The Land

Aberdeen is situated beside the sea and two rivers. Many of the industries which have been important to Aberdeen in the past, and are important today, have used these natural resources.

In the 19th century Aberdeen was famous for its comb industry. The combs were made from horn. Horn from animals, such as buffalo and cattle, was used. Aberdeen is beside the sea, so the millions of horns needed to make the combs came by ship to the city. There were no aeroplanes in the 19th century so the sea was the only way to transport things from other countries. This meant that industries and businesses which used materials from other countries were often in towns and cities beside the sea.

In the past there were textile mills in Aberdeen. Textile mills are factories which make cloth. The mills in Aberdeen made cotton, linen and woollen cloth. The first textile mills were built beside rivers because they used water to turn huge wheels which powered the machinery in the factory. Grandholm Mill was beside the River Don. When it was first built it used water-power to drive machinery. Grandholm Mill made woollen cloth. The mill was owned by J and J Crombie. Crombie cloth is famous around the world.

In the past there were several paper mills in Aberdeen. A lot of water is used in paper-making so paper mills are usually found beside rivers. Culter paper mill was on the river Dee, another mill called Donside was on the river Don. Esparto Grass was used to make paper. It came from Spain and North Africa by ship.

Today, many of the factories which used Aberdeen's rivers have closed but Aberdeen is still an important port. Many people in Aberdeen work in the oil industry. Ships that are needed by the oil industry use the harbour. 

Horn Samples Carpet Yarn Samples

Related Timelines

Local History - Industry


  1. Look at a map of Aberdeen. Try to find the rivers Don and Dee and the harbour.
  2. Look at the horn industry timeline. In the 19th century Aberdeen's comb industry made its combs from horn. Today combs are usually made from plastic. In the 19th century synthetic plastics had not yet been invented. Try to think of some other items  which are made from plastic. Work out what they would have been made from in the past.
  3. A lot of the factories that used to be in Aberdeen have now shut and the land or buildings are now used for other things. Try to find out what happened to Grandholm Mill and Culter Paper Mill. Try to find the location of Aberdeen Comb Works.