History of the Oldknows Factory

Celebrating 30 years of creativity and community

With such a varied history, we’re proud to be a part of the Oldknows story.
With more than a passing resemblance to New York’s ‘Flat Iron’ Building, the Oldknows Factory has most recently been a centre of creative enterprise since 1987.

But even before that, originally a lace factory, it was established by James Oldknow, chairman of the Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery, England’s first municipal Art Gallery. With such a varied history, we’re now proud to be a part of the Oldknows story, with offices, studios, and artist spaces available to rent in Nottingham now.

From Beeston to France
James Oldknow was born in 1821 in Beeston, Nottingham. His grandfather was a mechanic and a machine builder. James Oldknow migrated to France and to the lace making centres of Calais and Lille. James became a partner in a business at St. Pierre De Calais and Lille with a Mr Maillot. They established lace making plants in Lyon and Nottingham, the Nottingham plant being at the corner of St. Ann’s Hill Road and Great Alfred Street.

The original creative Nottingham since 1850
After several years in France, James Oldknow returned home to England and to Nottingham. He took charge of the factory in Nottingham. In 1860 James Oldknow was elected Alderman to the town council as the representative of St. Anns Ward, Nottingham. James Oldknow was elected Mayor on three occasions: 1869, 1878 and 1879. In 1873 his daughter, Albertine Elizabeth Oldknow married Frank Wright at All Saints Church, Nottingham. Frank Wright and his Father were tobacco manufacturers in the City of Nottingham.

In 1878 James Oldknow’s second election as Mayor was notable. He was called upon to become Mayor by his colleagues when his predecessor, Mr. W.G. Ward, was thrown from his horse near Castle Rock and killed. This was just before the opening of the Castle Museum art gallery. James Oldknow was at the time chairman of the Castle committee and was largely responsible for the Castle project.

In 1878 James Oldknow received the Prince and Princess of Wales, later King Edward and Queen Alexandra. In August of that year James Oldknow travelled to the Isle of Wight. Here he was knighted by Queen Victoria at Osborne House. James Oldknow lived on Villa Road, Nottingham. He died on the 3rd January 1888 aged 67. He is buried at Rock cemetery, Mansfield Road, a stone-throw away from the Oldknows Factory Building. His plot is marked by a funerary obelisk.

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