Every schoolboy knows about Sir Richard Arkwright, the pioneer factory owner from Derbyshire whose invention of the water frame contributed hugely to the Industrial Revolution. Well here’s a scrawl from his son, Richard Arkwright junior (1755 – 1843), who took over the business and proved to be an even greater industrialist than his father had been. On the latter’s death he sold some the factories he had inherited and ploughed back the capital into property, shares and a bank. At his death his fortune was estimated at £3m, making him the richest man in Britain outside the landowning classes.
The letter, which is dated 20 February 1837 and is addressed from the family home of Willersley Castle,
just down the road from Arkwright senior’s Cromford Mill, asks an unidentified correspondent to attend to a cripple, Eliza Freer, who is related to someone known to him. Let Richard himself explain:
I have received a begging letter, signed Eliza Freer, who states she is sister to Maria Freer, and a cripple not able to do much for herself. I will be much obliged to you if you will take a convenient and early opportunity of seeing her—She does not say where she resides. If she is in need of money please apply to Messrs Daintry who will pay you 5£ if called upon, in a week.
I trouble you because you offered to do anything of this sort.
I hope you are well and that this matter will not inconvenience you.
Yours ever truly
Willersley 20th Feb 1837