Walton, James (DNB00)

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WALTON, JAMES (1802–1883), manufacturer and inventor, son of Isaac Walton, merchant, was born at Stubbin in Sowerby, Yorkshire, in 1802. At an early age he was engaged in business at Sowerby Bridge, near Halifax, as a ‘cloth friezer,’ and invented a new method of friezing the Petersham cloth, then much in use. He also established machine works, and made the largest planing machine then known. Subsequently he came to Manchester, and, with George Parr and Matthew Curtis, carried on the business of patent card making, originally established by Joseph Chesseborough Dyer. About 1846 he erected a large building in Chapel Street, Ancoats, where his ingenious contrivances formed one of the sights of the cotton industry. In 1853 he commenced his card manufacturing works at Haughton Dale, Lancashire, the largest establishment of the kind in the world. Most of the improvements in Dyer's card-setting machine were made by Walton, and he perfected it about 1836. His first great invention was the indiarubber card, which he developed into the natural indiarubber card, now almost universally adopted by cotton-spinners. He patented it on 27 March 1834 (No. 6584). The card-making machine was not only useful in saving labour, but brought into use other materials for groundwork to substitute leather, and has had the effect of considerably reducing the price of cards. One of the best of these substitutes was Walton's patent material (12 May 1840, No. 8507), which was cloth and indiarubber combined, the latter being on the surface.

Among other numerous inventions by Walton and his sons (who had joined him in business) were ‘the endless sheet machine,’ by which sheets and tops or flats, strippers, &c., were set in continuous quantities, effecting a saving in labour and material; the machines for cutting and facing the tappets and double twill wheels by which the speed of the fillet machines was increased threefold; the first practical wire ‘stop motion’ for machines; a new system of drawing wire; and the patent rolled angular wire. To these inventions may be attributed the great reduction in the price of cards, the cotton-spinner obtaining them at one-fourth of the price originally charged.

He took great interest in the social and moral condition of the people near him. At Haughton Dale he erected an educational institute for the children employed in his works. In 1876, with his son, William Walton, he founded and endowed at a cost of 4,000l. the church of St. Mary the Virgin at Haughton. Later on he was a munificent contributor to the ancient church adjoining his estate at Kerry in Montgomeryshire.

For some years he resided at Compstall in Derbyshire, then at Cwmllecoediog Cemmaes, subsequently, in 1870, removing to Dolforgan, near Bettws in Montgomeryshire (an estate of 4,250 acres which he had purchased for 5,000l.), for which county he served as sheriff in 1877. He died at Dolforgan Hall on 5 Nov. 1883.

[Manchester Guardian, 8 Nov. 1883; Times, 8 Nov. 1883.]

G. C. B.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.275
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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