On this day … 20 January 1849

On 20 January 1849, the Preston Guardian reported the death of Andrew Kinloch, who was credited with setting up the first power loom in Britain, in Glasgow, in 1793. Kinloch died, aged 89, at the home of his son, John, at 7 Tuson Street, Maudland Bank, and was buried in the graveyard at St Peter’s Church.

Kinloch went on to set up power looms around the country, including in Lancashire. At Westhoughton in 1813, rioters destroyed about one hundred and seventy of his looms, and ‘would, as Kinloch expressed it, have consigned himself likewise to the flames, if he had not promptly decamped’.

The Preston historian Charles Hardwick in his history of the town wrote:

Kinloch, in 1845, when on a visit to Glasgow, was presented with a handsome silver snuff box, containing fifty sovereigns, as a testimony to his ability as an ingenious mechanic, and as a token of respect for his moral worth.

In fact, Kinloch’s power loom had defects that meant that it did not threaten the livelihood of handloom weavers in the early years of the 19th century. It was only when those defects were overcome that the earnings of handloom weavers began to plummet.

Kinloch seems to have been written out of the story of the power loom in later histories. For example, there is no mention of him in the extensive Wikipedia article on the subject:

As a boy, Kinloch was, reportedly, chased for eight miles by a press gang, and when captured was forced to serve on a British frigate.

Source: Hardwick’s History of Preston

* Tuson Street disappeared in the post-war slum clearances, but its name lives on in nearby Tuson Drive.

1840s map of Preston showing location of Tuson Street
Tuson Street on the 6in 1840s map of Preston. Map courtesy of the National Library of Scotland

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