At the age of 14 Jedidiah Strutt (1726-1797) was apprenticed for 7 years as a wheelwright to Ralph Massey of Findern, Derbyshire, lodging with the Woollatt Family. Little is known of the seven years of his life after completing this apprenticeship however in 1754, on the death of an Uncle, he took over a farm in Blackwell, Derbyshire.
In 1755 he married Elizabeth Woollatt, whose brother William Woollatt was in the hosiery trade, and in 1758 Jedidiah obtained patents No. 722 and 1759 No. 734 for the Derby Rib Attachment, which when used in conjunction with Lee's Frame Work Knitting Machine produced ribbed hose by machine. Jedidiah moved to Derby and went into partnership with his brother-in-law William Woollatt and began a very successful hosiery business. William Strutt (1731-1800) his younger brother was also involved as this business was short of capital they sought the financial backing of Samuel Need, a wealthy Nottingham hosiery manufacturer, and the Need, Strutt & Woollatt partnership was formed. The Derby Rib patent expired in 1773, by which time Strutt had amassed a considerable fortune.
It was this fortune which enabled Jedidiah Strutt and Samuel Need to back Richard Arkwright when his banker Ichabod Wright, a short term Banker, suggested that Arkwright seek their financial backing. The Arkwright, Need & Strutt Partnership was formed and operated a cotton spinning mill in Nottingham, powered by horses. In 1771 a purpose built water powered cotton spinning mill was built at Cromford in Derbyshire and the water supply came from a lead mine, known as the Wirksworth Sough, which ensured that work could carried on throughout the year because the water was a constant temperature and did not freeze in winter. Jedidiah Strutt had a house in Cromford, where he lived whilst overseeing the mill construction, and when he built at Belper and Milford he continued to live near the respective construction sites.
The hosiery business continued to expanded in Derby and the Cromford venture was also a success. Jedidiah Strutt then began his own spinning operations and began building the first South Mill in Belper in 1775 and this was working by 1778. The site for the Milford mills was purchased about 1780 and further mills were built there, including a bleaching mill. Samuel Need died in 1781 it was about this time that the Need, Strutt & Arkwright partnership ended.
Belper North Mill was begun in 1784 and working by 1786. It was then destroyed by fire on January 12th 1803 but was rebuilt and operating again by the end of 1804.
Belper West Mill was begun in 1792 and working by 1796.
Belper Reeling Mill was built 1807 operating by 1808.
Belper Round Mill took 10 years to build 1803-1813 and was working by 1816.
After the death of Jedidiah his three sons carried on the family business in the name of W.G. & J Strutt. Evidence suggests that the business used the double entry book-keeping system pioneered by Edward Jones in 1796.
William Strutt (1756-1830) was responsible for mill design and made various attempts to fireproof the Derby Mills. It was the rebuilding of the Belper North Mill, in 1803, which enabled him to design and build a "Fireproof" mill, this was iron framed throughout and had a hot air heating system. His son Edward Strutt was raised to the Peerage 1856 taking the title Lord Belper.
Joseph Strutt (1765-1844) Donated and helped design the world's first Arboretum in Derby.
George Benson Strutt (1761-1841) managed the Belper & Milford mills and estates.
Following the example of their ancestor Jedidiah Strutt, who had provided modern houses for their workers in Belper and Milford, succeeding generations of the Strutt family added further houses and also provided schools, water, gas, cottage hospital. They also supplied land and money for the development of cricket ground, swimming baths, boating and the river gardens.
Eventually in 1897 fourteen firms, whose individual owners did not actually sell their properties or interests until later, combined to form English Sewing Cotton Company, this event was reported in the September 18th issue of The Drapers' Record as "most important event the consolidation into a powerful and wealthy corporation of many of the principal old-established and well-know English thread makers" The original 14 firms were:
John Dewhurst & Sons Ltd
Ermen & Roby Ltd
S. Manlove & Sons
W. G & J Strutt, Belper
Sir Richard Arkwright & Company
C A Rikards
Bagley & Wright
Edmund Ashworth & Sons Ltd, Bolton
J & E Waters & Co
William Waller & Co
Marsland, Son & Co
John Thomas Raworth
George Wigley & Co
Strutt's North Mill can be visited at Belper (http://www.belpernorthmill.org/index.asp)