3 August 1792: Richard Arkwright, ‘Father of the Industrial Revolution’, dies

Richard Arkwright, barber turned textiles magnate, died on this day in 1792, having revolutionised the manufacture of cloth in England.

Richard Arkwright was born in 1732, the 13th child of a Preston tailor. He never went to school, but was taught by his cousin, became apprenticed to a barber, and set up shop in Bolton.

Then, thinking there would be more money in it, he started making wigs. He travelled around the country, doing deals and making contacts, and invented a waterproof wig dye that gave him enough money to get out of the wig game just as gentlemen's hairpieces went out of fashion.

At the time, an awful lot of people were trying to work out how to automate the manufacture of textiles. There were plenty of riches on offer to the man (or woman!) who could crack it. So Arkwright turned his attention to doing just that.

He and a man called John Kay came up with a machine – the water frame – that could spin cotton in industrial amounts, cheaply and quickly, using unskilled labour. He built a water-powered mill in Cromford, a Derbyshire village, where he employed whole families, children included, housed in company accommodation. He expanded rapidly, and made extra money by licensing his patents to other manufacturers.

However, despite being credited with all sorts of inventions, he was dragged through the courts, accused of stealing the work of others.

Thomas Highs of Leigh (and others) sued him for infringing his patents. Highs claimed, among other things, that he had given John Kay his plans for a spinning machine for him to make a model, only for Kay to betray him and sell them to Arkwright.

Many of Arkwright's patents were overturned, but nevertheless, Highs died in obscurity and poverty in 1803, while Arkwright was knighted and entered the history books as the inventor of the modern factory system. He died on this day in 1792, leaving a fortune of £500,000.

Recommended

Is now a good time to buy a house?
Property

Is now a good time to buy a house?

Is now a good time to buy a house? That’s something many people might be asking as house prices, and mortgage rates, begin to decline
30 Jan 2023
Government consults on small pensions pots - here’s what to do if you have several small pension pots
Pensions

Government consults on small pensions pots - here’s what to do if you have several small pension pots

The Department for Work and Pensions has started consulting on helping workers who hold a number of small pension pots. We look at how the government …
30 Jan 2023
Self-assessment tax returns: what you need to know about getting your tax bill right
Income tax

Self-assessment tax returns: what you need to know about getting your tax bill right

Understanding how self assessment works can help you ensure you pay the right amount of tax, as well as avoid penalties for missing the deadline.
30 Jan 2023
Zoopla: house prices stalled at the end of 2022
House prices

Zoopla: house prices stalled at the end of 2022

The property market looks primed for a slow burn start, and buyers are turning towards flats instead of homes as they prioritise affordability, latest…
30 Jan 2023

Most Popular

Council tax increases 2023 – how much more will you pay?
Tax

Council tax increases 2023 – how much more will you pay?

Your council tax bill will go up in April - we reveal the councils that have confirmed what this year’s increase will be.
23 Jan 2023
Will energy prices go down in 2023?
Personal finance

Will energy prices go down in 2023?

Wholesale gas prices are on a downward trajectory, but does this mean lower energy bills later this year?
27 Jan 2023
Share tips of the week - 27 January 2023
Investments

Share tips of the week - 27 January 2023

MoneyWeek’s comprehensive guide to the best of this week’s share tips from the rest of the UK's financial pages
27 Jan 2023