Rags provided the raw materials for a number of different businesses. One business that needed rags was paper manufacture. [1] Paper manufacturers needed a continual supply of rags and many worked closely with a network of rag merchants, both at home and abroad. [2] Some rag merchants also expanded their businesses to include paper, either making paper bags or basic paper for other industries.

In Bradford one business made this highly successful transition, the Shackletons. James Shackleton [plate 1] was born in Kirkby Malham into a farming family. Census returns show that by 1851 he and his family lived in Manningham and in 1861 he had become a rag merchant. In 1871 he was living at 9 Foster Square, Horton, and his business had expanded to employ twenty women workers. Three of his five sons were also shown as rag and waste merchants. [3]

In 1876 the growing business relocated to Borough Paper Mills, formerly known as Horsfall Mills, Barkerend in Bradford.[4] This placed the business closer to other businesses that could supply rags, such as William Baxter & Co. By 1887 J Shackleton and son were listed as paper bag makers at North Wing as well as rag merchants at Borough Paper Mills, North Wing.[5]  James Shackleton lived at 3 St. Andrew’s Place, Horton until his death on 9th February 1887. His will described him as a paper manufacturer and merchant and his estate was valued at £7000. [ 6 ] The original partnership of James Shackleton and Sons had been dissolved by mutual consent in 1884.[7 ] John Shackleton, lived on the same street as his father at number 23, and continued as a rag merchant.[ plate 2]  His business was at 37 Silsbridge Lane and in the 1890s moved to 1 East Parade, Bradford.[8] His brother James worked as a rag warehouse man. [9]

Robert Shackleton remained part of the original business, now James Shackleton and Son, paper manufacturers. A biography written in 1913 stated that he started work in a spinning mill aged eight.[10] In 1854 he had begun a business on his own account dealing in rags, waste and paper at Brick Lane near Thornton Road. By 1881 he was employing thirty-two men and seventy-seven women. He had also moved with his wife and seven children, mother-in-law and servants to 20 Whetley Grove in Manningham before moving to a larger house at 4 Mount Royd. The report described him as “one of the best-known business men in Bradford”

In 1883 Robert entered into civic life and applied himself to the transport and sanitation problems in Bradford. In 1900 Robert and his sons, Frank (1867-1952) and Arthur (1876-1951), registered as a new company, James Shackleton and Son, with additional directors. The description of the business still included acting as rag merchants. [11] Frank and Arthur Shackleton were both listed as paper manufacturers in 1911 [12]. Arthur lived at 313 Killinghall Road, Bradford and popular residential area with other successful Bradford industrialists. In 1912 the business acquired Barkerend and Pit Lane Mills.[13]  In 1914 Robert Shackleton acquired lands from the City of Bradford adjoining Barkerend Road. [14] In 1915 City Paper Mills were selling machinery at auction and in 1916 Borough Mills was renamed as City Mills.[15] When Robert died at 4 Mount Royd on 20th April 1921 his estate was valued at over £21,000.00. [16]

James Shackleton & Son disappear from the Bradford trade directories in 1917 although many of the Shackleton family continued to live in Bradford and the surrounding area.

Jennie Kiff

End notes

I am grateful to Mike Kennard and Eve Greenwood for permission to reproduce their photographs of members of the Shackleton family.

  1. Richard Leslie Hills, Papermaking in Britain 1488-1988: A Short History (Bloomsbury Press: 2015)
  2. John Christopher Malin, The West Riding Recovered Wool Industry ca.1813-1939: A Study of the Growth of woollen rag merchanting and the manufacture of shoddy and mungo with an assessment of its contribution to the West Riding Woollen Industry (PhD Thesis, University of York: 1979)
  3. More details about the Shackleton family, researched by Mike Kennard, can be found at www.ancestry.co.uk/family-tree/person/tree/44661127/person/6235083722/ and by Eve Greenwood at www.ancestry.co.uk/family-tree/person/tree/23466009/
  4. Bradford Daily Telegraph, 14th October 1876, notice for “James Shackleton and Sons, Rag, Waste and New Paper Merchants, Thornton Road, Bradford now removed to Borough Paper Mills, late Horsfall Mills (behind Parish Church)”.
  5. White’s Trade Directory, Bradford pg. 660 and pg. 667
    6. Probate was proved on 13 April 1887 and his will deposited at Wakefield Registry now West Yorkshire Archive Service (WYAS), Wakefield History Centre (WHC), Wills Apr-Jul 1897. Executors were his son Robert, Thomas Priestley, a Bradford Stuff Manufacturer and William Thackray, of Leeds County Contractor.
    7. London Gazette. 20th October 1884 Dissolution of partnership of James, John and Robert Shackleton, Rag merchants, Paper and Jacquard card manufacturers and merchants, by mutual consent.
  6. Kelly’s Trade Directory 1893 pg. 1254. Only nine other Bradford rag merchants are listed in this directory but many others did exist and chose not to pay the subscription to be included in the directories. John’s eldest son William became a renowned artist.
  7. Census returns 1881, 1891 and 1901. Joseph Farrar Shackleton (1838-19030 was the eldest son of James Shackleton. He was an engineer and not part of the rag or paper business. In 1898 he and his family left Bradford and moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  8. Bradford Observer 29th November 1913. Article celebrates the 50th wedding anniversary of Robert and Mary Shackleton. It details his career but gives little information about his wife.
  9. Leeds Mercury – 28 September 1900. Business listed as “paper manufacturers and merchants, paper stainers, rag merchants, manufacturers of jacquard loom cards, paper bags, tubes and press paper, dealers in paper making materials, dyes, pigments, salts, nikahs and acids etc.”
  10. Frank lived in Ilkley in the 1901 census, by 1911 had moved to Ben Rydding, Ilkley. Arthur had married earlier in 1911 and was probably a recent resident at Killinghall Road.
  11. WYAS, WHC, West Riding Registry of Deeds 1912 Vol. 26 Page 165 no: 63 and 1912 Vol. 26 Page 174 no:68
    14. WYAS, WHC, West Riding Registry of Deeds 1914 Vol. 24 Page 332 no: 115
  12. Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer – 21 August 1915. WYAS, WHC, Registry of Deeds 1916, Volume 7, Page 78 no:232. Reconveyance dated 23rd February 1916.
  13. Probate was proved on 30 July 1921 and his will deposited at Wakefield Registry now West Yorkshire Archive Service (WYAS), Wakefield History Centre (WHC), Wills Apr-Jul 1921. His sons were not named as executors, one was his son in law Leonard Ingham.