John Smedley

John Smedley

Date of Birth: 12.06.1803
Country: Great Britain

  1. John Smedley: A Biography
  2. Expansion and Success
  3. Early Life and Career
  4. Success and Legacy

John Smedley: A Biography

John Smedley was a British businessman and the representative of four generations of owners of the 'Lea Mills' company, located near Matlock, Derbyshire. The company was founded in 1784 by Peter Nightingale, a distant relative of Florence Nightingale, and Richard Arkwright's former accountant, John Smedley. The partners established their business near Lea Bridge, in the hilly countryside close to Matlock, utilizing the nearby stream for yarn cleaning and energy production for their machines. Initially, Smedley and Arkwright specialized in muslin and cotton, supplying their products to local households.

Expansion and Success

By the end of the 18th century, the company had also ventured into knitting and knitwear. During this time, John Smedley took sole control of the production, while the Nightingale family retained a share in the business but had no direct involvement. The first John Smedley did not achieve much recognition, but his son, who shared the same name, had a much greater success.

Early Life and Career

John Smedley Jr. was born on June 12, 1803. In 1819, he started working as an apprentice in his father's company, and by 1825, he was managing the entire business. As the manager, John energetically expanded the production. By this time, 'Lea Mills' had shifted from cotton to wool and from simple spinning to knitting. However, Smedley had even grander plans and aimed to transition from textile manufacturing to mass trading of ready-made clothing. In 1847, John Smedley married Caroline Harward, the second daughter of John Harward, the Vicar of Wirksworth.

Success and Legacy

The success in the spinning and knitting industry inspired Smedley to pursue various other projects. Apart from his business ventures, John had a keen interest in hydrotherapy and even built his own spa resort. Today, his family estate on the hill above Matlock is one of the main attractions in Derbyshire. John Smedley Jr. passed away on July 27, 1874. After his death, the business passed into the hands of his cousin, John T. Marsden Smedley. The name John Smedley continues to be a well-known label to this day, with the company still thriving and supplying its products to 30 different countries worldwide.