John Heathcoat was the youngest son of a respectable small farmer at Duffield, Derbyshire, where he was born in 1732. When at school he made steady and rapid progress, but was early removed from it to be apprenticed to a frame-smith near Loughborough. The boy soon learnt to handle tools with dexterity, and he acquired a minute knowledge of the parts of which the stocking-frame was composed, as well as of the more intricate warp-machine. At his leisure he studied how to introduce improvements in them, and his friend, Mr. Bazley, M.P., states that as early as the age of sixteen, he conceived the idea of inventing a machine by which lace might be made similar to Buckingham or French lace, then all made by hand. The first practical improvement he succeeded in introducing was in the warp-frame, when, by means of an ingenious apparatus, he succeeded in producing “mitts” of a lacy appearance, and it was this success which determined him to pursue the study of mechanical lace-making. The stocking-frame had already, in a modified form, been applied to the manufacture of point-net lace, in which the mesh was LOOPED as in a stocking, but the work was slight and frail, and therefore unsatisfactory. Many ingenious Nottingham mechanics had, during a long succession of years, been labouring at the problem of inventing a machine by which the mesh of threads should be TWISTED round each other on the formation of the net. Some of these men died in poverty,
Become a Jane Austen Member
Membership is completely free….
- A welcome 10% off voucher to spend in our giftshop
- Full access to our online magazine of articles about Jane Austen
- Regular new stories
- Giftshop special offers and new products
- Our very popular an entertaining quiz