Catalogue description Marshall and Company of Leeds.

This record is held by Leeds University Library, Special Collections

Details of MS 200
Reference: MS 200
Title: Marshall and Company of Leeds.

Includes ledgers, account books, stock books, indentures, miscellaneous papers, notebooks about experiments, newspaper cuttings, notes of tours to Scotland, Ireland and Cumberland, and a large number of letters.

Date: 1788-1886
Held by: Leeds University Library, Special Collections, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Marshall, Fenton and Co, flax spinners of Leeds

Marshall, flax spinners of Leeds

Physical description: c240 files
Access conditions:

Access to this material is unrestricted

Publication note:

The papers listed were used by Professor Rimmer in his research for the history of the firm, published in 1960: W G Rimmer - Marshall's of Leeds, flax-spinners 1788-1866.

  • Marshall family, textile manufacturers of Leeds
  • Textile industry
Administrative / biographical background:

The firm was founded in 1788 by John (1765 - 1845), son of a Leeds draper, to take advantage of recent developments in the spinning of flax by machine. He set up a partnership with Samuel Fenton and Ralph Dearlove. The firm, called Marshall, Fenton & Co., leased a mill at Adel and later moved to Water Lane, between Holbeck and Leeds. Fenton and Dearlove withdrew in 1793, and Marshall was joined by Thomas and Benjamin Benyon, Shrewsbury woollen merchants. By 1795, these had a controlling interest, and built a mill at Shrewsbury for making thread. Marshall grew dissatisfied with his minority holding, and in 1804 bought control. As junior partners he appointed two men from the works, John Hives and William Hutton, who could be relied upon not to go against his wishes. They were later joined by a third, Moses Atkinson


The business prospered, mainly as a result of John Marshall's commercial ability and his concentration upon what he wished to achieve. Between 1803 and 1815, in conditions prevailing during the war with France, he made a fortune. In 1815, John's son, also named John (1797 - 1836), entered the business, and was made a partner in 1820. The remaining junior partners withdrew three years later, and Marshall's was a family firm from then on. John Marshall's other sons joined the business in the next decade, and he gradually retired from active participation. His son James Garth Marshall (1802 - 1873) became the dominant partner in the management of the business.


Unfortunately, conditions in the trade changed. Other firms were now producing yarn of the same quality as Marshalls, whereas before Marshall's had been the pioneers, and had possessed almost a monopoly. After 1850 the firm became unprofitable. John's sons lacked their father's drive, and the third generation had little interest in the business. In the 1870s matters were made worse by falling prices and rising wages, and labour troubles began to affect the firm. By 1884 only two partners, John III (1840 - 1894) and Stephen (1843 - 1904), were left. Stephen considered moving to America, but John was unwilling to continue, and the firm closed in 1886.

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