He was born on 10 January 1828 in Derby, the son of silk dyer William Woodruff Oldham and his wife Elizabeth (née Warmsley). Both of his grandfathers were also silk dyers.
William Woodruff abandoned his family, shortly after the birth of George William Oldham in April 1830. Elizabeth moved with her six children to Macclesfield where they worked in the silk trade.
By the mid-1850s, he had moved to the Huddersfield area with his mother.
Together with George William and £25 of capital, he leased a dyeworks at Spring Vale, near Big Valley in South Crosland circa 1856. Although their capital was soon exhausted, they worked hard and eventually turned a profit.
The construction of the Meltham Branch Line in the early 1860s led to concerns that the quality of water flowing to their dyeworks from the spring at Butternab would be compromised by the construction of Butternab Tunnel and the brothers moved their business to Moll Spring Mills and Dye Works in Honley in 1862.
The partnership between the brothers was dissolved in 1871 and George William continued to run the business by himself.
Henry Oldham then returned to live in Macclesfield with family, where he died on 1 March 1876, aged 48. His probate listed effects under the value of £1,500.
Magdalene then moved to York with her teenage sons, where they are listed at 76 Monkgate in the 1881 Census. She died in 1893, aged 57.