This family history post explores how, after the death of pioneer Jacquard loom maker Samuel Dracup, three subsequent generations of his male descendants continued to manufacture them in Great Horton near Bradford, West Yorkshire.
It builds upon part of a previous post, in which I described how Samuel converted himself from a traditional joiner and shuttle-maker into a manufacturer of powered Jacquard looms and associated machinery.
This chart shows the succeeding generations of Dracups most closely involved.
This study explores their lives, their interactions, and the parts they played in the continuing success of Samuel Dracup and Sons Ltd.
The Jacquard Loom
Joseph Marie Jacquard (1752-1834), a Frenchman, invented the Jacquard machine in 1804. Once attached to a loom, it greatly simplified the process of weaving complex patterns.
To produce cloth, a traditional weaver would have parallel threads stretched in front of him, across a rectangular frame – the loom. These were the ‘warp’ threads.
To weave plain material without a pattern every alternate thread would be raised, so that high and low warp threads alternated across the loom. The ‘weft’ thread then crisscrossed, at a right angle to the warp, through the space created between the higher and the lower warp threads. This space was known as the ‘shed’.
When the weft reached the other side, the position of the alternative warp threads was reversed, so the lower were now higher, and vice versa. The weft now passed through the shed in the opposite direction.
Patterns could be introduced by using different colour threads and/or by changing the sequence of raised and lowered warp threads so they were no longer simply high-low-high-low etc.
The Jacquard machine was a mechanism for raising and lowering different sequences of warp threads during the weaving process. Each thread was passed through an eyelet at the lower end of a vertical wire culminating in a hook.
These hooks were engaged by the teeth of a comb or ‘griffe’. When a hook was bent, it would disconnect from the griffe, lowering the warp thread but, when a hook was still engaged by the griffe, the warp thread would remain raised.
Each wire hook was connected in turn to a spring-loaded ‘needle’, and these needles pressed against a squared cylinder – a four-sided tube with perforations.
A series of perforated or punched cards, threaded together, was placed around the cylinder, the sequence of perforations determining the pattern to be reproduced in the material. A card puncher would ‘translate’ the visual pattern into this binary code.
When the needles encountered a hole punched in the card, they would pass through into a perforation on the cylinder. The hook would remain engaged by the griffe so the warp would be raised.
When the needles did not encounter a hole in the card, the hook would bend and disconnect from the griffe, so the warp would remain lowered.
This was the basic design – but additional moving parts were necessary to enable the machine to operate effectively. This video from Macclesfield Museums explains the mechanism in more detail.
Many refinements were introduced by manufacturers to improve the speed and smoothness of the operation, as well as to cater for different materials and types of pattern.
Those wishing to study the subject in depth are invited to peruse E. A. Posselt’s ‘The Jacquard Machine Analysed and Explained’ (1888). This has the added benefit that it was written not much more than a generation after Samuel’s death, so exemplifying perfectly the point this technology had reached at the time his sons and grandsons were running the Company.
In Rambles Round Horton, written in 1886, William Cudworth relates:
‘Among those who deserve especial mention in connection with the manufacturing interests of Horton and the neighbourhood are the Dracup family. Sammy Dracup, whose family was originally from Idle, was a most ingenious and persevering man. His family acquired a considerable reputation as shuttlemakers and makers of harness, also in rendering the jacquard engine applicable to the worsted business. Mr. Dracup commenced making these engines in 1838. When first introduced into Horton they could only be worked by hand. It is stated that Mr Thomas Ackroyd, of Horton Bank Top, set the first jacquard engine to work by power in the neighbourhood of Bradford. In connection with this subject it is worthy of note that Mr S Dracup also made the first card-cutting machine in the year 1833, and in the succeeding year he produced his repeater, a kind of stereotype for designs. The family acquired considerable property in Horton, which they still hold.’
Samuel had built Lane Close Mill in 1839. It was a small worsted mill on a large plot, stretching along the north side of Great Horton High Street between what is now Bartle Lane (then Cliff Lane) and the area known as Upper Green.
Lane Close was extended in 1841 and 1847 but the mill itself remained relatively modest and was leased to various worsted manufacturers. Meanwhile Samuel used part of the premises to produce his looms and related machinery.
In 1858 he acquired from Joseph Beanland an old corn mill, located slightly to the north of Upper Green, adapted it and leased it as a second worsted factory.
This map, from 1852, shows the location of Lane Close and Old Mill (later called Beckside).
Samuel also owned several other properties in the vicinity. He and his family had their home on Upper Green, in what became known as Lane Close House.
As further buildings were constructed on these fields, the footpaths connecting them were expanded to form Dracup Road, named after Samuel, which emerged on to Great Horton High Street beside the George and Dragon public house.
In July 1869 Bradford Council agreed that Upper Green and Dracup Road should be ‘sewered, levelled, paved, flagged and channelled’, part of the cost to be met by the residents.
These maps, from 1892 and 1909 respectively, show how Dracup Road developed over this period.
When Samuel died in October 1866 he was a wealthy man. Probate was granted to his executors on 30 March 1867 for an estate worth almost £9,000.
This picture of Samuel used to hang in Lane Close Mills.
A story in the Bradford Observer from April 1955 records one of Samuel’s descendants – Cyril Thornton Dracup – explaining:
‘About four years ago he received a letter from a London art dealer to say that among some pictures he had bought as a job lot was one bearing the inscription on the back: ‘Mr Samuel Dracup, of Samuel Dracup, Machine Makers, Great Horton’.
[He] bought the picture and an art expert attributed it to an old Yorkshire artist, Pickersgill, and decided that it was painted on or about 1835. The ink and paper were of that period, said the expert.’
This possibly refers to Henry William Pickersgill (1782-1875) who, though not a Yorkshireman, was one of the foremost portrait painters of his day.
The National Portrait Gallery contains some 50 of his paintings featuring eminent sitters including William Wordsworth, George Stephenson, Jeremy Bentham, Lord Nelson and Michael Faraday.
Samuel had married his wife, Sarah Jowett, in January 1815. She predeceased him by one year, dying on 30 October 1865 aged around 81. Between 1815 and 1830 they had eight children – four sons and four daughters:
David, born in 1815, was surely destined to lead his father’s business. He was living in the family home at the time of the 1841 census but died, apparently unmarried, in 1848 aged only 33.
Edmund (1816-1885) became the de facto eldest son. In August 1843 he married Mary Ann Wilman (1823-1862), daughter of John Wilman, a farmer and butcher from Clayton. Before her untimely death they had eleven children, including sons William (1845-1919), Paul (1849-1928), Herbert (1855-1907) and Fred (1862-1946). The marriage record describes Edmund as a ‘mechanic’ but, by the time of the 1851 census, he had become a ‘machine maker’ and continued to describe himself thus in subsequent censuses until his death. Edmund and his family took up residence on Pickles Lane, to the south of Great Horton High Street.
Hannah (1820-1906) married Peter Fox (1818-1904), a worsted mill manager, in January 1853. They had four children but two died in infancy. In 1861 they lived in the area called Clayton Heights, a few miles to the west of Great Horton but, by 1871, Peter had retired and they had moved into Lane Close House, now divided into two properties. They remained in the same house in 1881 and subsequently, though the address had by then changed to 41 Dracup Road. Peter had become a stuff manufacturer. In 1891 he was an agent for stuff manufacturing and by 1901 he was ‘living on his own means’.
George (1821-1895) married Mary Elizabeth Robinson (1827-1850), a surgeon’s daughter, in May 1848. Their first child, Samuel Dracup Robinson, was born three years before their marriage, in September 1845, when Mary was only 18. A second child called David, though born in wedlock, died in infancy just two years after his mother. In 1851 George – a machine maker – was living on Cliff Lane. By 1861 he had returned to his father’s home, Lane Close House, his employment described as ‘mechanic man’. The loss of his first wife must have been a severe setback to him. But, in 1863, he remarried, this time to Rachel Thornton (1829-1911), daughter of Samuel Thornton, a wool-stapler. She bore him two sons – Charles Henry (1864-1943) and Thornton (1865-1950) and also a daughter, Mary Hannah. By 1871 George was back at 2 Cliff Lane, employed as a Jacquard machine maker. By 1881 he had moved a little further along the same road, to Number 12, though the road was now renamed Bartle Lane. Here he remained in 1891, described as a Jacquard machine manufacturer. His house was immediately adjacent to Lane Close Mill.
Anne (1823-1847) died aged 23 without issue.
Miles (1825-1877) married Anne Blamires (1832-1860), daughter of John – a butcher and cattle dealer, later keeper of the Packhorse Inn – in June 1858. Before her death she bore a son Samuel Albert (1859-1925) and a daughter, Sarah Jane. Miles remarried in February 1870, this time to Emma Chester (1847-1912), a farmer’s daughter. They had five further children including sons Frank (1870-1951) and Harry (1871-1948). In 1861 Miles, now newly-widowed, was living on Great Horton High Street with his two young children and a housekeeper, Rachel Thornton – shortly to become his brother, George’s second wife. Miles is described as a machine maker. By 1871 he was living at 70 High Street with his son. Emma was not yet with them and seemed to be employed elsewhere, possibly as a nurse. Miles is still described as a machine maker.
Maria (1827-1895) married William Field (1814-1861), another surgeon, from Tong nearby, in May 1853. She had seemingly adopted Samuel Dracup Robinson, the child born to George and his first wife before their marriage. In 1851 and 1861, Samuel was living with Maria in Samuel’s home, described as his grandson, along with her two children by William. By 1861 though, William Field was resident back in Tong, his sister-in-law acting as housekeeper, described as a ‘Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries of London’. He was to die later that year. By 1871, Maria, now widowed, was living with her two youngest children in the other half of Lane Close House alongside the Foxes, her sister’s family. She supported herself as an ‘annuitant’, which presumably means that Samuel’s estate granted her an allowance to support herself and her children. Her address was described in 1871 as ’42 Lane Close House’. She remained in the same property in 1881 and 1891 – now known as 42 Dracup Road – though in 1881 she was described as a ‘property owner’ and in 1891 as ‘living on her own means’.
Ellen (1830-1843), the youngest child was unfortunately the first to die, while still a teenager.
Samuel’s Immediate Legacy
It is clear that Edmund, George and Miles – Samuel’s three surviving sons – jointly continued their father’s business.
However, under the terms of Samuel’s will, his estate was left undivided. It was shared, equally I presume, between his five surviving children, male and female alike – Edmund, Hannah Fox, George, Miles and Maria Field – who were jointly his trustees.
He appointed his sons Edmund and Miles as his executors – perhaps another indicator that George had taken something of a back seat while recovering from the death of his first wife.
It is instructive to study the contemporary entries in the West Yorkshire Electoral Registers, which give a sense of how the three sons had divided their interests in the property, remembering of course that daughters Hannah and Maria did not feature because there was no female suffrage.
In 1870 for example, Edmund was listed as owning freehold tenements on Old Road; George as owning Lane Close Mill and a share of Beckside, plus associated land and tenements; and Miles as owning the other portion of Beckside, plus associated land and tenements.
Peter Fox owned freehold tenements on High Street and/or Upper Green, potentially in his wife’s name; William Field had already died by this point.
After Miles’s death in 1877, George was listed as sole owner of Lane Close and Beckside Mills.
Miles left an estate worth some £8,000. His executors were: William Dracup, brother Edmund’s eldest son; brother-in-law Peter Fox; Samuel Dracup Robinson; and Ephraim Watmough, a cotton and worsted manufacturer distantly related by marriage.
When Edmund died eight years later, in 1885, he left an estate worth almost £14,000. His executors were his sons William and Paul and Joseph Moorhouse, the wool merchant who had married his eldest child Ellen in 1871.
We know from legal records that, in 1891, it was one of Samuel’s daughters, Maria Field, who brought a ‘partition action’ to divide up Samuel’s estate between the various beneficiaries – the three surviving children (herself, Hannah and George) and the descendants of Miles and Edmund respectively.
We do not know what led her to go to law, but it seems likely that she felt disadvantaged in the arrangement and wanted to protect the interests of her children.
Partition was agreed in the Chancery Division of the High Court, according to the judgment of Mr Justice North, on 23 January 1892. I could not find a full record of the ruling, but it is clear that the various parts of Samuel’s estate had to be sold, so the proceeds could be divided between the various beneficiaries.
Prior to that, though, a complication arose, as reported in The Solicitors’ Journal of March 12 1892:
‘In an administration action in which partition or sale was asked for, the action being heard as a short cause on the 23rd of January, 1892, an order was made for sale, and the usual accounts and inquiries directed. In the course of the inquiries it was discovered that a Mr Baldwin ought to have been made a defendant. Baldwin had been appointed one of the executors of an executor and beneficiary of the testator in the cause. This executor and beneficiary had died in 1884. The will was proved by some of the executors named therein, leave being reserved for Baldwin to come in and prove, but he did not prove until 1888, and at the commencement of this action it was not known by the plaintiff that he had proved. This was an application by the plaintiff for Baldwin to be added as a defendant by amending the pleadings…and that the judgment might be altered…so as to include Baldwin…
North J, did not think that he had power to grant the application, but made an order that, on Baldwin consenting, he should be bound by all past or future proceedings in the action as if he had been a party…’
This man was John Clayton Baldwin (1841-1914) who had married Edmund’s daughter Elizabeth in 1865. It seems that he was named one of Edmund’s executors, but he wasn’t identified in the probate record since he and Elizabeth had migrated to the United States some years before Edmund’s death.
Samuel’s Estate is Auctioned
In order to partition Samuel’s estate, the property managed by his trustees was put up for sale by public auction in September 1892, the sale overseen by Bradford Auctioneer George William Stansfield.
A contemporary newspaper advertisement, published in the Leeds Mercury, divides the estate into 13 different lots. (A briefer list was also included in the London Gazette.)
Lots 1-5 were to be auctioned in the Great Horton Conservative Club Lecture Hall on 19 October 1892; lots 6-13 on the following day at Leuchters Restaurant, Bradford. We know from a subsequent press report the outcomes of the bigger second auction, but I couldn’t find details of the first.
The lots were as follows:
‘Lot 1: Three cottages or dwelling houses situated at the junction of the High Street and Bartle Lane, with the yard and appurtenances now in the occupation of Mr David Holdsworth upon a yearly tenancy.
Lot 2: Three cottages or dwelling houses (now used as two dwelling houses) being numbers 251, 253 and 255 High Street, with the gardens and appurtenances thereto belonging and now in the respective occupations of Newton Bates as a monthly tenant and Sharpe Jowett as a yearly tenant.
Lot 3: The cottage or dwelling house at 6 Pickles Lane, with the garden and appurtenances thereto, now in the occupation of John Newell as a monthly tenant.
Lot 4: Three cottages or dwelling houses, being numbers 3, 5 and 7 Pickles Lane, now in the respective occupations of Alfred Bowles as a monthly tenant, Mrs Shepherd as a yearly tenant and J Blagbrough as a monthly tenant.
Lot 5: The cottage or dwelling house at 29 Upper Green, with its appurtenances, now in the occupation of Maria Foster as a weekly tenant.
Lot 6: The mill and premises known as Lane Close Mill, with the mechanic’s shop adjoining, comprising engine and boiler houses, spinning mill, weaving shed, warehouse, reservoirs and yard, including two cottages, an area of 10,800 superficial square yards or thereabouts, together with the engine, boilers and fixed plant thereto belonging. Mr George Dracup occupies the mechanic’s shop and one cottage as a yearly tenant. The land is occupied by Mr F. Illingworth as a yearly tenant, one cottage is occupied by Mr John Haley as a weekly tenant and the mill is at present unoccupied. The donkey engine now used to run the machinery in the mechanic’s shop is the property of the tenant and is not included in the sale.
Lot 7: The plot of building land adjoining Lot 6, of 2,450 square yards or thereabouts, now in the occupation of F Illingworth as yearly tenant.
Lot 8: Two dwelling houses being numbers 41 and 42 Dracup Road, Lane Close, with the gardens and appurtenances thereto, and now in the respective occupations of Mr Peter Fox and Mr R Jameson as yearly tenants. A right of way from Dracup Road to the back of this lot for horses, carts and foot passengers will be reserved over Lot 9.
Lot 9: The messuage or farmhouse now used as two cottages, numbered 39 and 40 Dracup Road, in the respective occupations of Messrs Samuel Dracup Robinson and George Lewthwaite as yearly tenants. A right of way from Dracup Road to the back of Lot 8 for horses, carts and foot passengers will be reserved out of this Lot.
Lot 10: The two closes or parcels of land called respectively The Ing and The Hill adjoining Lots 8 and 9 and now in the occupation of William Haley as a yearly tenant.
Lot 11: The close of land called Westcroft (formerly two closes) now in the occupation of William Haley as a yearly tenant.
Lot 12: The mill and premises known as Beckside Mill, comprising combing sheds, spinning mill, weaving shed, warehouses and other buildings, with engines, boilers, reservoirs, eight workmen’s houses, meadow and pasture land, now in the occupation of Messrs Joseph Benn and Sons as yearly tenants.
Lot 13: The messuage or dwelling house with the barn, stable, mistal and garden thereto, and the five closes of land adjoining the same, commonly known as Underhill Farm, now in the occupation of Mr Benjamin Jowett as a yearly tenant.’
At the auction, George Dracup bought Beckside Mill (Lot 12) for £12,300 and Lane Close Mill (Lot 6) for £4,000. He also purchased 39 and 40 Dracup Road (Lot 9) for £620 and The Hill and The Ing (Lot 10) for £540. So his total outlay was at least £17,460.
Samuel Dracup Robinson bought Lot 7 – the plot of land adjoining Lane Close Mills – for £145, while Peter Fox bought 41 and 42 Dracup Road (Lot 8) for £800.
Lot 13 was bought by Mr Barker for £1,110, while William Haley, the tenant, bought Lot 11 for £350.
This sale alone raised £23,300, so it seems likely that the total proceeds were close to £30,000.
A second legal complexity
This was not the end of the matter since a subsequent legal intervention forms an important precedent in case law.
According to a further Court Order, dated 31 January 1893, three of the beneficiaries of Samuel’s will who had bid in the auction – namely George Dracup, Hannah Fox (presumably via husband Peter) and Ellen Moorhouse (whose husband presumably bought at least one of the first five lots) were allowed to offset some of the money they had spent against their shares in Samuel’s estate.
George was allowed to offset £3,500, Hannah £750 and Ellen £220 10s. I could find no explanation of how these sums were derived, nor can I quite square George’s offset with a fifth share of a £9,000 estate!
But then the question arose, what rate of interest should be applied in respect of these sums offset?
Counsel for the plaintiff (Maria Field), citing legal precedent, argued that the rate applied should be 4%. Counsel for the defendants argued that it should be 2.75% – what the money would have earned had it been invested in Consols (Consolidated Annuities – a form of Government security.)
Mr Justice North concluded:
‘I cannot order the Defendants to account for interest at 4 per cent; but I will allow what is just as between the parties. A person who has been allowed to retain his purchase-monies in his pocket is not intended to be a gainer thereby; on the other hand he is not intended to lose, so far as the position of the other persons interested is not prejudiced. I think, therefore, the funds ought to be dealt with in the division as nearly as possible as if the money had been paid into Court and invested in Consols. If the money had been so invested it would not have earned exactly 2 ¾ %, the amount suggested…for Consols are not at par. What I shall do is to charge the purchasers, in account, with interest at 3 per cent on the sums retained by them respectively.’
George died on 31 December 1895. The probate calendar refers to him as a ‘gentleman’, indicating that he had risen considerably in status as a consequence of his wealth, his position as a local employer and property owner.
But his estate, which he left to his widow Rachel and his three children by her, (but notably not to Samuel Dracup Robinson), amounted to only £2,823 1s 4d, considerably less than either of his brothers.
In 1892 he had clearly sunk a large part of his wealth into the two mills and other property but, on his death some three years later, the vast majority of that investment had apparently disappeared.
It seems unlikely that the value of his investments had declined so rapidly in just a few years. Perhaps he had managed to transfer the business – tied up in the two mills – to his sons, through a second trust, prior to his death.
Maria Field had predeceased him by only two months. Her daughter Ellen was named as her sole executor (her son Arthur had died in 1884 and Samuel Dracup Robinson was not named) and she left an estate worth almost £10,200.
The last of that generation to die was her sister Hannah Fox, who survived a further decade. Her estate, administered by her children Fred (also now styled ‘gentleman’) and Maria, as well as grocer Sydney Priestley, was worth under £2,000.
So the most obviously successful financially of Samuel’s children had been Edmund – who died before the partition – and Maria. She must have been a formidable woman – her success all the more remarkable given that she lost her husband so early.
But perhaps George had found some means to circumvent probate while still passing on a thriving business to his sons Charles Henry and Thornton Dracup.
A brief aside about Adam Dracup
It is worth mentioning that there was also a short-lived venture into jacquard loom manufacture by Adam Dracup (1833-1906), son of Samuel Dracup’s brother Henry, Samuel’s nephew and the cousin of Edmund, Miles and George.
Henry had worked as a mechanic, presumably for Samuel, but he died in 1862. Adam was also a mechanic, but we know from local newspaper reports that he briefly set up as a Jacquard machine maker with a partner, Abram Ambler, trading under the name ‘A Dracup and Company’. Ambler was Adam’s brother-in-law, married to his sister Mary.
By July 1873 they were bankrupt. At a meeting of creditors it was claimed that they were victims of limited capital and the ‘slackness of trade’. Their liabilities were assessed at £1,600; their assets at £800.
Tenders were invited for the purchase of the business, including about 300 new and secondhand ‘jacquard engines’. This seems to have attracted few if any bidders since there were subsequently two announcements of payments to creditors in 1874: the first offering 2s 6d in the pound; the second a mere 5d.
Clearly, Samuel Dracup and Sons did not consider it viable to take on this business, so expanding their own.
By 1881, Adam was once more a mechanic, and remained so for the rest of his life. Perhaps he worked for his cousins, but I could find no evidence that he did.
The third generation
There was no shortage of direct male descendants to carry on the jacquard making business, but relatively few of the next generation pursued this course.
Of Edmund’s four sons:
William, the eldest, acquired his first work as a pupil teacher, also gaining experience as a mill hand before managing a spinning mill. In February 1891 he shipped to America to join up with his sister Elizabeth’s family, headed by brother-in-law John Clayton Baldwin. William describes himself as a file cutter on the ship’s passenger list. In 1892 he returned home to marry Annie Brennand Rider, a railway clerk’s widow. They travelled back to America where William, Baldwin and Henry H Green founded the Centerdale Worsted Mills in Providence, Rhode Island. I have written much more about William’s life here. William had no children of his own, though he inherited several step-children from his wife’s previous marriage.
Paul worked initially as a Jacquard mechanic, presumably for his father. In January 1872 he married Elizabeth Ann Heads, a schoolmaster’s daughter. Shortly afterwards, it seems that he decided to branch out on his own. In 1875 Paul and his partner Orlando Ball patented improvements to the Jacquard loom. Initially at least, he also seems to have gone into business with John Clayton Baldwin, operating a sewing machine dealership, but that partnership was dissolved in October 1876. The 1881 Census shows that he had established himself as an independent Jacquard manufacturer employing five men and five boys, but contemporary newspaper reports also reveal that a bankruptcy petition for Paul Dracup & Co, operating out of premises at 32 Richmond Road, had been filed that February. Liabilities were estimated at £2,250, assets at £1,122. However Paul seems to have survived as a Jacquard loom manufacturer: town directories show that Paul Dracup & Co. was operating in 1883, based at the West-end Mill on Richmond Road and continued to manufacture machines well into the Twentieth Century. Orlando Ball died suddenly in 1886 at the age of 38. Elizabeth and Paul had five children including two sons: Robert Edmund (1875-1953) and William (1884-1925). It is noteworthy that Paul’s probate record mentions assets of just £80 at the time of his death in 1928. We can see from a 1912 Bradford Directory that Paul’s business seems to have transferred to Robert Edmund, though the 1911 Census describes him as a ‘cloth manufacturer’ and, similarly, the 1939 Register says ‘worsted manufacturer’, so Jacquards may only have been a sideline.
Herbert is shown in the 1871 Census to be working alongside Paul as a Jacquard mechanic, initially supporting his father. In June 1878 he married Ann Swaine, 20 year-old daughter of Enoch Swaine, an innkeeper, but sadly she died just three months later. Herbert was again described as a mechanic in the 1881 Census and a Jacquard Mechanic in the 1891 Census. By that year he had moved out of the family home and was boarding nearby, but was most likely working for his brother Paul. By 1901 though, he was residing with his widowed sister Anne and described as living on his own means. Then in January 1907 he married again, this time to a young widow called Margaret Jane Hartley (nee Haggis) a joiner’s daughter. Together they ran the Ring’o’Bells pub at Thornton. But Herbert died on 1 September 1907, less than a year after his marriage, leaving some £1,000 to his widow. He had no children.
Turning next to George’s three sons:
Initially at least, Samuel Dracup Robinson, though strictly illegitimate, was acknowledged as a Dracup. His name appears as ‘Robinson Dracup’ in the Great Horton voting registers between 1868 and 1873, but by 1874 he had become ‘Samuel Dracup Robinson’. In April 1867 he had married Agnes Foster, a weaver herself and a weaver’s daughter. The marriage record describes Samuel as a mechanic and does not name his father. Samuel and Agnes had four children, but only one of the two sons survived into adulthood. The 1871 Census found the young family living at 39 Dracup Road, Samuel described as ‘mechanic – fitter and turner’. By 1891, though still at the same address, Samuel was designated a ‘machine maker’. We know from a patent application in 1890 that Samuel was by that point working alongside his two younger half-brothers in Samuel Dracup and Sons (see below). After George’s death, Samuel moved into his former home at 12 Bartle Lane, suggesting that he had inherited it from his father, as well as 14 Bartle Lane next door. He was resident there in 1901, described as a Jacquard machine maker and an employer. The same is true of 1911, except that he was now described as a ‘worker’ rather than an employer. Samuel died in August 1911, leaving almost £5,000 to his widow. His son George Edward Robinson was also described in the 1901 census as a worsted loom maker, though he subsequently became a motor engineer and, by 1939, a debt collector.
Charles Henry Dracup was listed in the 1891 Census as a Jacquard machine maker living with his father at 12 Bartle Lane. He married Sarah Hannah Whiteley, a commercial traveller’s daughter, in April 1897, a year or so after his father’s death. By 1901, the Census has him living at 218 High Street with his wife and young daughter. However, by 1897 the electoral registers place him at 23 Dracup Road, otherwise known as Greenfield House, where he remained. The Great Horton Conservation Assessment describes Greenfield House as: ‘an impressive three-bay villa which is dated 1894’. The 1939 Register records him at that address, now widowed and a retired textile machine maker. Charles and Sarah had four children, three daughters – Muriel, Mary and Norah – and a son George (1907-1992). When he died, in 1943, he left a considerable estate worth almost £28,000.
Thornton Dracup, a year younger than Charles, was also listed as a Jacquard machine maker in the 1891 Census. He married Annie Holdsworth, daughter of a local stuff manufacturer, in July 1898. They had two daughters – Marian and Hilda – and a son, Cyril Thornton Dracup (1906-1970). The 1901 Census shows that they too were resident at Greenfield House, with Thornton still listed as a Jacquard machine maker. By 1911, the growing family had moved to their own house called Hillside, at 59 Hollybank Road, leaving brother Charles at Greenfield House. Thornton Dracup was a stalwart of Clayton Golf Club, where he was club president in 1909. He was to remain at Hillside for the rest of his life and left an estate worth £4,630.
Finally, there were Miles’s three sons:
Samuel Albert. By 1881, Miles’s widow Emma was living at 12 Manville Terrace with Samuel, who was employed as a civil engineer. Newspaper adverts show that, as early as 1885, he and his partner, a Mr Nowell, had set themselves up as consulting engineers and patent agents based at 20 Charles Street Bradford. Later they moved to 2 Market Street Bradford. In July 1890 Samuel married Sarah Gibson, the daughter of a linen draper. In 1891 he was located at 13 Granville Road Shipley, his employment now patent agent. By 1901 he was back in Bradford, at Killinghall Road, still employed as a patent agent. By 1911, now widowed, he was living in a boarding house with his son and declared no employment. He and Sarah had two children: a daughter Alice and a son Miles (1894-1971).
In 1891, 20 year-old Frank, still living with his widowed mother Emma, was employed as a land surveyor. They remained together in 1901 though, by 1911, Emma had moved in with her daughter, now married, while Frank was a visitor at a lodging house in Ilkley. His employment was now ‘mining engineer – draughtsman’. The 1939 Register found him living with his widowed sister in Aireborough, a retired mining engineer’s draughtsman. He seems to have died without issue in 1951.
Harry was by 1891 lodging in Lincoln, where he was employed as a mechanical draughtsman. In 1899 he married Ellen Strudwick, a butler’s daughter. He continued in the same job in 1901 and 1911, still in Lincolnshire. In 1939 he was employed as a mining surveyor, but now in Leeds, dying there in 1948. He and Ellen had two daughters: Millicent and Mabel.
So, leaving aside Edmund’s son Paul, who set up his own business, Samuel Dracup and Sons passed down exclusively to George’s three sons. Charles Henry seems to have been the prime mover, ably supported by Thornton and older half-brother Samuel Dracup Robinson.
There are several patent applications from this time:
- 1897: by ‘Samuel Dracup of Lane Close Mills…Jacquard Machine Maker and Robert Fox…mechanic’, for improvements in Jacquard Hooks and Neck Band Attachments. I am unsure if this is Samuel Dracup Robinson or Samuel Albert Dracup.
- 1901: by ‘Samuel Dracup…and Isaac Thomis…Designer’, relating to improvements in open shed double lift jacquard machines, to simplify and reduce the cost of construction.
- 1906: by Charles Henry Dracup, again relating to improvements in double lift jacquard machines, specifically an improved connecting link between the double lift uprights.
- 1912: by Thornton Dracup, relating to ‘improvements in, or relating to, jacquard machines’, namely reducing the number of parts and changing the position of cranks and shafts. This diagram was part of the application.
- 1922: by Charles Henry Dracup for ‘Improvements relating to jacquards’, to enable French jacquards to work on the double lift principle.
- 1926: by Thornton Dracup, for more ‘improvements related to jacquards’, to introduce means whereby all the warp threads remain in one plane when lifted.
- 1929: by Thornton Dracup, in relation to jacquard looms, to allow a machine designed to take a certain number of needles to be converted to take a larger number.
The fourth generation: Cyril Thornton and George
The last generation to take on Samuel Dracup and Sons were George’s two grandsons: Thornton’s son Cyril Thornton, born in 1906 and Charles Henry’s son, George, born in 1907.
Although (like their fathers) only a year apart, they were apparently very different men. Cyril seems to have focused on engineering, but also press and public relations; George on leading and managing the Company.
Cyril Thornton must have attended Leeds University because he was named in local newspaper articles as part of its rugby league team as early as November 1925. George may also have studied at Leeds, but I could find no record.
By the following year, after he had graduated, Cyril was playing rugby union for Otley. He was named in the side to play on 23 February 1929.
That March he married Margaret Ena Webster, daughter of a Bradford family. Her father, Herbert Edward Webster was a manufacturer’s agent for textile fabrics.
The ceremony took place in Cape Town, South Africa, where a son Paul was born some seven months later. Two further daughters were born in 1932 and 1943 respectively.
I have been unable to establish exactly what Cyril was doing in South Africa, but he was probably employed there for a short time as an engineer, since that is the profession he gave on the passenger list of the RMS Armadale when the family returned home in April 1931.
In January 1930 his parents visited their son and his family in South Africa, also travelling by ship. They went out on the Kenilworth Castle and returned two months later on the Windsor Castle.
On Cyril’s return to Bradford he began to feature more regularly in local newspaper reports of rugby matches. In July 1931 he also participated in the Ilkley Motor Trial, where he was beaten into second place by George.
He resumed playing for Otley that autumn but seems to have turned to refereeing by 1935. From May 1934 he was also playing for Bradford Crusaders Cricket Club and, by the summer of 1937 he was taking part in local tennis tournaments, often alongside his wife.
The 1939 Register found him living at 81 Hollybank Road, a short distance along from his father’s house. He was now described as ‘Textile Engineer Principal’. Son Paul and daughter Ann both seem to be located elsewhere while at school in Skipton.
There were local press reports in January 1939 that Cyril had secured a major contract for the Company – a large order from Egypt for Jacquard looms: enough to keep 150 people employed for between nine and twelve months.
‘We got information that this order was being tendered, the biggest yet given from Egypt, from our representative out there…and immediately I decided to go there by plane. I had to get there in three days. Imperial Airways machines were booked up, so I travelled by foreign planes to Frankfort, Munich, Milan, Rome and Benganzi [sic] Libya, to Cairo.
Altogether I travelled in seven aeroplanes, and on the last stretch from Cairo to Alexandria we had to make a forced landing in the desert with engine trouble, but fortunately no-one was injured.
…I secured the order…although our price was three times that of the French. The firm insisted on having the finest machinery, and I am knowledgeable enough to know that it will have the most up-to-date Jacquard machinery in the world. The Egyptian firm have erected a new factory 12 miles from Alexandria, where the looms will be erected, and we shall begin delivery in six to eight weeks’ time, with our own erectors sent out in charge.’
During the Second World War, Cyril was given an emergency commission into the regular army. The October 1940 Army List records him as an Ordnance Mechanical Engineer 4th Class, with the rank of Lieutenant, with effect from 11 March 1940.
In September 1940 he was promoted to Temporary Captain (OME 3rd Class). Then, in September 1941, to Temporary Major (OME 2nd Class).
In 1942 he transferred to the newly-established Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), becoming a temporary Lt Colonel (EME 1st Class) in December. By May 1945 he was Acting Colonel.
There is a classic piece of wartime propaganda in the Leicester Evening Mail recording a visit to REME immediately before its official formation. Here is an extract:
‘The Brigadier and Major C T Dracup came to the salute. The Major, no stranger to ‘Tigers’ supporters when he was a Barbarians forward in exciting games at Welford Road, commands a base workshop which is going over to ‘Reemy’.
Head of a well-known Bradford engineering firm, a former Otley and Yorkshire player, he never asks a man under his command to do anything he would not do himself.
When 500 men went over an assault course he led them, was first over a 50-feet cliff, and when the last man completed that grueling test the CO grinned at him and said ‘I know lad, I’ve done it too.’’
On 15 May 1943 the Bradford Observer carried another story:
‘In the midst of our great campaign in North Africa last month, General Alexander, Commander-in-Chief, found time to compliment, in a personal interview, an officer in charge of a vital tank-repairing unit which had been doing important and dangerous work in the victorious advance.
The officer was a Bradford man, Lieutenant Colonel Cyril Thornton Dracup, son of Mr and Mrs Thornton Dracup of Hillside, Holly Bank Road, Great Horton Bradford.
Lieut. Col. Dracup, who is 37 and married, and formerly resident at Holly Bank, Holly Bank Road, Great Horton was, before he volunteered for the Army at the outbreak of war, associated with his father in the business firm of Samuel Dracup and sons, specialists in Jacquards and harnesses, of Lane Close Mills, Great Horton, Bradford.
In a letter home to his wife, Lieutenant Colonel Dracup, describing the interview, says that General Alexander, after congratulating the entire unit on the work they had done during the battles, showed an interest in his home life and work.’
Between 1933 and 1960, Cyril and George submitted several patent applications, including:
- In 1933, Cyril, for improvements to the punching machines used to perforate holes in the pattern cards for jacquard looms.
- Also in 1933, Cyril for improvements to the means of securing Jacquard harness cords together.
- In 1935, Cyril and George, for an improved method of actuating the cylinders of jacquard looms;
- In 1955, Cyril and George, for a device to further manipulate the hooks of double cylinder jacquard looms.
- In 1957, Cyril and George, to arrange for jacquard looms to use a drilled plate in place of the cylinder.
- In 1960, Cyril and George, to adapt a single cylinder jacquard loom to adopt an open shed mechanism.
In March 1951, Cyril published an article on Jacquard Engineering in the Journal of the Textile Institute. This was originally a paper he had given at a joint meeting of the Keighley Textile Society and the Yorkshire Section of the Textile Institute in November 1950.
This poor quality newspaper picture shows Cyril and Margaret together in January 1955.
By 1957 though, Cyril and Margaret were divorced. Cyril was with a 45 year-old divorcee called Ellen Catherine Bentley. They seem to have spent some time in Italy together before flying to Australia from Rome on 1 April.
My researches suggest that Ellen had been born Ellen Catherine Learoyd in North Bierley in May 1911. She had married William Montague Bentley in July 1935 and they had lived for some years in Baildon.
Both Cyril and Margaret declare themselves divorced on their arrival in Australia. He describes the purpose of his visit as ‘buisness [sic] and pleasure’; the length of stay ‘indefinite’.
By 1963, they were married and living together in the Warringah area of New South Wales, just to the north of Sydney.
That year Cyril was working as General Manager for the American Machine and Foundry Company (Aust.) Pty. Ltd. Then in 1964 he was appointed Chairman and Director of Queensland Woollen Manufacturing Co. Ltd.
He died in May 1970, in Dural, Warringah, New South Wales. Ellen lived on until 1997, dying in Melbourne.
By contrast, George seems to have led a much quieter life.
In his twenties he began to feature in reports of meetings of the Ilkley and District Motor Club and later the Yorkshire Sports Car Club. He eventually became Secretary and then President of the latter.
This is a rather grainy newspaper image of George and a companion, taken in 1933.
The 1939 Register records him still living at home with his parents, aged 32, but already a partner in the Company. He seems to have volunteered as a special constable with the Bradford police force and perhaps served in that capacity during the War.
He must have remained unconscripted, presumably running the Company solo during Cyril’s absence.
In 1942 he married Lilian (Billie) Marsh, recently the manageress of a Tadcaster hotel. They had two children, a son and a daughter.
For a time, Cyril’s son Paul Webster Thornton Dracup (1929-2001) was involved with the Company, seemingly heralding a fifth generation, but he too departed for Australia in 1957. George’s son, Charles William, died early, in 1976.
In March 1960, Samuel Dracup and Sons decided, unaccountably, to change its name to ‘SD (Bradford) Limited’ but then, at an Extraordinary General Meeting in June of that year, resolved to change back to ‘Samuel Dracup & Sons, Limited’.
On 31 October 1975 there was an extraordinary general meeting of Lane Close Mills Ltd (presumably a separate company) at which George, the Chairman, and the rest of the board agreed that it should be wound up.
Samuel Dracup and Sons was sold in December 1985 to the Swedish company Eltex. George Dracup died a few years later, in 1992.
When Eltex decided to pull out, the Company was bought by three of its directors, who briefly ran it as ‘Dracup (UK) Limited’ but in 2006 it became part of Macart Textiles (Machinery) Ltd.
And so the Dracup name finally disappeared from the history of jacquard loom manufacture.