Sugar boiling was one of the mainstays of Glasgow’s fast-growing economy in the second half of the seventeenth century. ‘The Old Sugar House’ was built in 1699 and named ‘Easter Sugar House’ to distinguish it from another sugar refinery nearby. This five-storey, crow-stepped gabled, building was owned by Robert McNair (1703-79) and his wife, Jean Holmes (b 1703) who were prominent shopkeepers in eighteenth century Glasgow. Amongst their wares were refined and expensive sugar products such as candies, syrup and treacle.
There was another side of the story of their success as the West Indies sugar trade was built on slave labour from plantations in Jamaica, which were owned and overseen by Scots. A number of sugar traders, refineries and shops in Glasgow were dependent on this trade.