Derby Guide - Famous Derbeians - Thomas and John Lombe
Thomas Lombe was the eldest son of Henry Lombe, a Norwich weaver, from a family long involved in the cloth trade.
In 1718 Lombe took out a patent for a new invention of three sorts of silk machinery never before made or used in Great Britain, one to wind the finest raw silk, another to spin, and the other to twist, believed to have been copied by his step brother John in Italy.
Work on the Derby Silk Mill was started around 1715 on an island on the west side of the river Derwent,adjacent to a previous unsuccessful silk mill built by Thomas Cotchett around 1702.
The new factory was engineered by George Sorocold who oversaw the erection of much of the machinery in the old Derby Moot Hall, where it was tested before being installed into the new building, which was completed in 1719.
John Lombe died in 1722 believed to have been poisoned by a woman sent over from Italy in revenge for stealing their processes. His funeral was held at All Saint's Church and attended by thousands.
Derby Silk Mill became a successful concern, employing over 300 workers by the 1730's. Others imitated his success and other silk factories were established in elsewhere in England.
When Lombe's patent expired in 1732, parliament awarded him the sum of £14,000 in compensation rather than extend his patent.
Thomas Lombe lived most of his life in London and was the city's sheriff in 1727. He died in 1739, leaving a fortune of £120,000, which was bequeathed in equal shares to his widow and his two daughters, Hannah and Mary.
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