George Sorocold (c. 1668 - c.1738)


For biographies of George Sorocold go to:



Whilst the siting of the Old Silk Mill is attributed to the presence of the fast-flowing River Derwent, there was one other major factor in the choice of site:

George Sorocold was a brilliant millwright/water engineer of Derby and whilst the Old Silk Mill was the first example of factory-based

manufacturing, Sorocold, himself, has been described as the first-ever British civil engineer.

It was Sorocold who first with Thomas Cotchett*(work completed 1702) and then with the Lombe half-brothers, John and Thomas (later Sir Thomas Lombe) of Norfolk,

helped build the Old Silk Mill(completed 1721).

N.B. According to the Derwent Valley Mills website (click here), the Lombes may well have obtained knowledge of Sorocold and Derby "via their Uncle, John Hall,

Sheriff and later Mayor of Norwich, who in the 1690s was involved with George Sorocold who laid water pipes in Tombland, Norwich".

The 1702 Sorocold/Cotchett building became one of two doubling shops at opposite ends of the much larger Sorocold/Lombe

throwing mill for the remainder of the century (click here for image on Wikipedia). Yet it is only in recent times that the major

contributions of George Sorocold to the Industrial Revolution has been recognised. Part of the reason is a lack of documentation relating to Sorocold.

Nevertheless, the following appears in Wikipedia: "He was born in Lancashire in 1666, the son of James Sorocold and Elizabeth Barrow. He obtained a degree at

Cambridge and immediately started his first job in Derby. He married Mary, the daughter of Henry Franceys on 7 December 1684; by 1702 they had thirteen children,

of whom eight then survived".

Also from Wikipedia: "Sometime between 1685 and 1687 Sorocold was involved with the water supply to Macclesfield and in 1687, he took on the job of

rehanging the bells in All Saints Church, now Derby Cathedral.

In 1692, he constructed Derby's first waterworks, using a waterwheel to pump through some four miles of pipe made of elm trunks. For these he developed a boring

machine, which he later patented. This waterworks lasted nearly a hundred years, and he constructed others around the country, at Bridgnorth, Bristol, Deal,

King's Lynn, Leeds, Newcastle upon Tyne, Norwich, Portsmouth, Sheffield, and Great Yarmouth. In London he built Marchants Water Works, rebuilt London Bridge

Water Works and carried out improvements to the New River. Among his many innovations were pumps worked by water-wheels which rose and fell in accordance

with the level of the stream. A patent was granted to his colleague, John Hadley, in 1693. In 1695 and 1699, he produced plans for improving navigation of the

River Derwent, although they were not put into practice. He was also involved in improvements to the Rivers Lea, Aire and Cam".


* Possibly due to lack of investment, this enterprise failed in its original purpose which was to act as a throwing mill. However, the structure itself was

physically sound with the five-storey Sorocold/Lombe mill built next to it twenty years later, the original building then used as one of the mill's two

doubling shops (click here for image on Wikipedia).


Investigations into Origins of the Tunaley Name

The Feltmaker, the Throwster, the Innkeeper and the Merchant Tailor

The Early Tunaleys and A Timeline

Huguenot Connection to the Silk Mill

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