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Famous Scots - John Polson

John Polson was a famous cornflour manufacturer. Born in Paisley in 1825, he attended Paisley Grammar School and the Andersonian College in Glasgow before joining the family business. John's father, also John, and his father's brother William, were manufacturers of muslin in Paisley. Another firm of muslin manufacturers, William Brown and Son, relocated from Glasgow to Paisley and the two firms cooperated on the process of bleaching, scouring and starching the muslin cloth. They conducted this process at Thrushcraigs, Paisley, under the name of Brown and Polson.

John Polson senior experimented to find a starch that could withstand the bleaching process, and settled on a combination of starch and sago. In 1842 he introduced his "powder starch" for use in the home. This product was such a success that it was awarded a certificate of merit at the Great Exhibition of 1851. John senior died aged 43, in 1843. After the retiral of his Uncle William, John Polson junior continued in the firm of Brown and Polson. John Polson junior was responsible for the breakthrough in discovering how to make maize into a foodstuff by removing its fatty content and creating an edible starch.

He patented this edible starch in 1854 and marketed it as "Brown and Polson's Patent Corn Flour". Cornflour has many uses in food production and is used as a thickener for gravy and soup, and as a base for custards, baby food and blancmange. As well as being a talented businessman, John was also concerned about the welfare of his workforce. In the 1870s he introduced a profit-sharing scheme which took the form of a yearly bonus based on the firm's profits. The workers only received this bonus if they had committed no "misdemeanours". John Polson died in 1900. By then, Brown and Polson's were the largest manufacturer of starch products in the United Kingdom. Additional premises were required at Colinslee and at Barterholm, and later a new works was built at Falside Road, where the company remained until it closed in 1996.

Headstone Photograph

Further Information

Firstname: JOHN

LastName: POLSON

Date of Death: 10th Aug 1900

Age at Death: 75

Cemetery: Woodside Cemetery

  Broomlands Street

Town: Paisley

Region: Glasgow and Clyde Valley

Country: Scotland


Please Note, the marker on this map indicates the Cemetery location, not the location of a particular grave. is a privately owned website with no affiliation to any Local Councils.