Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Peter Drinkwater

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Peter Drinkwater (1750–1801), cotton manufacturer, proponent of the factory system.

1772 Peter and Ann Drinkwater had a son, Thomas, in Nantwich[1]; they had 3 more children - Margaret, Eliza and John; Margaret married John Pemberton Heywood[2]

1770s-80s Successful career as a fustian manufacturer (under the ‘putting out’ system) and as a foreign merchant in Bolton and Manchester.

By 1782 he had moved into factory production, buying a newly erected water-powered cotton spinning mill on the River Weaver in Northwich, Cheshire. Subsequently, he was one of those accused by Richard Arkwright of having infringed his water-frame patent.

1789 Built the first mill in Manchester to use Samuel Crompton's new mules (as distinct from water-frames); it had 144 spindle hand-mules and carding engines driven by a Boulton and Watt steam engine. Drinkwater was the first in Manchester to apply the Boulton and Watt engine to cotton spinning. The width of the mill was increased by a half in order to accommodate new machines, and employed 500 people. The millwork was undertaken by Thomas Lowe of Nottingham.

The mill was the 4-story Piccadilly Mill in Auburn Street. The 8HP B&W engine was running by 1 May 1790. The mill was demolished long ago, but a fragment of the S.E. brick wall, 13 courses high, was unearthed in 2004 during archaeological excavations [3]

1792 Robert Owen managed Piccadilly Mill with 500 employees owned by Peter Drinkwater.

1802 After Drinkwater's death, Robert Owen accepted a partnership with Drinkwater's sons but then renounced it in order that Drinkwater's son-in-law[4], the manufacturer Samuel Oldknow, would have greater control of the firm.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Cheshire parish registers
  2. Peter Drinkwater's will
  3. 'Manchester - the Hidden History' by Michael Nevell, The History Press, 2008
  4. It is not clear this is true, as Oldknow died unmarried