William Cockerill

William Cockerill

British entrepreneur who lived in France.
Country: Great Britain

Biography of William Cockerill

William Cockerill was a British entrepreneur who lived in France. He initially worked as a carpenter in the production of spinning machines. Seeking better opportunities, he moved to France where he manufactured spinning machines based on English technology for a French entrepreneur. However, British patents did not hold in France.

In 1799, Cockerill's contract with the French owner expired, and he relocated to Verviers (currently in Belgium). In Verviers, William Cockerill established the production of spinning machines. Previously, these machines were made of wooden parts, which required significant labor from craftsmen. Cockerill began producing machines made of cast iron and wrought iron, greatly simplifying the manufacturing process.

In 1807, Cockerill established his own textile factory in the outskirts of Liège. At this factory, he started using steam engines, which he had copied from James Watt's designs in England. With the start of Napoleon's Continental Blockade, Cockerill became a wealthy man. Shortly after, in the Belgian city of Seraing, Cockerill created the world's first vertically integrated company: from coal mining to machine and textile production. By 1817, William Cockerill and his son John Cockerill had established the largest metallurgical and engineering company in Europe. Later, the metallurgical company Cockerill-Sambre became part of Arcelor.

In 1830, an independent state, Belgium, was formed. By 1835, the Cockerill father and son had built locomotives for the "La Belge" railway line between Mechelen and Brussels, the first continental railway in Europe. The locomotives were copied from the British locomotive designed by George Stephenson. Thanks to the efforts of the Cockerills, Belgium became the second industrialized country in Europe after Great Britain.

William Cockerill passed away in 1832 in Aachen. The achievements of the Cockerill father and son are not widely known in Great Britain.