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Oldknow Papers

Date range: 1782–1821

Medium: Archive

Collection of papers relating to Samuel Oldknow’s cotton-manufacturing firm based at Mellor near Stockport, Cheshire (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 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. These records include: 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; inventories; and information on female labour. A large notebook records mistakes made by women workers, with a conduct report.

The Oldknow Papers are an important archive for tracing the organization of the cotton industry, as it moved from a system based on outworkers to one focussed on factory production. The archive is also useful for understanding the methods and practices of industrial paternalism; Oldknow used the truck system to provide various necessities for his workers, such as food and drink.

See also:

Further information:

  • Catalogue available online via ELGAR.
  • George Unwin, Samuel Oldknow and the Arkwrights, 2nd edition (Manchester, 1968), a study which was based on the Oldknow Papers.


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