Charles Tennant


Portrait of Charles Tennant

Charles Tennant was born in 1768 in Ayrshire and embarked on a career in silk weaving. His family had long been engaged in farming and weaving and were friends with local poet Robert Burns. Tennant was a fast learner and soon identified a problem with the weaving industry, namely bleaching cloth. He worked on developing a method for bleaching cloth, the method most commonly used at the time was to soak the cloth in urine and leave it exposed to sunlight for many months in "bleaching fields".

Tennant acquired his own bleaching field and experimented soon managing to reduce the time it took to bleach by several months. In 1798 he took out a patent for liquid bleach and then a solid bleach powder which was easier to transport, store and use.

In 1800 Tennant set up a chemical works in Glasgow and became one of the most successful pioneers of the industrial revolution in Scotland. His chemical works in an area of Glasgow known as St Rollox were one of the largest in Europe at the time and the tall chimney became a local landmark known as Tennant's stalk. The works were eventually demolished in the 1920's by which time they had caused a considerable amount of pollution in the surrounding area.

Tennant died in 1838 and left a huge business empire behind him. He is buried in Glasgow Necropolis and a large statue of him marks his grave.