John Lombe (1692-1722), applied his mechanical skills to the spinning of silk by machinery.
c.1695 His father died - unlike his brothers, John was brought up by his mother, Henry Lombe's second wife.
In the early 1700s, the centre for producing silk stockings by framework knitting had moved to the Midlands from London and the demand for spun silk was outstripping demand. Thomas Cotchett, a local attorney, set up a silk mill built in Derby, built by the local engineer George Sorocold. John may have been apprenticed there or to his brother Thomas, a London merchant.
1715 Thomas, John and their cousin William Lombe began to construct a mill on an island in the River Derwent at Derby, adjacent to the unsuccessful silk mill built earlier by Cotchett - see Lombe's Silk Mill. Thomas is thought to have sent John to Italy to learn about the processes for silk throwing.
1716 John went to Leghorn and managed to see and draw the machinery for twisting silk thread. Small quantities of this thread had hitherto been illicitly imported into Britain, but with the arrival of immigrant Huguenot silk weavers far more was needed.
Italy was then the world leader in spinning fine organzine thread. As the story goes, John obtained employment at one of the Italian shops where the secret silk-throwing machinery was used. He stole into the shops at night and carefully diagrammed them by candlelight. He then brought the designs back to England around 1717 together with 2 workmen to assist in establishing the factory. The machinery for silk-throwing was very complex for its time.
1718 Thomas obtained a patent for the use of 3 sorts machines, never before used in Britain, to produce silk thread and organzine. He raised the necessary capital and erected a vast silk throwing mill, powered by the River Derwent, near Derby.
The Lombes can be said to have introduced into Britain the basic machinery and the factory method of working, long-established in Italy (as early as 1692 a number of men had unsuccessfully petitioned for leave to be incorporated into a company for the purpose of introducing the Italian machinery and starting a manufactory in Britain). Later the machines were adapted to other types of yarn and were to be of inestimable value to the silk and ultimately the textile industry as a whole.
1719 Thomas, John and William began production at their mill (although initially they may have had to do the silk-throwing in other premises in Derby). Eventually the mill became a prosperous concern.
1722 John died suddenly. It is suspected that he was poisoned by a "suspicious" woman, presumably from Italy, who had appeared shortly before his death.
Sources of Information
- England & Wales, Quaker Birth Registers
-  Wikipedia
- Biography of John Lombe, ODNB