Did you know that Kirkcaldy was a world leader in the production of linoleum for over 100 years and is now the only town in the UK that still makes it?
Millions of homes, public buildings (and even ships!) in Britain and abroad were floored in linoleum made in Kirkcaldy.
The two largest firms, Michael Nairn and Barry, Ostlere & Shepherd, were world leaders, with smaller factories in Falkland and Newburgh in Fife. Our Museums have the best collection of items from the linoleum industry held anywhere in the UK. With over 6,000 objects, photographs and archives, it’s a rich resource for researchers and budding enthusiasts.
Items date from the start of the Kirkcaldy industry in the 1840s up to the present. A recent addition to the collection is a small piece of floor-covering from Paul McCartney’s council house in Liverpool!
Amongst the rarest items held are unique floorcloth banners that were made by workers and carried in parades on holiday days. The collection also features items used by workers, including hand tools and printing equipment.
ON display at Kirkcaldy Galleries is a very unusual model of a cork plantation in Portugal. The whole piece is made of cork, one of the raw materials that linoleum is made from.
Around 3,500 archives help tell the story of linoleum in our collection and over 500 photographs offer a fascinating insight to the factories and the lives of the workers.
Did you know Kirkcaldy Galleries was originally gifted to the town by linoleum manufacturer John Nairn in the 1920s, built as part of the War Memorial?
At Kirkcaldy Galleries, there are displays and film about the industry and in the Local and Family History Room, researchers can access our collection of archives and images. We also have collections from the Newburgh Linoleum industry and Laing Museum has one of the oldest surviving pieces of floorcloth still in use. Visitors can walk across this 1890s pattern in the museum!