Richardson, Jonathan (1756–1817), linen bleacher and merchant, was born near Lisburn, Co. Antrim, a younger son of John Richardson and Ruth Richardson (née Hogg); the family were members of the Society of Friends. Jonathan, who had at least one elder brother, left home as a boy to work in the linen business with his mother's brother. Intricate intermarriages characterised Irish quaker families, many of whom were involved in the linen business. Before 1782 Jonathan married Sarah Nicholson, a descendant of William Nicholson (1632–1715); she was almost certainly a relative, as his paternal grandfather, a great-aunt, and a great-uncle had all married Nicholsons. In 1785 he bought two bleach greens on the River Lagan, one at Hilden, and one on the site first used by Louis Crommelin (qv) and the Delacherois family in helping to establish the linen industry in Ireland. Both greens were later known as Glenmore, and at the same time as his friend John Hancock (qv), Richardson, using chemicals and novel techniques, started bleaching in winter 1800; they were the first concerns to do so. He traded in linen as well as bleaching it, farmed land, and established a corn-mill; he had a barge on the Lagan canal to transport his goods, and seems also to have owned land at Augher, Co. Tyrone. His firm was known as J. J. & J. Richardson; an account book survives in the PRONI, listed as D/2370, and was invaluable to Conrad Gill (1893–1965) in his study of the economics of the early linen industry. In just two years from 1785, turnover increased from £16,000 to £43,000; 20,000 pieces of linen were bleached annually. The company absorbed the Hancock greens, as well as those belonging to John Williamson (d. 1767), and was later famous worldwide as Richardson, Sons, & Owden. Richardson died in 1817; he had a daughter and three sons. John Grubb Richardson (qv) was a grandson, and James Nicholson Richardson (qv) a great-grandson.
J. M. Richardson, Six generations of Friends in Ireland 1655–1890 (1893); Burke, LGI (1912), 593; Conrad Gill, The rise of the Irish linen industry (1925), 247–63; Charlotte Fell Smith, James Nicholson Richardson (1925), 32; H. C. Marshall, The parish of Lambeg (1933), 114, 119; [Thomas Adams], Bessbrook a record of industry in a Northern Ireland village community and of a social experiment (1945), 17–19; Industries of Ireland, Part 1 (1891), 68, in an edition of 1986, introduced by W. H. Crawford; Richard S. Harrison, A biographical dictionary of Irish quakers (1997)