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Heathcoat, John

HEATHCOAT, JOHN (1783-1861), English inventor, was born at Duffield near Derby on the 7th of August 1783. During his apprenticeship to a framesmith near Lough borough, he made an improvement in the construction of the warp-loom, so as to produce mitts of a lace-like appearance by means of it. He began business on his own account at Nottingham, but finding himself subjected to the intrusion of competing inventors he removed to Hathern. There in 1808 he constructed a machine capable of producing an exact imitation of real pillow-lace. This was by far the most expensive and complex textile apparatus till then existing; and in describing the process of his invention Heathcoat said in 1836, " The single difficulty of getting the diagonal threads to twist in the allotted space was so great that, if now to be done, I should probably not attempt its accomplishment." Some time before perfecting his invention, which he patented in 1809, he removed to Loughborough, where he entered into partnership with Charles Lacy, a Nottingham manufacturer; but in 1816 their factory was attacked by the Luddites and their 3 5 lace frames destroyed. The damages were assessed in the King's Bench at 10,000; but as Heathcoat declined to expend the money in the county of Leicester he never received any part of it. Undaunted by his loss, he began at once to construct new and greatly improved machines in an unoccupied factory at Tiverton, Devon, propelling them by water-power and afterwards by steam. His claim to the inven- tion of the twisting and traversing lace machine was disputed, and a patent was taken out by a clever workman for a similar machine, which was decided at a trial in 1816 to be an infringement of Heathcoat's patent. He followed his great invention by others of much ability, as, for instance, contrivances for ornamenting net while in coutse of manufacture and for making ribbons and platted and twisted net upon his machines, improved yarn spinning-frames, and methods for winding raw silk from cocoons. He also patented an improved process for extracting and purifying salt. An offer of 10,000 was made to him in 1833 for the use of his processes in dressing and finishing silk nets, but he allowed the highly profitable secret to remain undivulged. In 1832 he patented a steam plough. Heathcoat was elected member of parliament for Tiverton in 1832. Though he seldom spoke in the House he was constantly engaged on committees, where his thorough knowledge of business and sound judgment were highly valued. He retained his seat until 1859, and after two years of declining health he died on the 18th of January 1861 at Bolham House, near Tiverton.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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