Accounts and Journal of George Heywood

Scope and Content

A fair copy, compiled in the mid-19th century, of the accounts and journal of George Heywood of Manchester, grocer. Heywood records that he was inspired to compile a record of his life by a sermon on self-examination by a local Unitarian preacher, and he spent five shillings on a specially-made book in 1815 (Barker and Hughes, 169). This copy can be dated approximately from the paper leaves watermarked '1844'.

The contents of the volume comprise:

  • folio 1: personal ledger of George Heywood, containing debit and credit accounts with several individuals and companies, 1806-1816;
  • folio 6v: a detailed journal or narrative of the life of George Heywood; the bulk of the journal was written in 1815, and recounts his life from 1788 onwards; it continues until 1840, but after 1816 (ending folio 105r) entries are irregular, recording only the major events in Heywood's life such as the births of children;
  • folio 109r: notes on the births of Heywood's children;
  • folio 110r: memoranda on births, marriages and deaths in the family;
  • folio 111v: pedigree of the Heywood family of Huddersfield and Manchester.

The journal is an important source for the social and economic life of shopkeepers in the early nineteenth century, the economic and familial underpinnings of small businesses, the availability of financial capital and mechanisms for raising money, employer-employee relations, the role of women in family businesses, and relations between the sexes.

Administrative / Biographical History

George Heywood was born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, on 17 April 1788. After completing his apprenticeship to a local grocer, William Robinson, in 1809, he moved to Manchester where he found employment as a journeyman grocer. In 1815 he entered into partnership with Robert Roberts, taking over the grocery business of Roylance and Jones in Old Millgate. The partnership with Roberts was shortlived, as the latter died in September 1816, whereafter Heywood continued in business as a sole trader. While Heywood's fortunes were precarious in his early years, he rose to comparative prosperity, in 1837 letting three shops and houses in Denton (Barker and Hughes, 172).

George Heywood was romantically attached to Ann Owen, the widow of a grocer, in the early 1810s, but his affections were not reciprocated. He eventually married Betty Bowyer, a servant of his former employer, in November 1815 and they had nine children. Heywood was sworn as a special constable during the Manchester riots (Luddite riots) of 1812. On 15 January 1819 he was appointed as a commissioner of police, and he became a councillor on the newly created Manchester Corporation in 1838. He died on 11 September 1843, and the grocery business continued as Elizabeth Heywood & Son.

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library from the bookseller Bernard Halliday on 18 July 1932.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan and Jo Humpleby, project archivists.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1928-35 (English MS 703).


Fully transcribed and edited in Hannah Barker and David Hughes (eds), Business and Family in the North of England during the Early Industrial Revolution: Records of the Lives of Men and Women in Trade, 1788-1832 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), pp. 169-264.