William Radcliffe, English inventor, early 19th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
William Radcliffe (1760-1841) owned a mill at Mellor in Cheshire employing hand-loom weavers. Radcliffe wanted to improve their efficiency therefore allowing them to compete with power looms. Previously the warp yarns had been dresed by hand using starch paste. Radcliffe introduced a separate machine, the sizing machine, to do this, patenting his ideas under the name of his mechanic Thomas Johnson. Soon other manufacturers who used power looms introduced this new idea, resulting in Radcliffe turning to power looms. In 1804 he developed a ratchet that when attached to a power loom automatically moved the cloth forward. Radcliffe died in 1841 in poverty.