Samuel Crompton (3rd December 1763 to 25th June 1827)


If you driven across Lancashire you’ll have witnessed the steady demise and disappearance of mills. Many of these old dinosaurs were built to process cotton as Lancashire’s damp climate made the fibres less likely to snap during spinning. Here I am in Bolton at the final resting place of Samuel Crompton who invented the “spinning mule” which meant thread and yarn could be manufactured on a scale vast enough to supply the world. There weren't thousands but millions of "mules" installed in the mills.


As a lad Samuel spun cotton on a spinning jenny for his family (after his dad died he had to provide money.) It was faulty so he tried to invent a better device knowing there was a hungry market for fine cottons. He devoted most of his spare time and money to this endeavour and was 26 years old when he produced an effective machine called the “mule”. It was like magic: you fed raw cotton tufts into one end which were stretched and then brought together to produced fine thread at the other end. This sounds simple now but at the time such a machine revolutionized the cotton industry worldwide. The “mule” wasn’t totally original as it combined the features of two earlier inventions but it simulated hand-spinner’s fingers.


Samuel revealed the machine’s secret to some manufacturers on the promise that they would pay him but ultimately all he received was £60. The “mule” revolutionized the yarn and cotton mill production in England and by the early 1800s nearly all bleached cotton goods were woven on the Compton "mule". Factory owners couldn’t buy it fast enough and at one point there were at least 360 mills using 4.6 million mules.


Samuel made no money as he sold the rights for his machine. Thankfully Parliament felt sorry for him and gave him £5,000. He used the money to invest in a cotton factory but the venture ended in failure. He died in poverty at home and is buried at Bolton’s central St Peter's church. After his death a statue was erected to commemorate his achievements.


I found the grave quickly as only eminent folk are obvious buried here in the centre of the town. Samuel married his wife Mary at this church a few feet away but there's no mention of her on the headstone. Many factory owners attended the funeral as they owed their success and dazzling fortunes to this pioneering individual. I did a salute and left.