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Strutt, Jedediahlocked

  • J. J. Mason

Strutt, Jedediah (1726–1797), inventor and cotton manufacturer, was born on 26 July 1726, at South Normanton, near Alfreton, Derbyshire, the second of the three sons of William Strutt, a small farmer and maltster, and his wife, Martha, the daughter of Joseph Statham, a yeoman. At the age of fourteen Strutt was apprenticed to Ralph Massey, a wheelwright, at Findern, a village near Derby, and boarded with the Woollats, members of the nonconformist congregation of Ebenezer Latham. Here, if not earlier—the Strutts might have been members of Alfreton's dissenting community—he acquired his love of books and a tendency towards reflection, and met his future wife, Elizabeth Woollat [see Strutt, Elizabeth]. Jedediah left his master in 1747 and, working as a journeyman wheelwright, moved to Belgrave, near Leicester, then to Leicester itself.

In 1754 Strutt inherited an uncle's farm stock and became a farmer wheelwright at Newton, near Blackwell, and on 25 September 1755 he married Elizabeth (1729–1774). About this time he became interested in the hosiery trade. He perfected a device, the 'rude and imperfect idea' of one Roper, 'an indolent fellow', brought to him by his wife's brother William Woollat, which could be attached to the front of the knitting frame to manufacture ribbed stockings. With Woollat and Elizabeth, he commenced a putting-out business around Blackwell. Woollat's and Elizabeth's nonconformist and London links established the necessary business and financial connections. In 1758 Strutt and Woollat entered a partnership with the Derby hosiers and dissenters John Bloodworth and Thomas Stamford—the two were replaced in 1762 by the wealthy Nottingham hosier and dissenter Samuel Need—and applied for patents in 1758 and 1759. The Strutts prospered; in 1762 Strutt was made a freeman of Nottingham, and the family moved to St Mary's Gate, Derby. Strutt's elder brother Joseph, with whom he took out a patent for a stove in 1770, lived in London and took no part in the business, but brother William joined the concern. The ‘Derby rib machine’ brought Strutt acquaintance with the Society of Arts, and, through a successfully countered challenge to his patent in 1765, experience of the London courts of law. Business success and frugality provided the means to consider other ventures.

In 1769, through Need, Strutt was introduced to Richard Arkwright (1732–1792) and his partners, then newly arrived in Nottingham and requiring finance. For £500 Strutt and Need each took one-fifth of the partnership of Richard Arkwright & Co., set up to exploit Arkwright's patent. Tradition assigns Strutt a part in improving the machine, but his influence was probably more general. The yarn was first used for stockings, and it was Strutt and Need who, manufacturing calicos at Derby, identified the natural vent. Strutt handled the negotiations for the reduction of excise duties on calico in 1774—his wife died that May while on a visit to him in London—and in 1782 he joined Arkwright in defence of the latter's 1769 patent. Though relations with Arkwright could be tense—in 1774 Strutt's eldest son, William [see below], wrote, 'he wants you out'—Strutt remained in the partnership until 1782, a year after Need's death. He participated in the mill-building programme and enjoyed the fruits of the new industry's rapid growth. The exact terms of the firm's expansion are not known, but perhaps Strutt himself financed the model factory communities at Belper and Milford, for, after the partnership's dissolution, these, and a calico factory at Derby, constituted the core of his own cotton empire. Samuel Slater, an ex-apprentice of Strutt's at Milford, was, in the 1790s, instrumental in introducing the new system of manufacture in the United States.

Strutt and his wife delighted in the commonplace and the upbringing of their five children. His sons, and for a time his daughters, worked in the business as they came of age. George Benson came to manage the mills and estates, Joseph [see below] the commercial side, and William the technical aspects. Jedediah's second marriage in 1781 or 1782 to Anne, the widow of George Daniels, a yeoman of Belper, strained relations with the children, and, increasingly, their education, their originality, and, to Strutt, the extravagance of their social life set them apart. His later life was split between his mansion, Milford House, and Derby; in 1795 he bought Exeter House, Derby, and, after a 'lingering illness', died there, on 7 May 1797, aged seventy. He was buried in the Unitarian chapel at Belper.

His eldest son, William Strutt (1756–1830), cotton manufacturer, born on 20 July 1756 at Newton, near Alfreton, Derbyshire, was educated at private schools. Although he entered the business at the age of fourteen, he continued to study and read widely throughout his life. Reconstruction and extension of the mills—the brothers traded as W. G. and J. Strutt—enabled William to demonstrate his skills: as an architect of fireproof buildings, and as an engineer of water power and transmission, of textile machinery, and of heating. His ‘cockle’ warm-air system was believed to be the most efficient for non-steam factories, and his design for the Derby Infirmary's heating and ventilation system was later copied by others. Strutt's original mind and achievements brought his election to the Royal Society in 1817. The Strutt brothers and their sister Elizabeth were sought out by society, and Strutt could count among his friends Erasmus Darwin (whom he helped to establish the Derby Philosophical Society and succeeded as president in 1802), R. L. and Maria Edgeworth (on whose drafts he commented), Coleridge (who described Strutt as 'a man of stern aspect, but strong, very strong abilities'), Tom Moore, the engineer Charles Sylvester, Samuel and Jeremy Bentham, and Robert Owen. Strutt was a major benefactor of Derby and its built and social infrastructure. Even so, his ownership of the manor of Kingston in Nottinghamshire and a house in Leicestershire suggests that, like many of his generation, he found land attractive. On 12 January 1793 he married Barbara (1761–1804), the daughter of Thomas Evans of Darley Dale, a banker, industrialist, and early factory master. They had five daughters and one son, Edward Strutt, first Lord Belper (1801–1880). Strutt died at Derby on 29 December 1830, and was buried in the Unitarian chapel at Friar Gate. In 1813 the fortune of the Strutt brothers had been estimated at £1 million.

Strutt's youngest son, Joseph Strutt (1765–1844), cotton manufacturer and philanthropist, was baptized at Friar Gate Presbyterian Chapel, Derby, on 19 September 1765. He was the only member of the family to be educated at the Derby School. On 5 January 1793 he married Isabella (1769–1802), 'sweet minded … lovely, handsome, beautiful', according to Coleridge (Collected Letters, ed. Griggs, 1.306), the daughter of Archibald Douglas of Swaybrook, Derbyshire; they had two sons and three daughters. He shared his family's politics and Unitarianism—in 1817 he supported the accused in the Derby treason trials—and many of his brother's friends, and was similarly public-spirited. With William he established a Lancasterian school in Derby and in 1824–5 a mechanics' institute; in 1835 he was first mayor of the reformed borough. He opened his house, St Peter's, with its paintings and statues, to the public, and in 1840 gave to the people of Derby an 11 acre arboretum planned by J. C. Loudon. He died on 13 January 1844 at Derby, leaving the bulk of his estate to his sole surviving child, Isabella, the wife of John Howard Galton and the mother of Sir Douglas Galton (1822–1899).


  • R. S. Fitton and A. P. Wadsworth, The Strutts and the Arkwrights, 1758–1830: a study of the early factory system (1958)
  • W. Felkin, A history of the machine-wrought hosiery and lace manufactures (1867)
  • J. C. Cox, Memorials of old Derbyshire (1907)
  • C. L. Hacker, ‘William Strutt of Derby (1756–1830)’, Journal of the Derbyshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, 80 (1960), 49–70
  • J. Tann, The development of the factory (1970)
  • H. R. Johnson and A. W. Skempton, ‘William Strutt's cotton mills, 1793–1812’, Transactions [Newcomen Society], 30 (1955–7), 179–205
  • C. Sylvester, The philosophy of domestic economy (1819)
  • Derby Mercury (12 Jan 1831)
  • Derby Mercury (24 Jan 1844)
  • A catalogue of paintings and drawings, marbles, bronzes, ivories, alabasters and plaster busts and figures, china ornaments, etc. etc., in the collection of Joseph Strutt, Derby (1827)
  • J. C. Loudon, The Derby arboretum … and … a copy of the address … by … Joseph Strutt Esq. … when it was opened to the public (1840)
  • Modern mayors of Derby (1909)
  • W. J. Piper, ‘Joseph Strutt’, Derby Evening Telegraph (4 Sept 1952)
  • Collected letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ed. E. L. Griggs, 1 (1956), 306


  • Derby Public Library
  • Derbys. RO
  • FM Cam.
  • Inst. ET


  • J. Wright, oils, 1790, Derby Museum and Art Gallery; repro. in B. Nicolson, Joseph Wright of Derby (1968), 163
  • Chantrey, bust (William Strutt), Derby Museum and Art Gallery
  • Reinagle, oils (William Strutt), Derby Museum and Art Gallery
  • portrait (William Strutt), repro. in Hacker, ‘William Strutt of Derby’, facing p. 56
  • portrait (Joseph Strutt), Council House, Derby
  • portrait (Joseph Strutt; after statue), repro. in Derby Evening Telegraph (4 Sept 1952)
  • statue (Joseph Strutt), arboretum, Derby

Wealth at Death

£160,000—Joseph Strutt: will, TNA: PRO, PROB 11/1992