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Strutt, Jedediah (DNB00)


STRUTT, JEDEDIAH (1726–1797), cotton-spinner and improver of the stocking-frame, born at Blackwell in Derbyshire in 1726, was the second son of William Strutt of Blackwell. In 1740 he was articled for seven years to Ralph Massey, a wheelwright at Findern, near Derby. After serving his apprenticeship he became a farmer, but about 1755 his brother-in-law, William Woollatt, a native of Findern, who became a hosier at Derby, called his attention to some unsuccessful attempts that had been made to manufacture ribbed stockings upon the stocking-frame [see Lee, William, (d. 1610?)]. Strutt had a natural inclination towards mechanics, and, in conjunction with Woollatt, he took out two patents, on 19 April 1758 (No. 722) and on 10 Jan. 1759 (No. 734), for a ‘machine furnished with a set of turning-needles, and to be fixed to a stocking-frame for making turned ribbed stockings, pieces, and other goods usually manufactured upon stocking-frames.’ This machine could be used or not as ribbed or plain work was desired. The principle of Strutt's invention became the basis of numerous later modifications of the apparatus and of other machines. To himself and his partner the invention proved extremely lucrative; they commenced to manufacture at Derby, where the ‘Derby Patent Rib’ quickly became popular.

About 1768 Messrs. Wright, bankers of Nottingham, refused to continue their advances to Richard Arkwright (1732–1792) [q. v.], then engaged in contriving his spinning-frame. The bankers were doubtful of the possibility of Arkwright's experiment reaching a successful termination, and they advised him to consult on this point a stocking manufacturer named Need, who had entered into partnership with Strutt. The latter immediately saw the importance of Arkwright's invention, and Arkwright was admitted into partnership with himself and Need.

On 3 July 1769 Arkwright took out a patent for his frame, after incorporating several improvements suggested by Strutt. Works were erected at Cromford and afterwards at Belper, and when the partnership was dissolved in 1782 Strutt retained the Belper works in his own hands.

On 19 July 1770 Jedediah and his brother Joseph Strutt took out a patent (No. 964) for a ‘machine for roasting, boiling, and baking, consisting of a portable fire-stove, an air-jack, and a meat-screen.’ Jedediah died at Exeter House in Derby on 6 May 1797 after a lingering illness. He married Elizabeth, daughter of William Woollatt of Findern, near Derby, in 1755. By her he had three sons—William, George Benson of Belper, and Joseph—and two daughters: Elizabeth, who married William Evans of Darley, Derbyshire; and Martha, who married Samuel Fox of Derby.

Strutt's portrait, painted by Joseph Wright of Derby, is in the possession of Lord Belper. It was engraved by Henry Meyer.

His eldest son, William Strutt (1756–1830), born in 1756, inherited much of his father's mechanical genius. He devised a system of thoroughly ventilating and warming large buildings, which was carried out with great success at the Derbyshire general infirmary. He made considerable improvements in the method of constructing stoves, and ultimately, in 1806, invented the Belper stove which possessed greatly augmented heating powers. He also invented a form of self-acting spinning-mule. He was an intimate friend of Erasmus Darwin, took a warm interest in scientific questions, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, though he had not sought the honour. Among his friends he also numbered Robert Owen, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, Samuel Bentham, and his brother Jeremy. He died at Derby on 29 Dec. 1830. By his wife Barbara, daughter of Thomas Evans of Derby, he had one son Edward, first lord Belper [q. v.], and three daughters (Baines, History of the Cotton Manufacture, 1835, p. 205; Bernan, History and Art of Warming and Ventilating, 1845, ii. 77, 87, 208–11; Sylvester, Philosophy of Domestic Economy, 1819; Gent. Mag. 1830, ii. 647).

The third son, Joseph Strutt (1765–1844), was well known for his benefactions to his native town. His gift of the ‘arboretum,’ or public garden, to Derby is worthy of notice as one of the earliest instances of the bestowal of land for such a purpose. In 1835 he was the first mayor of Derby under the Municipal Corporations Act. The poet Thomas Moore was on intimate terms with Joseph Strutt and with other members of the family (cf. Russell, Life of Moore, passim). Strutt was also the friend and correspondent of Maria Edgeworth, who visited him in the company of her father and stepmother, and in 1823 submitted to his criticism an account of spinning jennies written for the sequel to ‘Harry and Lucy’ (Mrs. Ritchie, Introductions to Popular Tales, 1895, Helen, 1896, and The Parents' Assistant, 1896). Joseph Strutt died at Derby on 13 Jan. 1844. His house in the town was long noted for its museum and valuable collection of pictures.

[Private information; Sutton's Nottingham Date Book, pp. 34–5; Gent. Mag. 1797, i. 446; Felkin's History of Machine-wrought Hosiery and Lace Manufactures, 1867, pp. 84–101; Encycl. Brit. 9th ed. ii. 541, xii. 299; Burke's Landed Gentry, 6th edit.]

E. I. C.