Greening the Archive with the Samuel Oldknow Papers, 1782-1924


1755   Richard Arkwright born on Dec. 19th in Bolton, Lancashire.

1756   Samuel Oldknow born on Oct. 5th in Anderton Lancashire.

1764-5 James Hargreaves invents the spinning jenny.

1769   Richard Arkwright patents the water frame (his spinning machine).

1779  Introduction of the spinning mule (an combination of Arkwright’s water frame and Hargreaves’s spinning jenny).

1781   Oldknow enters a partnership with his uncle who owned a drapers shop in Nottingham and opens a warehouse in Anderton where yarn, usually purchased from Arkwright, was turned into cloth by numerous handloom weavers. 

1783   Oldknow’s partnership with his uncle and the shop in Nottingham ceases. Instead, Oldknow begins looking toward business in London. From this time onwards, two London firms S&W Salte and Parker, Topham and Sowden purchase about two-thirds of Oldknow’s output.

1784   Financed by a loan from Arkwright, Oldknow purchases a house, warehouse and land in Stockport.

1786  By this point, Oldknow had an assured position as the foremost muslin manufacturer. He turns down an offer of partnership with the Arkwrights.

1787   Oldknow begins to purchase large areas of land around Mellor and Marple with plans to construct a cotton mill.

1787-88 Crisis in trade causes fall in cotton prices.  

1790  Oldknow erects the first steam-powered mill at Stockport. Begins construction on the Mellor Mill.

1793   Construction on the Mellor Mill is completed. 

1797   By this point, it’s clear that Oldknow has overextended himself with the expansion of his Mellor estate. Finding himself in financial difficulty, he auctions off a number of properties in Mellor and Marple.

1797-1800? Arkwright intervenes to save Oldknow from bankruptcy. They enter into a partnership which transfers ownership of Oldknow’s estate and remaining business enterprises (which include the functioning Mellor Mill) to Arkwright, but still leaves Oldknow ostensibly in charge of management. 

1805   The partnership between Oldknow and Arkwright is dissolved. The estimated value of Oldknow’s estate had nearly doubled, but his debts had risen substantially as well. 

1828   Oldknow dies on Sept. 18. The estate and Mellor mill passed to Arkwright’s ownership.

Vouchers for Picking Cotton

Vouchers for Picking Cotton, May 11, 1793. Samuel Oldknow Papers, Columbia RBML.

Click here for item information

Columbia University Libraries / Butler Library / 535 West 114th St. / New York, NY 10027 / (212) 854-7309 /