Robert Grimshaw, Builder of Manchester Loom Mill in 1790 that Was Destroyed by Fire in 1792

Did Robert Grimshaw’s burning mill look like this?


Robert Grimshaw was born in 1757, the son of Robert and Jane (Hobson) Grimshaw. He secured an agreement with Edmund Cartwright to build a mill at Knott Mill, near Manchester, that would contain 500 power looms of Cartwright’s design. Robert and his brother John (born 1761) apparently jointly had the business concern that built the mill in 1790 at Knott’s Mill. The mill was destroyed in 1792 by fire, apparently the result of arson, during the beginnings of the social unrest that led to the loom riots of 1826. Only 30 of the 500 power looms had been installed. There were technical problems related to “dressing the warp” that Robert was trying to solve in the mill before it was destroyed. A number of sources on Cartwright’s role in the development of the Industrial Revolution make reference to Robert Grimshaw’s contributions.

Robert apparently built Gorton House sometime between 1788 and 1792, at about the same time of the construction of the power loom mill. Robert and John went into bankruptcy, perhaps as a result of the destruction of the mill, and Robert took his own life in 1799 while in debtors’ prison in London. His grave, and that of his brother, John, appear to be in the cemetery of Gorton Dissenting Chapel, now the Brookfield Unitarian Church. He may be buried with his parents and next to his grandparents (although his death is noted on his parent’s gravestone, it is possible that he was not actually interred there). Robert and John Grimshaw were descendants of the “Audenshaw” Grimshaw line, which is described on a companion webpage.


Webpage Credits

Description of Robert Grimshaw’s Role in Development of Cotton Weaving Technology

Where is Knott Mill in Manchester?

Historical Accounts of Robert Grimshaw and His Mill

Robert Grimshaw Built Gorton House a Few Years Prior to the Mill

Where Is Gorton House Located?

Graves of Robert Grimshaw and his Parents and Grandparents

Bankruptcy Record of Robert and John Grimshaw

Robert Grimshaw’s Ancestry

Vital Information Provided by Contributors


Webpage Credits

Thanks go to Norman Grimshaw, Roger Grimshaw, Janet Wallwork and Simon Grimshaw for contributing information and photographs that have made this webpage possible.

Description of Robert Grimshaw’s Role in Development of Cotton Weaving Technology

The key role played by Robert Grimshaw in the cotton weaving aspect of the Industrial Revolution is well described on Wikipedia, particularly in the entry on “Edmund Cartwright”, which is shown below (note the entry on Robert Grimshaw in bold). Other Wikipedia entries that describe Robert’s role are also provided.

Edmund Cartwright

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Born: 24 April 1743, Nottinghamshire

Died: 30 October 1823, Hastings, Sussex

Resting place: Battle, Sussex

Nationality English

Known for Power loom

Edward (Edmund) Cartwright (24 April 1743 – 30 October 1823) was an English clergyman and inventor of the power loom.

Born in Nottinghamshire[1], England, Cartwright was taught at University College, Oxford and became a clergyman of the Church of England. Cartwright began his career as a clergyman, becoming, in 1779, rector of Goadby Marwood, Leicestershire; in 1783 he was a prebendary in Lincoln (Lincolnshire) cathedral.

He addressed the problem of mechanical weaving. Mechanical spinning and the factory system, were already in place. He designed the first power loom in 1784 patented it in 1785, and it proved to be incredibly valuable and useful and special. In 1789, he patented another loom which served as the model for later inventors to work upon. For a mechanically driven loom to become a commercial success, either one person would have to attend one machine, or each machine must have a greater productive capacity than one manually controlled.

He added parts to the loom, namely a positive let-off motion, warp and weft stop motions, and sizing the warp while the loom was in action. He commenced to manufacture fabrics in Doncaster using these looms,and discovered many of the shortcomings. He attempted to remedy these by: introducing a crank and eccentrical wheels to actuate the batten differentially; by improving the dicking mechanism; by a device for stopping the loom when a shuttle failed to enter a shuttle box; by preventing a shuttle from rebounding when in a box; and by stretching the cloth with temples that acted automatically. The mill was repossessed by creditors in 1793.

In 1792 Dr Cartwright obtained his last patent for weaving machinery; this provided the loom with multiple shuttle boxes for weaving checks and cross stripes. But all his efforts were unavailing; it became apparent that no mechanism, however perfect, could succeed so long as warps continued to be sized while a loom was stationary. His plans for sizing them while a loom was in operation, and also before being placed in a loom, both failed. These were resolved in 1803, by William Radcliffe, and his assistant Thomas Johnson, by their inventions of the beam warper, and the dressing sizing machine.

In 1790 Robert Grimshaw, of Gorton Manchester, erected a weaving factory at Knott Mill which he was to fill with 500 of Cartwright’s power looms, but with only 30 in place, the factory was burnt down probably as an act of arson inspired by the fears of hand loom weavers. The prospect of success was not sufficiently promising to induce its re-erection.

In 1809 Cartwright obtained a grant of £10,000 from parliament for his invention.

He also patented a wool combing machine in 1789 and a cordelier (machine for making rope) in 1792. He also designed a steam engine that used alcohol instead of water.[2]

He died in Hastings, Sussex and was buried at Battle.[3]


His daughter Juliet (1780-1837) wrote novels under the pseudonym of Mrs Markham.


^ Seymour, Charles, C. B. (1858). Self-Made Men. New York: Harper and Brothers. pp. 234 – 237. Retrieved 2008-04-21.

^ This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

^ Strickland (?), M. (1843). A Memoir of the Life, Writings, and Inventions, of Edmund Cartwright, D.D. FRS, Inventor of the Power Loom, Etc. Etc.. London: Saunders and Otley.

Further reading

Ropemaking machine of Edmund Cartwright

Cartwright, Edmund (1772). Armine and Elvira: A Legendary Tale (3 ed.). London: John Murray.

Strickland (?), M. (1843). A Memoir of the Life, Writings, and Inventions, of Edmund Cartwright, D.D. FRS, Inventor of the Power Loom, Etc. Etc.. London: Saunders and Otley. Retrieved 2008-04-21.

External links

Wikisource has original works written by or about: Edward Cartwright

Edmund Cartwright – at Historic Figures at the BBC

“Edmund Cartwright and the power loom” – at Cotton Times

“Richard Arkwright and Edmund Cartwright: Inventors of Important Textile Manufacturing Machines” – at Grimshaw Origins

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

From “Weaving” on Wikipedia

Note reference to “Grimshaw brothers” rather than just Robert Grimshaw.

Great Britain

The first attempt to mechanise weaving was the work of Edmund Cartwright from 1785. He built a factory at Doncaster and obtained a series of patents between 1785 and 1792. In 1788, his brother Major John Cartwight built Revolution Mill at Retford (named for the centenary of the Glorious Revolution. In 1791, he licensed his loom to the Grimshaw brothers of Manchester, but their Knott Mill burnt down the following year (possibly a case of arson). Edmund Cartwight was granted a reward of £10,000 by Parliament for his efforts in 1809. However, success in power-weaving also required improvements by others, including H. Horrocks of Stockport. Only during the two decades after about 1805, did power-weaving take hold. Textile manufacture was one of the leading sectors in the British Industrial Revolution, but weaving was a comparatively late sector to be mechanised. The loom became semi- automatic in 1842 with Kenworthy and Bulloughs Lancashire Loom. The various innovations took weaving from a home-based artisan activity (labour intensive and man-powered) to steam driven factories process. A large metal manufacturing industry grew to produce the looms, firms such as Howard & Bullough of Accrington, and Tweedales and Smalley and Platt Brothers. Most cotton weaving took place in weaving sheds, in small towns circling Greater Manchester and worsted weaving in West Yorkshire – men and women with weaving skills emigrated, and took the knowledge to their new homes in New England, in places like Pawtucket and Lowell.

The invention in France of the Jacquard loom, enabled complicated patterned cloths to be woven, by using punched cards to determine which threads of coloured yarn should appear on the upper side of the cloth.

From “Power Looms” on Wikipedia

Note role of Robert Grimshaw in developing “dressing the warp” (shown in bold).

Power loom

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The first power loom, a mechanized loom powered by a drive shaft, was designed in 1784 by Edmund Cartwright and first built in 1785, it was refined over the next 47 years till a design by Kenworthy and Bullough, made the operation completely automatic. This was known as the Lancashire Loom. By 1850 there were 250,000 machines in operation in England. Fifty years later came the Northrop Loom that would replenish the shuttle when it was empty and this replaced the Lancashire loom.


Rev Edmund Cartwright’s invention of the power loom, and his modifications to the loom he patented in 1785 was described in his own words.Marsden 1895, p. 64 It was to be forty years before his ideas has been modified into a reliable automatic loom . Cartwright was not the first man to design an automatic loom, this had been done in 1678 by M. de Gennes in Paris, and again by Vaucanson in 1745, but these never developed and were forgotten. Those designs preceded John Kay’s invention of the flying shuttle and they passed the shuttle through the shed using levers.

Cartwight’s interest in looms was aroused by conversations in Matlock Bath on how to use the surplus yarn that was being spun on the new water frames. His first design, for a vertical loom, was made before he had observed a weaver at work. His second design adopted the handloom frame, and added mechanisms to solve known problems- instead of the warp beam he used a bobbin frame, his loom automatically sized or dressed the warp. There was no take up reel, the clothe was delivered into a box. The slay or lathe was oscillated on primitive swords driven by a rocking rail beneath. There were shedding tappets, and cams to drive the picking. The loom only had one shaft, and the movements would have been irregular and harsh. There was a stop-motion incorporated effected by a swivel plate in the shuttle, which on dropping would engage on a hook in the shed.

It was not a commercially successful machine. His ideas were licensed first by Grimshaw, of Manchester who built a small steam powered weaving factory in Manchester in 1790, the looms had to be stopped to dress the warp. The factory burnt down before anything could be learnt. A series of inventors incrementally improved all aspects of the three principle processes and the ancillary processes.

Grimshaw 1790 Manchester- dressing the warp

Austin 1789, 1790 -dressing the warp, 200 looms produced for Monteith of Pollockshaws 1800

Thomas Johnson, 1803, Bredbury- dressing frame.

… (continues)

Where is Knott Mill in Manchester?

Knott Mill, where Robert and John Grimshaw had their mill before it burned, is southwest of city center of Manchester at approximately the location of the orange arrow in the maps below. The blue circle just above the arrow on the upper map is Deansgate Station, which is described on Wikipedia as previously having the name Knott Mill Station, as indicated by a picture on station building (see photo below the maps).



Deansgate Station, formerly Knott Mill Station, is shown below.


Historical Accounts of Robert Grimshaw and His Mill

Edward Baines4 (1824, v. 1, p. 117) described Robert Grimshaw’s connection to Cartwright as shown below.

The Power Loom is a modern invention of a clergyman of the name of Cartwright, resident at Hollander-house, Kent, or at least if the invention be not new, its practical application is so. It appears from a letter from that gentleman, that his attention was first turned to the subject, by a (sic) observation made in the company of a number of Manchester gentlemen, at Matlock, in the summer of 1784, to the effect, that as soon as Mr. Arkwright’s patent for frame spinning expired, so many mills would be erected, and so much cotton spun, that hands could never be found to weave it. Impressed with the idea of the practicability of weaving as well as spinning by machinery, Mr. Cartwright bent his faculties to the construction of a power loom; this he effected, and in the year following obtained a patent to secure to himself the benefit of his invention. The first attempt was so rude and incomplete that he found it necessary to construct another loom, and to obtain a second patent in 1787. To carry into effect his invention, he erected a weaving mill, at Doncaster, but with so little success that the mill was abandoned, and the projector sought and found a remuneration for his ingenuity and trouble from parliament. Mr. Grimshaw, of Manchester, under the sanction of Mr. Cartwright, erected a weaving factory at that place, in 1790, which he filled with 500 power looms, but before they had well got into motion the factory was burnt down, and the prospect of success had not sufficiently promising to induce its re-erection. In 1794, Mr. Bell, of Glasgow, invented another power loom, but with little better success. In 1801, Mr. John Monteith, of Glasgow, erected a weaving factory, containing 200 looms, which after contending some years with difficulties, he increased to 300…..

Later, Robert Harland5 (1865, p. 272-275) provided the following description of Robert Grimshaw and the mill fire. It includes the well-known (at the time) poem by the gifted rhymester, Lucas, who was also from Gorton.


In 1790 Mr. Robert Grimshaw, of Gorton House, Gorton, near Manchester (having contracted with the Rev. Dr. Cartwright, the inventor of the power-loom, for the privilege of using 500 of his looms), erected, for their reception, a weaving factory at Knott Mill, with steam-power. The mill was finished, and the machinery, including 30 power-looms, had not been many weeks at work before the whole building was burned to the ground. As the proprietor had previously received several anonymous letters threatening destruction to the mill if he persisted to work it, there is every reason to conclude that the fire did not happen without design, but was the work of an incendiary. Mr. Grimshaw was about erecting another mill in Gorton, but this fire not only deterred him, but others, from bringing the invention into use; and the next attempt to introduce power-looms into Manchester was not made till sixteen years afterwards. About the time of the fire there lived up the Ginnel, near the Chapel-Houses, Gorton, a man named Lucas, a hand-loom weaver and crofter or bleacher. Though very illiterate, — not able to write, and scarcely to read, — he enjoyed considerable local fame as a rhymester. He composed a ditty on the destruction of Grimshaw’s mill, which was regularly set to music, printed, and sold by the ballad-dealers of Manchester. The entire song cannot now be recovered, but the following fragment has been orally gleaned from five old men, each of whom well recollects singing it at the time of its currency. It reveals the feelings of the working-classes of that day on the introduction of machinery and steam-power. For the above particulars we are indebted to Mr. John Higson, of Droylsden:–

Come all ye country gentlemen

Come listen to my story;

Its of a country gallant

Who was cropp’d in his glory,

All by a new invention,

As all things come by natur,

Concerning looms from Doncaster1

And weyvin’ done by wayter.

Chorus.- Then, eh, the looms from Doncaster

That lately have come down–

That they never had been carried

Into Manchester town.

For coal to work his factory

He sent unto the Duke,2 sir;

He thought that all the town

Should be stifled with the smoke, sir;

But the Duke sent him an answer,

Which came so speedily,

That the poor should have the coal,

If the Devil took th’ machinery.

Then, eh, etc.

He got all kinds of people

To work at his invention,

Both English, Scotch, and Irish,

And more than I could mention.

He kept such order over them,

Much more than they did choose, sir,

They left him land for liberty;

Please God to spare their shoes, sire.

Then, eh, etc.

The floor was over shavings,

Took fire in the night, Sir;

But now he’s sick in bed;

Some say its with affright, Sir.

[The rest wanting.]

1Dr. Cartwright had erected a mill for power-looms at Doncaster, but with so little success that it was abandoned.

2The Duke of Bridgewater, the great coal owner.

Robert Grimshaw Built Gorton House about the Same Time as the Mill

Robert apparently built Gorton House in the late 1780s or early 1790s, where he lived at the time the mill was built. In December 2009, Janet Wallwork, who has been working for the preservation of Gorton House,  e-mailed the good news that it had received a sought-after listing from the English Heritage. Janet provided the following summary of the listing action, which includes a good deal of interesting and relevant information on the history of the house:

Dave Mott has kindly provided photos, apparently taken in the Fall 2006, of Gorton House. Two of Dave’s pictures are shown below.

After Robert Grimshaw’s death, Gorton House had various owners. Cronin and Rhodes3, in their book published in 1998, provide the following information on Groton House and on the Grimshaws and their role at Gorton Dissenting Chapel (now Brookfield Unitarian Church). Note: the photos were posted by Dave Grimshaw on the “Grimshaw Group” on Yahoo at the link shown below


Gorton House, now part of Debdale Park, off Hyde Road. Here Robert Grimshaw lived in 1790. Gorton House was occupied in 1841 by Nathaniel Denison and Joseph Gillham, who had a hatworks in the grounds of the house. By 1844 Joseph Stanfield Grimshaw owned much of the estate. He actually lived at Stanfield Lodge near Gorton House. By 1840 Edward Pinder, who manufactured steel, lived there. The house passed to Manchester Corporation with the extension of Debdale Park after the Second World War.

The coat of arms of the Grimshaw family on a memorial to Brookfield Unitarian church. This is the family crest of John Grimshaw of High Bank House and Audenshaw Lodge and of his twin brother Joseph Stanfield, who owned Gorton House and built and lived at Stanfield Lodge. The Grimshaw family also provided the parsonage for Brookfield Unitarian church at the top of Tan yard Brow and gave financial help to the Sunday school. Joseph Stanfield was involved with the building of the Gorton Schools in 1863.

A memorial in Brookfield Unitarian church to the Grimshaw family. John Grimshaw lived at High Bank House on High Bank, near Tan Yard Brow, and also previously at Audenshaw Lodge. He was important to Gorton as a magistrate and deputy lieutenant of the county. He died aged 78 in 1861. There were also Grimshaws at Gorton House in the late 1700s. Johns twin brother Joseph Stanfield Grimshaw lived at Stanfield Lodge, now part of Debdale Park. Their brother built High Bank Mill on Ogden Lane.

Where Is Gorton House Located?

Gorton House is located next to Stanfield Lodge on the south bank of “Reservoir of the Manchester and Salford Water Works”, near the dam that impounds the reservoir, as shown in the 1848 map of the area depicted below. The reservoir is now referred to as the “Lower Gorton Reservoir”. Thanks go to Dave Mott for providing this map and the one below it. The source of the maps is:

A more detailed inset from the map above is provided below. It is apparent that Gorton House is outlined above the letter “o” of “Ho” (the remainder of the word “House” appears to be missing).

As shown in the modern map below from the Ordnance Survey website, Gorton is located east of central Manchester and south of Droylsden. Audenshaw is located further east near the intersection of the M60 and the M67.

Modern details of the Gorton House and Audenshaw area are shown in the Ordnance Survey maps below (compare with the 1848 maps above). Gorton House is in a section now referred to as “Debdale”. Audenshaw Lodge is on the right edge of the map on the right, just northeast of “Lodge Farm”.

Graves of Robert Grimshaw and his Parents and Grandparents

Robert Grimshaw is buried at Gorton Chapel, now the Brookfield Unitarian Church, with his parents Robert and Jane (Hobson) Grimshaw (grave 597). His grandparents, James and Jane (Stanfield) Grimshaw are buried in an adjacent grave (no. 596). In September 2009, Janet Wallwork sent an email indicating that she had visited the graveyard, obtained records, and took photos. Ms. Wallwork’s e-mail and photos are shown below.

RE: Robert Grimshaw’s Grave

From: Janet Wallwork

Sent: Fri 9/04/09 8:49 PM

To: Thomas Grimshaw (

Dear Tom

I’m pleased to say I managed to locate and photograph Robert Grimshaw’s grave -he is buried in the same grave as his father which is next to that of his grandfather, James Grimshaw, and not very far from Joseph Stanfield Grimshaw.

I located a transcript of a burial list: here are the relevant entries.

Grave 597

Grimshaw Robert 56 03.05.1788

Jane 55 04.06.1778 wife of above

Robert 43 22.05.1799 son “

James 19 12.05.1780 son “

Mary 5wks – daughter “

Ann 29 08.09.1801 ” “

John 37 20.07.1806 son “

Milne Esther 57 24.06.1820 daughter ” and w of John

John 60 27.06.1832 son-in-law “

Grave 596

Grimshaw James 77 11.02.1772

Jane 73 04.06.1778 wife of above

Samuel 8wks 30/03/1734 son

James 9 17.05.1737 “

Mary 1 17.06.1743 daughter

Ann 15wks 07.03-1748 “

I hope this fills in some gaps in the family tree.

I am sure it is the right Robert Grimshaw as the date matches exactly Higson’s account of his suicide. Sadly the graveyard has been horribly vandalised over the years:

Robert’s grave is fairly intact but the stone is laid flat. James’ stone has been smashed and is face down – a good job there was a register or I could not have found it.

I took some photos, attached.

1) Robert Grimshaw’s gravestone, now lying flat. As I am not tall it was hard to get a clear shot. The only addition to the info. in the grave list is that John Milne was “coroner of this district”

2) James Grimshaw’s grave. You can see Robert’s stone against the wall, with rubbish sacks against it. The tumbled mass of broken stone is the grave of James Grimshaw and his wife Jane Stanfield and their infant children.

3) This view of the graveyard shows James and Roberts’s graves in the foreground and if you look towards the tree you can see the distinctive shape of Joseph S Grimshaw’s tomb, with its sloping top.

Janet also photographed the tomb of Joseph Stanfield Grimshaw, a cousin of Robert Grimshaw (see Audenshaw Grimshaw webpage), as shown below.

4) Joseph S Grimshaw’s tomb. You already have a close-up of the front inscription on your website.

5) The reverse of JSG’s tomb: you can see the names George Henry and Mary Ann Grimshaw

If anyone wishes to visit and locate these graves it is quite easy: they are alongside the wall which borders Far Lane, at the back of Brookfield Church. The original Dissenters’ chapel (shown on your website) was along here, and these graves are close by: this was the oldest part of the site.

I’m still working on the Grimshaw’s and will let you know if I find anything else.

Best wishes


Robert’s grave with his parents also includes John Grimshaw, age 38, who died in 1806. It is a bit of a mystery if this John ins the brother with whom Robert was in business when their mill was burned. Other records indicate that John was born in 1761 rather than the birthdate of 1768 indicated by the grave inscription.

Bankruptcy Record of Robert and John Grimshaw

Roger Grimshaw has performed the outstanding service of obtaining the following image, which apparently records discharge of debts owed by Robert and John Grimshaw, from the National Archives at Kew. The record is described as shown below, followed by the image.

PRIS 4/16 Kings Bench Commitment Book 
Names arranged alphabetically and given a page number. The page number then contains the entry.
Entry in “G” (which contains 92 names)
Grimshaw Robert (Page) 184
Grimshaw John (Page) 184
On Page 184 (double page) Sequence no. 773

Roger has transcribed the entry approximately as follows:


Robert Grimshaw and John Grimshaw

Robert Grimshaw died

Tendered 16 April 1799 in discharge of their bail at the suit of Thomas

22 May 1799

Wilkinson the Elder, Matthew Bloxham, James Bulcock, and Thomas

Dis 25 May 1799 by order Mr Jus Grose

Wilkinson the
?     ?


Also at the suit of the above plaintiffs £837


Also at the suit of  Thomas Herbert £169

Dis 27 May 1799 ? order Mr Jus Grose

Also at the suit of John Lowe Edward Stokes Cotterell, Thomas


Dalton and Samuel Wood £597

Dis 25 May 1799 order Mr Jus Grose

Also at the suit of Daniel Wood £1577

And was thereupon committed by


M Grose

Shown below is Roger Grimshaw’s interpretation of the meaning of this document:

The above seems to suggest that Robert and John were committed together. Each line in the column on the left refers to the same line on the right, as if the LHS are margin notes. I took this to mean that all the separate claims were discharged on Roberts death. It seems to mean that this was the total debt between the two of them, but if all these debts were discharged, what happened to John? Did Roberts death wipe the slate clean for both of them? – – – – seems unlikely as this process is not oozing with compassion!!!

As pointed out by Janet Wallwork, although some of the debts may have been discharged as indicated in this document, other creditors continued to seek compensation for years afterwards.

Robert Grimshaw’s Ancestry

Robert is a member of the “Audenshaw” Grimshaw family line, which is described on a companion webpage. Robert is the 5th descendant of the earliest known members of this line, George and Emme (Taylor or Telier) Grimshaw, as shown in bold in the abbreviated ancestry chart below.

George Grimshaw (1600, Lancashire – 14 Apr 1675) & Emme Taylor or Telier (1602, Lancashire – 23 Oct 1686). Married 5 Nov 1626.

|—1 George Grimshaw (22 Jul 1627, Droylsden – 24 Jun 1696, Droylsden) & Ann Wilde (ca 1631 – ?). Married ca 1653.

|—|—2 George Grimshaw (1654, Gorton – ?)

|—|—2 James Grimshaw (10 Feb 1661, Gorton – 27 Jun or 25 Oct 1718, Droylsden) & Mary (1665, Lancashire – ?). Married ca 1697.

|—|—|—3 James Grimshaw (16 Oct 1694 – 11 Feb 1772) & Jane Stanfield (? – 4 Jun 1778). Married 1 Feb 1721.

|—|—|—|—4 Robert Grimshaw|— (31 Aug 1731 – 3 May 1778) & Jane Hobson (? – 4 Jun 1778). Married 24 Nov 1755

|—|—|—|—|—5 Robert Grimshaw (1757 – 22 May 1799) & Martha Wagstaffe (1761 – ?). Married 25 Nov 1755.

|—|—|—|—|—5 John Grimshaw (1761 – ?)

|—|—|—|—|—5 Jane Grimshaw (1762 – ?) & Thomas Beard.

|—|—|—|—|—5 Esther Grimshaw (1763 – ?) & John Milne. Married 9 June 1801.

|—|—|—|—|—5 Betty Grimshaw (1765 – ?) & Edward Hobson, Jr.

|—|—|—|—|—5 Ann Grimshaw (1768 – ?)

Vital Information Provided by Contributors

Several contributors to this webpage deserve special note for the information they have provided. Their contributions to Robert Grimshaw’s “story are summarized below.

Norman Grimshaw Information on Gorton and Audenshaw Grimshaws in March 2007

Norman Grimshaw, who is originally from the Gorton area and has lived in Australia for nearly 40 years, provided the following very helpful information on the Grimshaws of Gorton House and Audenshaw Lodge in 2007. Norman also provided an 1848 map of the area showing the location of Audenshaw to Gorton House (shown below).

March 21, 2007


Thanks very much for hosting the best family and genealogy website I have every come across. All the better for being Grimshaw!

Since 1970 I have lived in Australia but originally came from Gorton, Manchester. Being 23 when I left Manchester gives me an interest in the district which I have always held. It helps to put a local knowledge into my own research, and help others as I have, feel free to give my email address to any Manchester Grimshaw. Your website links have been a great help. Family lore gives me link to the Audenshaw Grimshaw”s but I have not found it yet. It has always bemused me that the Audenshaw Grimshaw’s were never reinvented as Gorton Grimshaw’s given their contribution to Gorton. Perhaps they wanted to remain aloof from the many Grimshaws in Gorton!

Anyway please accept the contribution below, I could rabble on for much longer but feel I would overload an already busy person.

The following extract is taken from the “Gorton News” a local community newspaper (, author Jeff Goldthorpe, a local historian.

Probate of the will of James Grimshaw a merchant of Audenshaw was granted 15th May 1772. He left to his wife Jane, a messuage in Audenshaw for life with remainder to his eldest son Robert. Land in Newton in the parish of Mottram, County of Chester, in Droylsden and Salford and Hooley Hill to Robert and his heirs. Land called Semisters Tenement in Gorton, houses and land in Market Street in Manchester, messuage and land at Alt Edge to his son George. Land in Woodhouse, houses and land in Market Street Lane in Manchester and land in Crowthorn and Rycroft to his son John. In addition he left twenty pounds and yearly interest on 400 pounds to his wife, 600 pounds to Robert and 1000 pounds to sons George and John. There was an annuity of 30 pounds to Elizabeth Hobson, widow of Ralph Hobson of Failsworth that was to be paid by George and John.

James Grimshaw was an extremely wealthy man for the time, but where did his fortune come from?

Son Samuel as given in Skeet’s Audenshaw line is not recognised within the will. Conversely eldest son Robert well defined in the will is not recognised in Skeet’s line, a mystery ?

The will is held at Lancashire Records Office under catalogue references DDX144/15

Messuage is a term used in deeds and other documents to signify a dwelling house and surrounding property and outbuildings. Tenements were originally any rented property , it was not until the 19th century that it took on the meaning we know today (in British use).

An additional article in the “Gorton News” also by Jeff Goldthorpe relates the story of Robert Grimshaw bringing the cotton power looms to Gorton. The story is already posted on the Grimshaw Origins website and they appear to have a common source, but the article below gives greater detail.

The First Gorton Cotton Mill – most people who live in Gorton will not doubt have heard of the old Gorton cotton mill. But how many have heard of, or are aware of the first cotton mill to operate in Gorton some thirty-five earlier. The story of the mill was recorded by Mr John Higson of Droylsden (a much respected historian of his day) in 1852 and goes back to the early invention of the power loom.

About the year 1785 a Rev Dr Cartwright of Kent invented a power loom which was so crude and incomplete that he was forced to redesign his invention and apply for a second patent. His second design proved more feasible and in 1787 he built a mill in Doncaster. Unfortunately he had limited success and abandoned the project.

Shortly after these events, across the Pennines in Manchester, a Dr Bardsley was in conversation with Robert Grimshaw of Gorton House, Gorton, here he mentioned to Robert Grimshaw that a minister near Doncaster had invented a power loom and described it to him. Dr Bardsley’s description of the loom stirred Grimshaw’s imagination to the extent that he would not let the subject rest until Dr Bardsley agreed to accompany him to Doncaster and visit the inventor.

During the meeting that followed between Robert Grimshaw and Dr Cartwright a deal was struck, giving Grimshaw the patent right or privilege of using 500 of his power looms. Having concluded the business Robert Grimshaw returned to Gorton and built a mill large enough to house the machinery. These looms were powered by a steam engine. Each one able to do the work of two experience hand-loom weavers and could be tended by a child. A safety device was incorporated within the loom (not for the benefit of the operator) so that should the high speed shuttle be obstructed the loom would automatically stop without damaging the work. Grimshaw took delivery of the first thirty looms and put them into production. Unfortunately his operation was short lived, for within a few weeks the whole mill was burnt to the ground. It was said to have been an accident, but prior to the burning Robert Grimshaw had received several anonymous letters threatening to burn his factory to the ground if he persisted. It happened, obviously this was no accident but arson, probably perpetrated by disgruntled hand-loom weavers fearful of loosing their livelihood.

Robert Grimshaw had sunk bore-holes and discovered coal in the area.. He purchased the right to use Gore Brook (which I believe shows that the brook was a much bigger water course than we see today) and build a dam across. This dam was situated near to the middle bank of the present reservoir.. He had intended to build a larger mill to the west of the canal near Gorton House. Deterred by the burning of his mill, Robert Grimshaw moved his operation away from Gorton. IN 1790 he built a weaving factory at Knott Mill Manchester.

At the same time as Robert Grimshaw was moving his operation to Knott Mill, in Gorton, at a place know as the Ginnil lived a hand-loom weaver we knew only as “Lucas”. Lucas despite being almost illiterate had gained a considerable reputation locally as a rhymester. Following the destruction of Grimshaw’s mill he wrote a lengthy rhyme reflecting the feelings of the working class of the day and its attitude to mechanisation. Considering the popularity of this particular ditty it was often put to music and printed, being sold by ballad merchants of Manchester.

Audenshaw Lodge, year 2005, having fallen into disrepair for many years is now being renovated. The present owners describe the house “set in a rural idyll, approached by a sweeping winding drive at the end of a country lane”, Not a bad description for a house now set in suburban Manchester ! A plaque on the left hand gable bears the date 1774.

George H Grimshaw, born 26th January 1839, died 21st January 1898 , was an England and Lancashire cricketer of some note and ability, see ( The 1881 British Census finds him living at High Bank House, Gorton, with his widowed mother, Mary Ann aged 84 and his elder brother, John aged 47, a solicitor. When he died his home was given as High Bank, Grafton, Herefordshire. Probate was granted to his wife Kate. He must have married late as the 1881 British Census gives him as unmarried. The 1881 Census also gives his occupation as a cotton spinner. Given the high achievement and status of his family background should this read cotton spinner manufacturer ?

The twin brothers John and Joseph Grimshaw, amongst their other business interest they were also cotton manufacturers of some note. Various academic papers on the history of the British Mechanised Cotton Industry give them mention usually as ” the non-conformist Gorton Grimshaw brothers”.

Finally of interest to North American genealogists. Jane Stanfield (wife of James Grimshaw 1694-1772), her immediate family came from nearby Dukinfield. The family were also of non conformist & Quaker beliefs. Their church, of which the family where great benefactors, was the Old Presbyterian Chapel , Dunkenfield. In 1730 they went to the “colonies”, I have them in Kennett MM, Chester County, PA. in the early years.

Once again many thanks for the pleasure you have provided

From country Victoria


Norman Robert Grimshaw.

Note that portions of the above record by Goldthorpe appear to be inaccurate in stating that the mill was erected and burned at Gorton and was subsequently replaced at Knott Mill in 1790.

Norman Grimshaw Contributions, September 2008

Norman Grimshaw of Australia has made some of the most significant research contributions to the Audenshaw Grimshaw family lines since Skeet. In September 2008, Norman provided information that extends the ancestry back by one generation, corrects which Robert Grimshaw had the mill near Manchester that was the target of arson, adds several descendants to Robert Grimshaw’s family, and demonstrates a close connection between this Grimshaw line and the Jolly family line. Norman’s e-mail begins as follows:

Subject: Audenshaw Grimshaw update material

From: Norman Grimshaw (

Sent: Mon 9/22/08 9:29 PM


Dear Tom,

Hopefully the content below may prompt some interest and lead to further Grimshaw Family discoveries. Of course your the website host so the decisions on if it’s inserted, and how and where our yours.

Correction of the Robert Grimshaw Who Built the Arsoned Mill near Manchester.

Norman noted that it was actually Robert’s son, Robert, who married Martha Wagstaff. Norman also added wife and several siblings of the corrected “Mill Robert”.

Norman’s e-mail then continues with the following:

I came across the following document in British National Archive :-

Will of Robert Grimshaw, merchant – – meassuages and land in Gorton to eldest son Robert; meassuages and land in Gorton to son John; meassuages and land in Salford to daughter Jane; meassuages and land in Droylsden to daughter Esther; meassuages and land in Newton par Mottrom, Co – Chester, and at Hooley Hill within Audenshaw to daughter Betty; land called the Waterhouse Tenement in Gorton to daughter Ann. 1,500 pounds to John, 1,000 pounds to Jane, 1,500 pounds to Esther, 2,000 pounds to Betty, 1,900 pounds to Ann.

Exc – Jane and Robert Grimshaw, Joseph Stanfield of Foster Lane’ London and Thomas Beard. of New Mill,

The will is held at Lancashire Records Office, catalogue references DX144/16 dated 3rd April 1788.

The above will is clearly that of Robert Grimshaw the eldest son of James and Jane Grimshaw (nee Stanfield). Joseph Stanfield, an executor, being of the same family. The daughter’s Christian name Esther within the will is taken from from Esther Grimshaw(nee Sandiford), Jane’s mother. It is also of note that the name of Hobson who was a beneficiary in James Grimshaw’s Will of 1772 is also present in the lineage below. This further information was compiled from FamilySearch/IGI sources.

James Grimshaw (16 October 1694 – 11 Feb 1772) & Jane Stanfield, married 1 Feb 1721

Robert Grimshaw (31 Aug 1731- 1788) & Jane Hobson, married 25 Nov 1755 (not in Skeet; added by contribution from Norman Grimshaw)( and Burke)

Robert Grimshaw (1757 – ) & Martha Wagstaffe (1761 – ), married 13 Jan 1791

John Grimshaw (1761 -)

Jane Grimshaw (1762 – ) & Thomas Beard

Esther Grimshaw (1763 – ) & John Milne married 9 June 1801

Betty Grimshaw (1765 – ) & Edward Hobson jnr

Ann Grimshaw (1768 – )

James Grimshaw

Samuel Grimshaw

John Grimshaw (1 March 1738 -12 Jun 1822) & Mary Holt (5 Dec 1749 – 6 Sept 1810), married 28 Oct 1779

Given the will date of the 3rd April 1788 it can now be shown that we must revised our understanding of the family line again. Robert born in 1757 must be the instigator of the 1790 cotton mill venture. The Robert born in 1731 we now know to have died in 1788.

Thus Norman has corrected the “Mill Robert” from the father (b. 1731) to the son (b. 1757) and added the wife of the father (Jane Hobson). He also added the wife the younger Robert ( Matha Wagstaffe) and his siblings, John, Jane, Esther, Betty and Ann.

Information on Gorton House and Robert Grimshaw from Janet Wallwork, August 2009

Janet Wallwork provided valuable additional details on Gorton House and, particularly, the brilliance and unfortunate suicide of Robert Grimshaw. These details were provided in an e-mail from Janet, which is shown below. Janet is engaged in an effort to prevent the destruction of Gorton House.

RE: Grimshaws of Gorton House, Manchester: latest news

From: Janet Wallwork

Sent: Fri 8/21/09 7:34 AM

To: Thomas Grimshaw (

Dear Tom

Just to update you: English Heritage have now inspected Gorton House, though they have not yet made an announcement about whether it will be accepted listing. That would help us secure funding to save the building and find a new use.

I am still trying to track down the deeds, in the hope this gives a firm date for construction.

Your excellent website shows 3 black and white photos with captions, taken from a book. I can identify this for you: it is the volume entitled “Gorton” by my friends Jill Cronin and Frank Rhodes, published by Tempus Publishing of Stroud in 1998. They would appreciate it if an appropriate acknowledgement of the source was added to the webpage.

You quote an article by Jeff Goldthorpe on the subject of Robert Grimshaw’s attempt to bring in power looms. He actually transcribed this from John Higson’s “Gorton Historical Recorder” However he failed to add the entry which details the sad end of Robert Grimshaw. Higson reports as follows:

“1799 Robert Grimshaw of Gorton House, gentleman, aged 43 years, committed suicide in the Kings Bench Prison, London, May 22; his creditors threatened to strike out a docket against him. His estates were afterwards sold, and produced 20s in the pound. He was said to be “the cleverest man that ever Gorton bred”. His remains were interred in the family vault, Gorton Dissenting Chapel.”

I visited Brookfield Church at the weekend, but was unable to find a gravestone for Robert: if I do I will send you a photograph.

Best wishes

Janet Wallwork


1Baines, Edward, 1824, History, Directory, and Gazetteer, of the County Palatine of Lancaster; with a Variety of Commercial & Statistical Information in Two Volumes, Illustrated by Maps and Plans: Liverpool, Wm. Wales & Co., two volumes (Republished 1968 by Augustus M. Kelly, Publishers, New York, NY), unk. p.

2Harland, John, 1865, Ballads & Songs of Lancashire, Chiefly Older than the 19th Century, Collected, Compiled, and Edited, With Notes: London, Whittaker & Co., ca. 282 p.

3Cronin, Jill, and Frank Rhodes, 1998, Gorton – The Archive Photographs Series: Stroud, U.K., Tempus Publishing, Ltd, 128 p.

Webpage History

Webpage initiated January 2010. First draft completed February 2010.