operating in 1814, avoiding the excise by producing spirit as fast as possible in low-volume stills (resulting in poor quality). These barriers to producing good quality whiskey began to be removed in 1814 but the distillery closed at some point. It was open in 1821 and continued to operate intermittently until 1848 (4).
Wealth at death
He died intestate, and must have had entangled business affairs, since his creditors met after his death to settle his affairs. The English and Scottish creditors and business partners were still arguing about them two years later. (5)
Assessed taxes 1811
His house had 16 windows and a rental value of £30.
Chapel connection
baptism, 1810
Marion Ness
John (1803), 'Christened on this occasion (1810), having been baptised in infancy', Marion (1810)
Janet Haig was a member of his employer's family.

Lochrin Distillery,
(1817) (10)

Nurseries around
Leith Walk
(1805) (10)


  1. Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
  2. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
  3. Assessed taxes for the Burgh of Edinburgh year ending at Whitsunday 1811, National Archives of Scotland E327/51
  4. Richard Heawood, 'Excavations at Lochrin Distillery, Edinburgh', Industrial Archaeology Review 31.1 (2009) pp.34-53 (available online)
  5. Caledonian Mercury, 22 August 1811, 11 September 1813.
  6. Jesse Ness' Will, National Archives of Scotland
  7. See Alexander Robertson
  8. London Gazette, 16 December 1800, 17 March 1804, 14 June 1808, 4 November 1809
  9. Bury and Norwich Post 27 July 1803.
  10. National Library of Scotland Town Plans / Views, 1580-1919 (Edinburgh), online accessed 1 November 2011.

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