John Heathcoat

John Heathcoat

Photo credit:- Nottingham City Museums and Galleries

It was a Long Whatton man, John Heathcoat, who invented and patented a process to make machine-made bobbin lace on a specialised form of knitting frame called the 'Loughborough' frame.
John Heathcoat was born in Derbyshire in 1784, the youngest son of Francis and Elizabeth Heathcoat. When young John was ten years old, his father may have bought bought a farm in Long Whatton (Other sources suggest his farther was blind at this time and he rented out knitting frames) and the boy completed his schooling at the local village school run by the Parish Clerk, James Attenbrow. On leaving school at the age of fourteen, John entered into an apprenticeship with a framework knitter, a Mr Swift of Long Whatton, but soon changed to another framework knitter in Hathern.
The young man made his way up, possibly through his marriage at the age of 21 years to Anne Chamberlain, the widowed sister of Samuel Caldwell, a frame-smith in Hathern with whom Heathcoat was now working. In 1804 the two men patented a 'new apparatus' whereby,all kinds of thread lace and mitts of a lacy description may be made'. Heathcoat went on to take out further patents and by 1808 he had registered the traverse bobbin machine which was to make his fortune. John Heathcoat opened a large factory in Mill Street (now Market Street) in Loughborough and improved his machines but due to contraction in the market in the early part of the 19th century was compelled to reduce wages. It seemed that money was to be made by everyone involved except the workers, and many resorted to the Overseer of the Poor for money for food.

The Luddites

Luddism was rife in Nottingham where there were many bobbin lace frames of the Heathcoat type and in 1816 a gang from Nottingham broke into the Loughborough factory and caused huge damage. A widely publicised trial of the gang followed with hangings and deportation, which brought about effectively, the end of the Luddite movement, and the framework knitters were as poor as ever. It was too much for John Heathcoat, who took his business to the south-west and started lace manufacture in Tiverton. However a road in Loughborough records his name. John Heathcoat died in 1861.

John Heathcoat's signature on a Long Whatton marriage entry

John Heathcoat's signature on a Long Whatton Marriage Certificate

1816 he moved the business to Tiverton in Devon where it became most successful and established the Tiverton lace-making industry.

John Heathcoat's Factory

The photograph shows the factory that John Heathcoat built after leaving Loughborough. Today it produces unusual fabrics in demand i.e. for hot air balloons, for the protective clothing of firemen, fabric to be used in concrete, etc. Photo Mrs Ursula Hyde

John Heathcoat's Mansion

This second shows the mansion he built for his grandson with large grounds. John Heathcoat. himself was often in the building and, from a window on the first floor, used a telescope to check on his work force. The factory is about 2 miles away. Photograph, Mrs Ursula Hyde