Derby Guide - Famous Derbeians - Jedediah Strutt
Jedediah Strutt, along with Richard Arkwright were the main pioneers of the cotton spinning industry in Derbyshire.
Jedediah Strutt was born in Newton by Blackwell, Derbyshire, in 1726, second son of William Strutt and Martha Statham.
In 1740 he was apprentised to Ralph Massey, a wheelwright in Findern, Derbyshire, where he met his future wife Elizabeth Woollat.
In the 1750's several attempts had been made to improve the stocking frame that had been invented by William Lee, a century previous. Strutt with his brother in law William Wollatt, came up with the idea of an attachment that was placed in front of the stocking frame, which consisted of a set of barbed hooks operated vertically along the horizontal needle of the frame, taking the loops from the later and reversing them to make a rib stitch.
They patented the machine, called the Derby Rib, and with a new partner in Samuel Needham, Strutt's hosiery business began to grow. Raw material was purchased in London and prepared into thread at Strutt's Silk Mill in Derby. The thread was then mostly sold on to other hosiers, local and national.
In 1769 Richard Arkwright was looking for funds to expand his business. He was introduced to Strutt and Needham, who were impressed with his waterframe and agreed to a partnership.
The 3 men decided to employ water as a main source of power and set up a large factory next to the River Derwent in Cromford, thus establishing the world's first water powered cotton spinning mill. As well as investing in Arkwright's mills, Strutt and Needham built Silk mills at Belper in 1778 and at Milford in 1779.
Needham died in 1781 and Strutt and Arkwright dissolved the partnership, Arkwright keeping the cromford mill, Strutt the ones at Belper and Milford.
After his wife died, Strutt built Milford House in Milford and lived there until 1795, when he bought Exeter House in Derby with his second wife, Anne Daniels.
William Woollat was left to run the business in Derby and his 3 sons, William, George and Joseph were at some point in their lives, senior managers in the company. It was Joseph Strutt who later gave Derby its arboretum, Britain's first public park, in 1840.
Strutt was considered a good employer, building quality housing and facilities for his workforce at Belper and Milford, though as in many factories throughout the land, at this time, he employed children from a very early age.
He died in 1797 and is buried at the Unitarian Chapel he had built in Belper.
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