Papers of W.M. Christy & Sons Ltd

Scope and Content

The collection contains only a sample of the firm's records. The earliest is the Stock Book, 1833-1854, which shows that William Miller Christy was established in the manufacture of cotton goods by 1833. There are financial, legal and statutory documents as well as some correspondence and an interesting series of patents. There are also references relating to the School established by Christy and to the Droylsden Gas Works which was built to provide power for the mill. Correspondence with Droylsden Urban District Council sheds valuable light on urban improvements in the early part of the 20th century. The collection also contains histories of the firm W.M. Christy & Sons and of the House of Christy in London, both published and unpublished, which draw heavily on the documents contained within this collection.

Much of the collection is handwritten, there is also a large amount of typescript material and a few publications.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Miller Christy (1778-1858) was the son of Miller Christy (1748-1820), who had established a successful hatting business at 35 Gracechurch Street, London. William served an apprenticeship as a hatter and duly entered into the family business where he developed a lifelong interest in banking. The London firm first developed links with Stockport through their trade with the firm of T. & J. Worsley, which was eventually taken over by Christys in 1827. William Miller Christy began to spend an increasing amount of time in Stockport where he and three friends purchased Underbank Hall which opened in 1824 as the Stockport and East Cheshire Bank. This bank was sold in 1829 and William acquired sufficient capital to move into the cotton industry, first at Hillgate Mill in Stockport (originally the premises of Samuel Oldknow), and later at Fairfield Mill in Droylsden. In 1843 William took two of his sons, Alexander and Richard, into partnership and retired from the day-to-day running of the business. However, it was another of his sons, Henry Christy (1810-1865) the well known ethnologist, who made the discovery which was to make the firm famous. Whilst travelling in Turkey, Henry became concerned that mass-produced goods would cause the decline of many of the local crafts and industries which he had observed, and so he decided to collect samples which are today housed in the British Museum. One of these samples was a piece of cloth with a looped surface which he showed to his brother Richard who immediately recognized its potential commercial value. Samuel Holt, an employee working at the Hillgate Mill, developed a method of manufacturing the towels by machine and so production commenced. The success of the product was assured when Royal patronage was secured in 1851. Queen Victoria saw the towels on a visit to the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace and placed an order for six dozen of the "Royal Turkish Towel". The firm continued to be successful, although it did suffer from problems which were common throughout the industry such as shortages in the supply of raw cotton. The firm's management were sensitive to the changing shape of the industry, recognising the need to advertise their product as competition increased and to modernise machinery and buildings. Reginald Hadfield, son of the Company's Secretary, Jonathan Hadfield, initiated a major programme of modernisation in the first decade of the 20th century. Following the 1939-45 war the Directors decided upon another sweeping programme of modernisation, but the decline in Lancashire's cotton industry led to the firm's being taken over in 1955, and in 1964 it became part of the Courtaulds group of companies.

  • 1824 Opening of the Stockport and East Cheshire Bank.
  • 1829 Stockport and East Cheshire Bank sold.
  • 1833 W.M. Christy in business at Hillgate Mill, Stockport.
  • 1833 Purchase of land at Droylsden.
  • 1837 Fairfield Mill opens at Droylsden.
  • 1837 Opening of Queen Street School, Droylsden.
  • 1840 Opening of the Manchester Office.
  • 1843 W.M. Christy forms partnership with his sons Alexander and Richard and then retires.
  • 1843 Work commences on extension to the Fairfield Mill.
  • 1848 New Building opens.
  • 1850 Production of Turkish Towels commences at Hillgate.
  • 1851 Royal patronage secured by Turkish Towels.
  • 1858 Death of W.M. Christy.
  • 1858 Charles Egerton Ashworth becomes a partner.
  • 1863 Alexander Christy relinquishes partnership.
  • 1863 Fairfield Mill and the Manchester Office connected by telegraph.
  • 1874 The firm becomes a Limited Company.
  • 1874 Edmund Christy and Alfred Ashworth become directors.
  • 1874 Richard Christy is made Chairman of the Board of Directors and Jonathan Hadfield is appointed as Secretary.
  • 1896 Fire at Fairfield Mill destroyed stock.
  • 1898 Death of Richard Christy, Charles Ashworth becomes Chairman.
  • 1901 Death of Charles Ashworth, Alfred Ashworth becomes Chairman.
  • 1908 Alfred Ashworth retires, his nephew, Edmund Ashworth becomes Managing Director.
  • 1910 Death of Alfred Ashworth.
  • 1912 Jonathan Hadfield retires, John Newton becomes Secretary.
  • 1913 Richard Jones, Manager of the Manchester Office, is given a seat on the Board.
  • 1915 Death of Jonathan Hadfield.
  • 1916 Reginald Hadfield is given a seat on the Board.
  • 1924 Manchester Office moves to 51 Mosley Street having sold previous premises to Lewis's.
  • 1928 Death of Richard Jones after 58 years' service.
  • 1931 Death of Henry E. Christy, new Board elected consisting of W.M. Christy, E.H. Ashworth, R. Hadfield and Admiral R.S. Hornby.
  • 1938 Death of Reginald Hadfield.
  • 1941 Fairfield Mill closed on order of the Cotton Controller due to demand for munition workers.
  • 1941 Greenhow & Co. Ltd [a firm of Manchester merchants] acquired as a capital investment.
  • 1942 Mill reopens due to national shortage of towels.
  • 1955 Taken over by Fine Spinners and Doublers Ltd.
  • 1964 Taken over by Courtaulds.


This collection was originally contained in boxes which were numbered 3-7 and a previous list was made, apparently in the order in which the documents were found. The collection has been rearranged during cataloguing into standard classes and previous reference numbers have been given where possible.

The collection is arranged as follows:

  • WMC/1 Minutes of Directors' Meetings
  • WMC/2 Statutory Records
  • WMC/3 Correspondence
  • WMC/4 Legal Records
  • WMC/5 Financial Records
  • WMC/6 Personnel Records
  • WMC/7 Business Papers
  • WMC/8 Publications
  • WMC/9 Family Papers
  • WMC/10 Miscellaneous

Access Information

Open to any accredited reader, unless otherwise stated.

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.

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.

Custodial History

These documents were deposited at the University of Manchester Library in 1967 after the firm was taken over by Courtaulds Ltd.. They were transferred to Deansgate following the merger of the John Rylands Library and the University of Manchester Library in 1972.