Archive of the Oldham Textile Employers' Association

  • Reference
      GB 133 OLD
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      8 series; 1121 items. Condition: Some documents are fragile and others are dirty and have suffered damage.
  • Location
      Collection available at John Rylands Library, Deansgate.

Scope and Content

The collection comprises the records of the Oldham Textile Employers' Association which include a complete run of letter books, agenda books and levy books; files collected by the Association relating to other organisations, such as the British Cotton Growing Association, and to working conditions; official government reports and a large amount of printed material concerning the cotton industry, both domestic and overseas; there is also a diverse collection of published material and large quantities of press cuttings and specialist newspapers.

The subject matter contained within the collection is varied, but the material relating to working conditions, relations between employers and employees and to the state of both domestic and overseas trade are the major strengths of the archive. Items of particular interest include investigations into industry-related diseases suffered by operatives, a record of complaints made by employees together with an analysis of their cases and a note of any settlement reached. The archive reflects the crisis in the Lancashire cotton industry in the late 1920s and 30s and contains a large amount of material relating to mill closures and associated material concerning rating assessments. There is also a considerable quantity of material arising from the reorganisation of the cotton industry and to redundancies in 1960. Later material collected by the association is mainly in the form of press cuttings relating to the decline of the cotton trade and the impact on Lancashire.

This archive is a valuable source for the study of labour history; economic and social history; employers' associations; trade unions; industrial history; textile history; industrial decline; and international trade. Family historians may find reference to relatives employed in the trade and the archive has immense research potential for local historians.

The collection contains a mixture of printed, typescript and manuscript material.

Administrative / Biographical History

The origins of the Oldham Textile Employers' Association can be found in the early nineteenth century. At this time, large scale manufacture was beginning to prompt workers to combine to secure better working conditions and wages. In response, employers began to experiment with their own combinations. The most successful of these combinations was in Glasgow, which provided a model for employers in Lancashire. The first such association to be found in Oldham dates from 1825. However, early employers' associations, like early trade unions, had only limited success and it was not until the second half of the nineteenth century that employers combined to any real effect.

The Oldham Master Cotton Spinners' Association became a vigorous force in the region from 1866. The Association supported the interests of the cotton industry in Oldham and encouraged members to support organisations such as the British Cotton Growers' Association and the Empire Cotton Growing Association. These organisations aimed to increase the supply of raw cotton by encouraging planting in British dominions in order to reduce reliance on American-grown cotton. It was believed that this would help to bring economic stability to the region. The association also acted as an intermediary in disputes and lobbied both local and national government on behalf of the industry, often through the Federation of Master Cotton Spinners' Associations. In later years, the Association helped to co-ordinate reorganisation and redundancy schemes in the area.


The archive contains varied material which has been arranged as follows:

  • OLD/1 Records of the Oldham Textile Employers' Association
  • OLD/2 Files relating to the Cotton Industry
  • OLD/3 Industrial Disease
  • OLD/4 Official Reports
  • OLD/5 Cotton Industry Reorganisation Scheme
  • OLD/6 Published Works
  • OLD/7 Newspapers
  • OLD/8 Miscellaneous

The majority of the collection consists of bound volumes, both manuscript and printed, and files containing correspondence, reports and some printed material. The original order of the archive was difficult to reconstruct, although it has been retained as far as possible, but the sequence of files relating to the cotton industry and the published works have been arranged by the archivist during cataloguing.

Access Information

The collection is 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.

Other Finding Aids


Separated Material

Post-1960 records of the Association are in the custody of Oldham Local Studies and Archives, Oldham ( GB 758 D-AAN).

Custodial History

The archive was deposited in Manchester University Library in 1970 by the Oldham Textile Employers' Association and subsequently transferred to the building following the merger with the John Rylands Library in 1972.

Related Material

The Library holds the archive of the Sun Mill (SM ), which was a member of the Oldham Textile Employers' Association, and the archive of the Ashton and District Master Cotton Spinners' Association (ATEA ). Greater Manchester County Record Office holds the British Textile Employers' Association archive (GB 124 B/14.

Geographical Names