Papers of Sir Isaac Holden (1807-1897) and Family, West Riding wool combers

Scope and Content

Correspondence and papers (c.1845-1896) of Sir Isaac Holden and his second wife, Sarah (1804?-1890), relating to the Holden family and some aspects of the family business. Includes some technical memoranda on wool-combing machinery and processes.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Isaac Holden was born in Paisley in 1807. He worked in a cotton mill, as a shawl-weaver, and as a teacher before taking the post of book-keeper in Townend Brothers worsted mill in 1830. He stayed with the firm until 1846, becoming works manager and introducing mechanical woolcombing methods. In 1847 he took out a joint patent with Samuel Cunliffe Lister for Improvements in carding preparing combing and spinning wool, and also in making heald and genappe yarns. In 1848 Holden and Lister opened a wool-combing factory at St. Denis, near Paris ; this was soon replaced by factories at Croix and Rheims. About this time the two were involved in work on the square-motion comb, which Lister later patented. In 1858, after a number of disagreements, Lister sold his share of the business to Holden. Leaving the running of the French factories largely to his nephews Jonathan Holden (1828-1906) and Isaac Holden Crothers (1830-1908), in 1864 Holden opened a large new wool-combing plant in Bradford, the Alston Works.

Holden was elected M.P. for Knaresborough 1865-68, for the Northern Division of the West Riding 1882-85, and for Keighley 1885-95. He was created a baronet in 1893, and died in 1897.


The papers had been sorted into numbered bundles by a member of the Holden family. This arrangement has been retained. Where the same number was repeated, upper-case letters have been added to the number in order to distinguish the bundles.

Access Information

Available to all researchers, by appointment

Acquisition Information

Donated to the University by Sir Edward Holden, Sir Isaac Holden's great-grandson, in 1971.


Papers described by John Brooker, 9th April 2001

Other Finding Aids

Handlist, published in The West Riding wool industry by Patricia Hudson (Edington : Pasold Research Fund, 1975)

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be supplied or produced at the discretion of Special Collections staff, subject to copyright law and the condition of the originals.

Applications for permission to make published use of any material should be directed to the Special Collections Librarian in the first instance.

The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Related Material

A collection of Holden papers, particularly business archives, is held by the Brotherton Library of the University of Leeds.


Used by J. Malcolm Trickett for M.Sc. thesis, A technological appraisal of the Isaac Holden papers (Bradford, 1977), and by Elizabeth Jennings for her Ph.D. thesis, Sir Isaac Holden (1807-1897) 'the first comber in Europe' (Bradford, 1982)