Smalley, John

SUBJECT AREA: Textiles
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b. c. 1729 England
d. 28 January 1782 Holywell, Wales.
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English helped Arkwright to build and finance the waterframe.
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John Smalley of Preston was the second son of John, a chapman of Blackburn. He was a distant relative of Richard Arkwright through marrying, in 1751, Elizabeth Baxter, whose mother Ellen was the widow of Arkwright's uncle, Richard. In the Preston Guild Rolls of 1762 he was described as a grocer and painter, and he was also Landlord of the Bull Inn. The following year he became a bailiff of Preston and in 1765 he became a Corporation steward. On 14 May 1768 Arkwright, Smalley and David Thornley became partners in a cotton-spinning venture in Nottingham. They agreed to apply for a patent for Arkwright's invention of spinning by rollers, and Smalley signed as a witness. It is said that Smalley provided much of the capital for this new venture as he sold his business at Preston for about £1,600, but this was soon found to be insufficient and the partnership had to be enlarged to include Samuel Need and Jedediah Strutt.
Smalley may have helped to establish the spinning mill at Nottingham, but by 28 February 1771 he was back in Preston, for on that day he was chosen a "Councilman in the room of Mr. Thomas Jackson deceased" (Fitton 1989:38). He attended meetings for over a year, but either in 1772 or the following year he sold the Bull Inn, and certainly by August 1774 the Smalleys were living in Cromford, where he became Manager of the mill. He soon found himself at logger-heads with Arkwright; however, Strutt was able to smooth the dispute over for a while. Things came to a head in January 1777 when Arkwright was determined to get rid of Smalley, and the three remaining partners agreed to buy out Smalley's share for the sum of £10,751.
Although he had agreed not to set up any textile machinery, Smalley moved to Holywell in North Wales, where in the spring of 1777 he built a cotton-spinning mill in the Greenfield valley. He prospered there and his son was later to build two more mills in the same valley. Smalley used to go to Wrexham to sell his yarn, and there met John Peers, a leather merchant, who was able to provide a better quality leather for covering the drawing rollers which came to be used in Lancashire. Smalley died in 1782, shortly before Arkwright could sue him for infringement of his patents.
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Further Reading
R.S.Fitton, 1989, The Arkwrights, Spinners of Fortune, Manchester (draws together the fullest details of John Smalley).
R.L.Hills, 1969, Power in the Industrial Revolution, Manchester (includes details of the agreement with Arkwright).
A.H.Dodd, 1971, The Industrial Revolution in North Wales, Cardiff; E.J.Foulkes, 1964, "The cotton spinning factories of Flintshire, 1777–1866", Flintshire Historical Society
Journal 21 (provide more information about his cotton mill at Holywell).
RLH

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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