Samuel Crompton 1753-1827
Inventor of the Spinning Mule
Samuel Crompton was another great inventor from the north-west whose ideas revolutionized the cotton industry, but who received little personal gain for his efforts. Crompton was born at a Bolton farm called Firwood Fold, but within five years his parents rented part of Hall i'th' Wood, a Tudor mansion now preserved as a visitor attraction.
As a youth, Samuel undertook various jobs including farmer, spinner and weaver, but he also displayed a keen and inventive mind as an accomplished musician and mathematician. As a spinner, Samuel had encountered Hargreaves' Spinning Jenny and Arkwright's Water Frame and felt that by combining elements of both (the rollers of the Water Frame and the twisting action of the Jenny), he could produce a much more effective machine. His first, hand-operated prototype was nicknamed the Spinning Mule, as it was a hybrid of the two earlier machines.
Almost as soon as Crompton had completed his first machine, he found himself in trouble with the local hand-spinners and handloom weavers, who saw any mechanization of the cotton industry as a threat to their livelihoods. In 1779, Samuel had to dismantle his machine and hide it in the rafters of Hall i'th' Wood in order to avoid the unwanted attentions of the machine-breakers.
When the threat of physical harm had passed, it became clear that Crompton's Mule would make a huge difference to the spinning branch of the cotton industry. Not only did the Mule produce a strong and very fine yarn, but larger versions, powered by steam engines, could spin thousands of spindles at once. Indeed, many cotton magnates built factories especially to house these very long mules.
Sadly, Crompton's precarious financial position at the time of the Mule's invention meant that he could not afford to apply for a Patent for his machine. Instead, he sold to rights to a Bolton manufacturer in order to raise some ready cash. In the long run, this move must have cost Samuel thousands of pounds. Despite a House of Commons award of £5000 for his invention (as late as 1812), Samuel Crompton's own cotton factory was a failure, and this great inventor died a pauper in his home town of Bolton in 1827.