Manuscripts and Special Collections

Textiles Lace & Hosiery


Britain's hosiery and knitwear industry was centred around Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire. In 1589 William Lee of Calverton, a village some 7 miles from Nottingham city, invented the stocking frame that revolutionised the textiles industry, although its use did not become widespread during his lifetime and we have no records this early.

Our textiles collections generally cover the 18th-early 20th centuries. The mechanical knitting machine, known as framework knitting, prompted the shift from small home-based industry, with few if any records, to larger factories that generated large quantities of paperwork.


Records of Textile, Lace and Hosiery Companies

Almost all of our records are from companies no longer trading, or that were absorbed into larger companies. Most cover the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which was the peak period of growth and profit before the industry declined. Most of the records are accessible, but some of the financial and staffing documents are closed for 100 years to protect the privacy of the individuals mentioned within them. Some companies established offices and warehouses in London or other cities, to facilitate trade across the country and internationally in countries such as Germany, Italy and Portugal. Our collections are not complete, either because the records do not survive, or because they are held elsewhere (see Related Records for more information).

Hosiery and clothing

Nottingham's population doubled between 1750 and 1800, and the major reason was the migration of workers and their families into the city looking for work in the textiles industry, which was dominated by hosiery. From the early 19th century, hosiery manufacture began to decline, in part because men's stockings fell out of fashion in favour of trousers. The records include deeds and other property records relating to the firms' premises, and many of the earliest documents tend to be of this type. Almost all of the collections contain runs of accounting and financial records, such as ledgers, share records, and cash books. Constitutional records, correspondence, minutes and reports have all survived in varying quantities, although no collection has a complete run. Some of the companies grew from family businesses, and in the early stages there was less distinction between personal and business records. There are wills, letters, and other records relating to the founding families, including their other professional interests, for example a bundle of documents relating to Richard Morley's time as Mayor of Nottingham. Less common is the inclusion of staff records, although there are some wage books and photographs showing staff at work, although they are not always named. There are only a handful of ephemeral items such as staff magazines or adverts.

  • Records of J. and H. Hadden and Company Limited, Hosiers, Nottingham, 1685-1915 (Ha: catalogue record)  
  • Records of the Morley Family of Nottingham and I. and R. Morley Limited, hosiers of Nottingham, 1589-1976 (Mrl: catalogue record
  • Records of Frederick Longdon and Co. Ltd and Thomas Glover and Son Ltd, surgical bandage and hosiery manufacturers of Derby and Nottingham, 1885-1985 (BLD: catalogue record)  
  • Records of George Brettle and Company Limited, hosiery manufacturers of Belper, Derbyshire, 1799-1984 (BBE: catalogue record)
  • Records of Pasolds Limited, clothing manufacturers of Langley, Berkshire, and various predecessor companies including Chilprufe Limited of Leicester, 1921-1999 (BCH: catalogue record
  • Records relating to Pasolds Limited, Clothing Manufacturers, Langley, Berkshire, and the hosiery manufacturing industry, 1941-1956 (BPS: catalogue record
  • Photograph album and printed leaflet relating to hosiery/clothing manufacturers Stevens and Pedley, Basford, Nottingham; 1954 (MS 1028: catalogue record)
  • Two VHS videos of animations made for Coats Viyella to promote the Ladybird clothing brand; c.1990s (MS 1026: catalogue record)
  • Brand identity materials for textiles and clothing brands Ladybird and Viyella, c.1990s (MS 1021: catalogue record)
  • Papers of Tony Pitman, chemist and textiles technician for various Nottingham textile businesses (MS 1019: catalogue record)
  • Papers of George Spencer (1868-1946), hosiery manufacturer, and his partner William Henry Revis (1849-1923) (BSP: catalogue record)

Lace and net 

As hosiery manufacture went into decline, the lace industry expanded. With minor adaptions, the knitting frame could manufacture lace, and by 1870 almost all lace production had been mechanised. From the 19th century, Nottingham’s Lace Market became the centre for the global lace industry. So important was it to the economy that King George V and Queen Mary visited a lace factory, Birkin and Co Ltd, during a visit in 1914. Nottingham's textile industry once again fell victim to changing fashions shortly after WWI as the demand for lace declined. Many of the companies merged, ceased trading, or diversified, and unfortunately none of their archives have survived intact. As with the hosiery companies, most of the collections comprise legal or administrative records such as letter books, minutes, and legal papers, or financial papers such as accounts ledgers, share records, and cash books. Despite these being amongst the best-represented series of records, there are large gaps where no records at all have survived. Some collections include deeds or plans, but overall there are very few property records in any of these collections. There are small amounts of ephemeral records, including newscuttings and photographs. Although many of the lace companies had begun as small family-run businesses, there are few personal papers in these collections. There are a handful of records relating to the musical and religious activities Boden provided for its employees. Within the papers of J B Walker are a small number of papers documenting the history of the company and Nottingham's lace trade created by interested members of the family.

  • Records of Wallis and Longden, Lace Machinery Manufacturers, Long Eaton, Derbyshire, 1888-1948 (catalogue record
  • Financial papers of J. and J.W. Leavers, lace manufacturer of Nottingham, 1844-1850 (catalogue record
  • Records of the Long Eaton Bridge Mills Company Ltd, lace factory owners; 1902-1974 (catalogue record
  • A Collection of Nottingham Lace Records; 1900-1961 (catalogue record)  
  • Papers of James Fisher and Company, Lace Manufacturers, Nottingham; 1817-1908 (catalogue record
  • Records of Boden and Company Limited, Lace Manufacturers, Derby; 1818-1954 (catalogue record)
  • Records of Tatham and Co. Ltd, lace manufacturers of Ilkeston, Derbyshire, and related family papers; 1894-1990 (catalogue record)
  • Papers of J.A. Walker relating to the lace firms J.B. Walker and Company Ltd and Basford Textile Group Ltd, of Sandiacre and Nottingham, and to the lace trade in Nottingham and Scotland; c.1880-2010 (catalogue record
  • Records of Wallis Brothers Ltd, lace manufacturers of Draycott, Derbyshire, 1912-1973 (catalogue record
  • Records relating to A.C. Gill Ltd, lace manufacturers of Nottingham, 1940-1943 (catalogue record)  
  • Photographs of Birkin and Co. Ltd, lace manufacturers, c.1914-c.1960 (catalogue record)  
  • Papers relating to the Lace Industry collected by Norman H. Cuthbert, primarily focussing on the Nottingham area; 1818-1962 (catalogue record

Carpets and other Textiles

Four generations of the Lawson family of Leeds were involved with carpet manufacturing during the 19th and 20th centuries. The collection is a mixture of personal papers and business papers, and unfortunately the survival of the latter is patchy. What survives includes account books and other financial records, including some odd documents relating to machinery, memorandum books, correspondence, and the only extant papers of the Carpet Manufacturers Association of England and Scotland.

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Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

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