The Shirley Institute was established in 1920 as the British Cotton Industry Research Association at The Towers in Didsbury, Manchester, as a research centre dedicated to cotton production technologies. It was funded by the Cotton Board through a statutory levy. The Institute invented Ventile, a special high-quality woven cotton fabric. It also developed the tog as an easy-to-follow measure of the thermal resistance of textiles, as an alternative to the SI unit of m2K/W.
The name of the Institute derives from the fact that a significant contribution to the purchase price of The Towers was made by William Greenwood, the MP for Stockport, who asked that the building be named after his daughter.
Dr Douglas Hill was Director of Research of the BCRA before the merger and led the new organisation. The Director of the BRRA, Leonard Albert Wiseman became Deputy Director. Len Wiseman became Director on Dr Hill's retirement in 1969 and held the post until 1980.
- Robert Howson Pickard FRS, director 1937-1943 who expanded the technical facilities extensively in 1936.
- Mary Corner worked initially in the rayon department where she developed a fascination with microanalysis which resulted in a promotion to Head of the Microanalytical Section.
- Textile Council (Dissolution) House of Commons debates, 14 December 1971
- "Technologies of work". Manchester University, Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine. Archived from the original on 2007-11-19. Retrieved 2008-07-10.
- "Didsbury St James Conservation Area". Manchester City Council. Retrieved 2017-02-19.
- Hansard, written answers, 9 February 1961
- "Shirley Institute, Wira Technology merger planned. (Wira Technology Group)". Retrieved 2008-07-10.