Letters from Godfrey Barnsley

Scope and Content

A complete series of letters, written almost daily to Joshua Fielden, from Barnsley, a prominent Liverpool cotton broker working for the Fieldens, whose task it was to select and buy particular grades and qualities of cotton, and advise on the state of the market.

The letters examine and report details of the Liverpool cotton market as it was affected by the Anglo-American War of 1812-14, noting the effects of the embargo, the arrival of fleets from other sources of supply such as Bermuda, Brazil, the West Indies, Gibraltar etc, the impounding of American ships, the ability of some to circumnavigate the blockade, as well as reporting current rumours about peace negotiations. Barnsley also gives details of sales and purchases made on behalf of the Fieldens.

It appears to have been this episode in British history which set up Fielden Brothers as a large and important concern: their Manchester agent failed in 1812, leaving the firm with a large stock of unsold cloth. The war with America, and the shortages of cotton this produced, enabled the Fieldens to sell for an enormous profit, and provided them with a huge capital sum which became the foundation of the business.


Some of the letters feature pencil notes on their contents added by a previous researcher.