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Owen Owens and Son Archive

Date range: 1813–57.

Records of the Manchester merchant trading company of Owen Owens & Sons.

The company was founded by Owen Owens (1764–1844), a native of Holywell, Flintshire, who moved to Manchester in early adulthood.

He was joined in partnership by his son, John Owens (1790–1846) in 1817, and thereafter the company expanded greatly.

John Owens was considered to be one of the best buyers of cotton in the Manchester market. He purchased calicoes and coarse woollen cloths for export to China, India, the east coast of South America, and New York, importing hides, wheat, raw cotton and other goods in return.

John Owens bequeathed almost £100,000 for the foundation of an educational institute, which eventually materialized in 1851 as Owens College, the forerunner of The University of Manchester.

The archive includes correspondence, sales books, ledgers, cash books and other financial records. These contain details of the company’s import and export trade and reveal the investments which the firm made, particularly in new railway companies during the ‘railway mania’ of the 1840s.

There is also a small amount of material relating to John Owens’s life beyond the company, in the form of personal and household accounts, and papers relating to his will.

Owen Owens & Sons were closely associated in the South American trade with Hodgson, Robinson & Co., whose archive is also held at the John Rylands Library.

Finding aids

  • Catalogue available online via ELGAR.
  • See also: B.W. Clapp, John Owens, Manchester Merchant (Manchester, 1965).

Location

The John Rylands Library

Using the reading rooms in the John Rylands Library

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