Manuscripts and Special Collections

Collections at Nottingham

Manuscripts and Special Collections has a long history of acquiring and preserving the records of local businesses, in particular textiles, mining and agriculture. We have been taking in business records since at least 1960, when the Papers of James Fisher and Company, Lace Manufacturers, were deposited here. Our business collections have a predominantly Nottinghamshire or Derbyshire focus, and reflect our commitment to collecting historical papers and archives relating to the East Midlands, and those with teaching or research relevance.

Photograph of the wages office at the Chilprufe Manufacturing Co., Chilprufe Mills, Leicester, 1929

In particular, the History Department has traditionally had a strong programme of research into business, trade unions and local history. Although there is no longer a specific Business History department, we continue to build on these early strengths and regularly acquire both new collections and accruals to existing business archives.

The University of Nottingham’s business collections have local and national importance. The local heritage of  lace-making, hosiery and textiles is well represented. Many of these began as small family businesses that expanded to become important local employers, which gave the owners significant influence over local affairs. There are a number of farming and rural records in a discrete group received from the University of Nottingham's School of Agriculture at Sutton Bonington. The University also holds the records of numerous local electricity companies dating from before their nationalisation into the East Midlands Electricity Board in 1948. The Rivers, Water and Drainage records span diverse collections relating to rivers and navigation, water supply and sewerage. Our holdings also include records relating to mining and collieries, from individual colliery records to papers of the National Coal Board.

Material related to Trade Union and Trade Associations may also be of interest to researchers. Two of the largest collections are the records of the Amalgamated Society of Operative Lace Makers and Auxiliary Workers, and the records of the Wholesale Textile Association and the Textile Distributors Association. The University also holds records of the Nottingham and District Trades Union Council, and collections of records from local Nottingham branches of various trades unions.

On the following pages are lists of the principal business collections held by the University. They are roughly divided into Industry related records, Textiles related records, Agriculture and Farming related records and Business Related records. This last section includes a number of collections that were not created by businesses, but are closely related, such as research papers or industry bodies such as Nottingham Chamber of Commerce. Each item is followed by a link to its entry in the online catalogue.

Below is a list of the principal business collections held by the University. These link to further information where available (these pages are also listed in the left-hand menu) where individual collections are listed followed by a link to its entry in the online catalogue:

  • Agriculture & Farming
  • Mining
  • Utilities
  • Industry, including heavy industries and transport
  • Textiles, Lace and Hosiery
  • Agriculture and Farming
  • Trade Unions
  • Trade and Commerce Associations

A full listing of the business collections can be found on the Manuscripts Online Catalogue.

Hidden Records

Business records are scattered throughout the rest of the holdings, often in collections that are not immediately obvious as containing business records. These range from academic research papers to personal papers.

Whether these are considered business records or another category depends on what is more heavily represented and what the original purpose of the papers was. 

In local, family-run business, the distinction between business and personal papers can blur. The lace and hosiery collections are prone to this, as larger businesses often evolved from a cottage industry. 

 Advert for Mushroom Ketchup, MS114

The Family and Estate Collections are not usually considered business records, although they are strongly related. Landed estates were run as commercial endeavours, employing large numbers of people and trading agricultural produce, timber and minerals mined from the land. Nottinghamshire’s mining heritage stretches back over centuries and the early written records are often from the small, private mines on these estates. There are some references to the larger or more significant runs of papers relating to the commercial interests of the estate and land-owning families. However, because the collections usually contain extensive personal and estate management papers, they are treated as a separate category.

The East Midlands Special Collection of printed materials is usually considered to be a local history collection. Within it are many resources relating to business and regional economic history, including trade directories, collected memoirs and life histories from people involved in particular industries (often from their perspective as employees rather than business owners), and trade and research publications, both historic and contemporary. As this Collection supports the University's research and teaching, and complements the materials in our manuscript collections, we add to it on a regular basis.

The Rivers, Water and Drainage records include papers from the Severn Trent Water Authority, Trent River Authority and Hatfield Chase Corporation, amongst others. The Water Collections relate to rivers, drainage, hydrology, water supply and sewerage. It is one of the largest business collections here, and is of such size and significance that it is discussed in depth separately.

Advertisements are found throughout other collections. Obvious sources include newspapers and magazines, but as adverts are not indexed finding them can be laborious. Flyers and other adverts are often found business collections, either as copies of their marketing materials retained for reference, or those of their suppliers.

Although not necessarily the papers created by a business, the Department of History has a long tradition of researching business and trade union history. The personal and research papers of former staff from can include documents relating to their research.

Next page: Agriculture and Farming

Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 4565
fax: +44 (0) 115 846 8651