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British Industrial History

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Francis Crossley

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Sir Francis Crossley (1817–1872), carpet manufacturer and philanthropist

1817 born at Halifax, one of the eight children of John Crossley (c.1772–1837), a carpet manufacturer at the Dean Clough Mills, Halifax, and his wife, Martha Crossley (1775–1854).

On the death of their father, Francis Crossley with his brothers, John (1812–1879) and Joseph, established the firm of J. Crossley and Sons

1845 married Martha Eliza Brinton of Kidderminster.

The firm's rapid growth followed the installation of steam power and machinery. Steam power had already been used extensively in the manufacture of other textile fabrics, and the Crossleys identified its value to their own business. They acquired patents, and then devised and patented improvements which placed them at once far in advance of the whole trade, and gave them the monopoly of a brand of carpet which was subsequently for many years manufactured in greater quantity than any other.

Francis was probably the most enterprising and innovative, taking the initiative in the development of steam-powered tapestry carpet production, but it is hard to distinguish between the roles played by the 3 brothers.

One type of loom, for which they owned the patent, had six times the output of the old hand loom. The possession of this loom and the acquisition of other patents compelled the manufacturers of tapestry and Brussels carpets to abandon their hand looms, and to apply to Crossley for licences to work the firm's patents. Very large sums thus accrued to them from royalties alone.

1852 Francis Crossley was elected as Liberal MP for Halifax; he sat for the borough until 1859, when he became the member for the West Riding of Yorkshire.

1864 the concern was changed into a limited liability company and, with a view to increasing the interest taken by the employees in the working of the business, a portion of the shares in the new company were offered to them on favourable terms, and were widely accepted.

He made many philanthropic gifts to Halifax including almshouses, a municipal park, and an orphanage and school

He was mayor of Halifax in 1849 and 1850, and was created a baronet on 23 January 1863.

1872 Died at home, Belle Vue, Halifax, on 5 January.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Biography of Sir Francis Crossley, ODNB