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British Industrial History

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Jedediah Strutt

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Jedediah Strutt (1726 – 7 May 1797) was a hosier and cotton spinner from Belper, England.

Strutt and his brother-in-law William Woollat developed an attachment to the stocking frame that allowed the production of ribbed stockings. Their machine became known as the Derby Rib machine, and the stockings it produced quickly became popular.

He was born in South Normanton near Alfreton in Derbyshire into a farming family in 1726.

In 1740 he became an apprentice wheelwright in Findern and married Elizabeth Woolatt in 1755, who encouraged him greatly in his ventures. He moved to Blackwell where he had inherited a farm from one of his uncles and, in addition developed a business carrying coal from Denby to Belper and Derby.

Strutt's brother-in-law, William Woollatt, employed one Mr. Roper of Locko who had produced an idea for an attachment to the stocking frame to knit ribbed stockings. He had made one or two specimens which he showed to his friends, though he lacked the interest (and the capital) to develop his idea. Woolatt conferred with Strutt, who sold a horse and paid Roper £5 for his invention. Strutt and Woolatt turned the device into a viable machine and took out a patent in 1759.

Their machine became known as the Derby Rib machine, and the stockings it produced quickly became popular. Cotton was cheaper than silk and more comfortable than wool but demand was far exceeding supply.

Strutt and another spinner, Samuel Need, were introduced to Richard Arkwright who had arrived in Nottingham in about 1768, and set up his spinning frame there using horse-power to run the mill, but this was an unsatsfactory power source. In Derby, John Lombe had built a successful silk spinning mill using water power. Strutt and Need joined Arkwright in the building of a cotton mill at Cromford, using what was henceforth called Arkwright's water frame. This was the first of its kind in the world, marking the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Strutt bought land in 1777 for his first mill in Belper, which at that time was a hamlet of framework knitters and nail makers. In 1781 he bought the old forge at Makeney by Milford Bridge from Walter Mather. Belper opened in 1778 and Milford in 1782. For each he built long rows of substantial worker's houses and both are now part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.

In time there would be eight Strutt mills at Belper which would grow to a population of 10,000 by the mid-nineteenth century and be the second largest town in the county.

Jedediah died in 1797 and is buried in the Unitarian Chapel in Field Row, Belper.

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Sources of Information


[1] Wikipedia