Thornley, David

SUBJECT AREA: Textiles
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b. c. 1741 Liverpool (?), England
d. 27 January 1772 Nottingham, England
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English partner in Arkwright's cotton-spinning venture.
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On 4 November 1766 David Thornley married Mary, daughter of Joseph Brown, roper, at St Peter's, Liverpool. In Gore's Dictionary for 1767 Thornley is described as "merchant" and his wife as "milliner" of Castle Street, Liverpool. David Thornley was distantly related to Richard Arkwright and certainly by 1768 Thornley had begun his active association with Arkwright when he joined him in Preston, an event recorded in the inquiry into the qualifications of those who had voted in the Burgoyne election. Thornley may have helped Arkwright with the technical development of his spinning machine.
On 14 May 1768, Arkwright, Smalley and Thornley became partners in the cotton-spinning venture at Nottingham for a term of fourteen years, or longer if a patent could be obtained. Each partner was to have three one-ninth shares and was to advance such money as might be necessary to apply for a patent as well as to develop the spinning machine. Profits were to be divided equally as often as convenient and the partners were to devote their whole time to the business after a period of two years. How-ever, it seems that in 1769 the partners had difficulty in raising the necessary money to finance the patent, and Thornley had to reduce his stake in the partnership to a one-ninth share. By this time Thornley must have moved to Nottingham, where Arkwright established his first mill. On 19 January 1770, additional finance was provided by two new partners, Samuel Need and Jedediah Strutt, and alterations were made to the mill buildings that the partners had leased to work the spinning machines by horse power. Arkwright and Thornley were to be responsible for the day-to-day management of the mill, receiving £25 per annum for these duties. Thornley appears to have remained at Nottingham to supervise the mill, while the other partners moved to Cromford to establish the much larger enterprise there. It was at Nottingham that David Thornley died in January 1772, and his share in the partnership was bought from his wife, Mary, by Arkwright. Mary returned to her millinery business in Liverpool.
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Further Reading
Until copies of the original agreements between Arkwright's partners were presented to the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, Thornley's existence was unknown. The only account of his life is given in R.S.Fitton, 1989, The Arkwrights, Spinners of Fortune, Manchester. The "Articles of Agreement", 19 June 1769, are printed in R.L. Hills, 1970, Power in the Industrial Revolution, Manchester. This book also includes part of Arkwright's agreement with his later partners which mentions Thornley's death and covers the technical aspects of the cotton-spinning invention.
RLH

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

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