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Oldknow Papers

Date range: 1782–1820.

Collection of papers relating to Samuel Oldknow’s cotton-manufacturing firm based at Mellor near Stockport (until 1934 part of Derbyshire).

Samuel Oldknow (1756–1828) was one of the most important figures in the cotton industry during the early Industrial Revolution. His significance rested on his ability to manufacture very fine cloth which could compete with imported Indian muslins. For a period in the 1780s he was probably the most successful cotton manufacturer in the country, with sales peaking at over £90,000 per annum.

Records encompass all the main sectors of cotton production including spinning, warping, weaving, finishing and sales.

Material includes: accounts of creditors and employees; ledgers and account books for weavers, pickers, spinners and bleachers; wages books and pay tickets; warping books; costing books; output books; time books; stock books; inventories; and information on female labour. A large notebook records mistakes made by women workers, with a conduct report.

Records shed light on the common practice among early industrial concerns for employers to provide housing, food and drink for their workers and to deduct the cost from their wages (the truck system). 

The collection is an important source for studies of the early Industrial Revolution.

Finding aids

  • Catalogue available online via ELGAR.
  • See also: George Unwin, Samuel Oldknow and the Arkwrights, 2nd edition (Manchester, 1968).

Location

The John Rylands Library

Using the reading rooms in the John Rylands Library

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