Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Earnshaw, Laurence

EARNSHAW, LAURENCE (d. 1767), mechanician, the son of a weaver or clothworker, was born early in the eighteenth century at Wednescough, in the parish of Mottram-in-Longdendale, Cheshire. After serving a seven years' apprenticeship to his father's business he went for four years to a tailor, and then took to his last trade, that of a clockmaker. He had a remarkable genius for mechanism of all kinds. He made musical instruments, and taught music; understood chemistry, metallurgy, and mathematics; was an engraver, painter, and gilder; a maker of sundials and of optical instruments; a bell-founder and worker in various metals. About 1753 he invented a machine to spin and reel cotton at one operation, which he exhibited to some neighbours, but afterwards destroyed, under the mistaken notion that its use might deprive the poor of the benefit of their labour. His greatest work was an ingenious astronomical clock, on the invention and construction of which he spent several years. He made many of these clocks, one of which was sold to Lord Bute for 150l., and afterwards became the property of Lord Lonsdale. Despite his great local fame as a mechanic his earnings were small, and he remained poor to the end. His privations were increased by his wife being bedridden for many years, and by his own lameness in the latter period of his life. He died in May 1767, aged about 60, and was buried at Mottram. A hundred years later, as the result of a series of articles by Mr. William Chadwick in the ‘Ashton-under-Lyne Reporter,’ a handsome monument was raised to his memory by public subscription in Mottram churchyard. Its inauguration was marked by a public procession on 10 April 1868.

[Gent. Mag. 1787, vol. lvii. pt. ii. pp. 665, 1165, 1200; Aikin's Country round Manchester, 1795, p. 466; Earwaker's East Cheshire, ii. 149; Palatine Note-Book, iii. 171.]

C. W. S.