Born in 1732 in Preston, Lancashire, Arkwright was born into a poor family, but through hard work, the ability to enthuse others with his ideas and his inventive business mind, he became rich and famous.
He started his first business running his own barber’s shop as well as a public house and had started his own wig making business. He travelled all over England to buy women’s hair which could be made into wigs. It was while he was travelling around the country that he heard about the attempts to design new machines for the textile industry, especially a machine that could spin lots of threads at one time. He must have thought that there was money to be made by the person who could invent a new machine.
He went into various partnerships, pitching ideas to get finance to start developing a machine that could spin a vast amount of thread. His spinning frame was first powered by horse but he was hungry for new ways to improve efficiency and increase production.
He was introduced to Jedediah Strutt, another wealthy hosier who lived in Derby. With Samuel Need, Arkwright and Strutt formed a business partnership. The partnership took out a lease on a site in Cromford where they planned to build a building to take several of the new machines.
This site was Cromford Mill, where a series of processes were all powered from a single source – water. Arkwright invented the Factory System, a system which had the machines and workforce made a finished product that used a common source of motive power, all in one building built for the purpose. Many people went on to copy his ideas in Britain and worldwide.
As he grew older he was able to enjoy his wealth. In 1786 he was given a knighthood and became Sir Richard Arkwright. He began to build a mansion in Cromford, Willersley Castle. He bought himself a town house in London, 8 Adam Street. He had his portrait painted by Joseph Wright of Derby.
Arkwright was truly one of the first entrepreneurs.