1700 – A Century of Innovation

1707 WEAVERS’ ROYAL CHARTER OF QUEEN ANNE

1720 STEPHEN WALTERS AND SONS FOUNDED

1733 JOHN KAY INVENTS THE FLYING SHUTTLE

1737 WEAVERS’ MENTIONED IN THE BYE-LAWS & ORDINANCES OF GEORGE II

1764 JAMES HARGREAVES INVENTS THE SPINNING JENNY

1764RICHARD ARKWRIGHT INVENTS WATER FRAME – FIRST POWERED TEXTILE MACHINE

1774 JAMES LIMBOROUGH, WEAVER OF LONDON, BEQUEATHS A SUM TO SUPPORT THE ANNUAL LIMBOROUGH LECTURE

1776 AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE

1779 SAMUEL CROMPTON INVENTS THE SPINNING MULE

1783 BRINTONS CARPETS FOUNDED

1794 GEORGE COURTAULD & CO FOUNDED

1797 JOHNSTON’S OF ELGIN FOUNDED

Spitalfields was established by refugee Huguenots fleeing France, many of whom were master weavers. By settling just outside the city, they avoided restrictive London laws. They introduced silk weaving as an industry in England and established Spitalfields as its centre.

England in the 18th century was a land of smuggling; high import taxes on raw and finished silk made the silk trade no exception. The industry was marked by frequent rioting by silk weavers. For instance, in 1719 there was a riot of 4,000 weavers against women wearing Indian cotton calicoes and linens. The riots got more frequent and from 1764–1769 there were riots every year.

To counter the riots Parliament passed the Spitalfields Act of 1773. This Act succeeded in reducing the riots but in the process destroyed the silk weaving industry. By appointing magistrates to set rates of pay and by making it unprofitable to buy machines or develop new weaving techniques, the industry became uncompetitive. In 1785 the substitution of cotton cloth for other fabrics devastated the market for silk. By 1793, 4,000 looms were idle.

Washington crossing the Delaware 1776
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