Kay (of Warrington), John

SUBJECT AREA: Textiles
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fl. c.1770 England
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English clockmaker who helped Richard Arkwright to construct his spinning machine.
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John Kay was a clockmaker of Warrington. He moved to Leigh, where he helped Thomas Highs to construct his spinning machine, but lack of success made them abandon their attempts. Kay first met Richard Arkwright in March 1767 and six months later was persuaded by Arkwright to make one or more models of the roller spinning machine he had built under Highs's supervision. Kay went with Arkwright to Preston, where they continued working on the machine. Kay also went with Arkwright when he moved to Nottingham. It was around this time that he entered into an agreement with Arkwright to serve him for twenty-one years and was bound not to disclose any details of the machines. Presumably Kay helped to set up the first spinning machines at Arkwright's Nottingham mill as well as at Cromford. Despite their agreement, he seems to have left after about five years and may have disclosed the secret of Arkwright's crank and comb on the carding engine to others. Kay was later to give evidence against Arkwright during the trial of his patent in 1785.
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Further Reading
R.S.Fitton, 1989, The Arkwrights, Spinners of Fortune, Manchester (the most detailed account of Kay's connections with Arkwright and his evidence during the later patent trials).
A.P.Wadsworth and J. de L.Mann, 1931, The Cotton Trade and Industrial Lancashire, Manchester (mentions Kay's association with Arkwright).
RLH

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

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