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: