Saturday 17 April 2010

John Lombe

Back in February, I blogged about four famous Derbeians featured in bas relief sculpture on the Exeter Bridge; the ones I had walked past countless times without ever noticing! I've finally been back to take a look at what I have been missing.

Interestingly, the temporally more distant two of the four, also feature as plaster statues in niches of the building I photographed yesterday. I'm discovering that it's amazing how much I see when I actually take time to look!

I'll start with the most distant past.

John Lombe was made famous by silk. He was lucky enough to have a half brother, Thomas, who had made a small fortune in the silk trade. When Thomas heard that the small silk mill in Derby was failing, he knew that there was huge potential in the market (silk stockings for the ladies) and sent John to investigate a possible new method of manufacture. In 1718 they patented a single machine which would wind, spin and twist silk using water power; an innovative concept which John had seen being trialed by the Italian silk industry.  A new, larger silk mill was built on the site of the old one (just above Exeter Bridge) and production started apace.

Unfortunately for John, he was unable to enjoy the fruits of his labour, as he died in 1722, the year that the new mill was opened. The circumstances surrounding his death were questionable and it was suspected that he had been poisoned by an Italian assasin. Was this a case of industrial espionage biting back?

And here he is in plaster (so to speak).

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