Sun Mill Archive

  • Reference
      GB 133 SM
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      4.4 linear metres (4 series; 28 items). some of the volumes are large, very heavy and in poor condition.
  • Location
      Collection available at the John Rylands Library, Deansgate.

Scope and Content

The archive contains records generated by the Sun Mill Company Limited. The records of the mill are by no means complete, but those that do survive include information relating to the Board of Directors, the shareholders and to the financial position of the mill. There is also a visitors book and a volume of newspaper cuttings relating to the mill.

However, the archive will be of interest to historians given the important place in the history of the cotton industry which was played by the Sun Mill. The textile industry began to adopt limited liability status on a large scale, following the success of the `Oldham Limiteds', a group of companies modelling themselves on Sun Mill. Prior to the establishment of this ground-breaking business venture, cotton manufacturers had prided themselves on remaining independent of joint-stock ventures.

The collection consists of printed and manuscript material, and contains extracts from newspapers.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Oldham Building and Manufacturing Company Limited was founded on the 13th of January 1858 with a capital of £5,000. It was the first textile limited company to be registered in Lancashire, changing its name to Sun Mill Company Limited on the 4th of September 1867. The Sun Mill was built in Oldham, a town which had become a major centre for cotton spinning, and which possessed a highly skilled workforce.

The business was established as a co operative venture, by a group of working men who were members of the Oldham Industrial Co operative Society. They were James Lord, James Lees and William Marcroft (1822-1894), who made the mill the subject of one of the first business histories in 1877. The three men worked hard to make the venture a success, collecting weekly share subscriptions at the rate of three pence per week for every £1 share and taking copies of their prospectus directly to potential investors.

The original building was constructed in Oldham in 1860 2 by a local architect, J. Howard. The mill was built to house 60,000 spindles, which made it three times larger than the average local mill, and established new standards of mill construction. Unfortunately, the original mill was destroyed by fire in 1895, but it was rebuilt soon afterwards with a spindleage of 153,000.

The Sun Mill Company was proud of the fact that it had succeeded in paying a dividend every year, despite the difficulties faced by the Lancashire cotton industry in the 1920s and 1930s. The Company took over another local mill, the Raven Mill Company, in 1954 and celebrated its centenary in 1958, but the decline in the profitability of cotton manufacture throughout Lancashire caused the mill to go into voluntary liquidation in 1960. The surviving building was destroyed by fire in 1985.


As the collection is incomplete, it was not possible to ascertain the original order.

The collection has been arranged by the archivist during cataloguing into standard series:

  • SM/1 Minutes of Directors' Meetings
  • SM/2 Statutory Records
  • SM/3 Financial Records
  • SM/4 Miscellaneous Papers

Access Information

Open to any accredited reader.

This finding aid may contain personal or sensitive personal data about living individuals. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The John Rylands University Library (JRUL) has the right to process such personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the JRUL to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the JRUL has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately, according to the Data Protection Principles.

Individuals have the right to make a request to see data relating to them held by the JRUL which falls under the provisions of the DPA. Access requests must be made formally in accordance with the provisions set out in the DPA and all enquiries should be directed to the University's Data Protection Officer.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands University Library, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PP.

Related Material

The Library holds the archive of the Oldham Textile Employers' Association (OLD) which contains a quantity of material relating to Sun Mill and to the Raven Mill, as well as other mills in the Oldham area.

The Library also possesses the Cotton Mill Survey Archive (CMS), which contains photographs and other material relating to the mill. The survey was carried out in connection with the publication by Mike Williams with D.A. Farnie,Cotton mills in Greater Manchester(Carnegie Publishing Ltd., 1992). The library also holds a substantial amount of published material relevant to this collection.

Corporate Names

Geographical Names