Henson, Gravener (DNB00)

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HENSON, GRAVENER (1785–1852), commercial historian, was born in 1785 in humble circumstances at Nottingham. His education was scanty, but hard study and a retentive memory enabled him to acquire much valuable information, including an accurate knowledge of the commercial law of England and France. While still young he was engaged in the hosiery trade, and became familiar with the inventors then busy in improving the stocking-frame. He began a ‘Civil, Political, and Mechanical History of the Framework-Knitting and Lace Trades,’ of which the first volume appeared in 1831. It stopped from want of support. Felkin says that he had ‘a practical knowledge of most kinds of looms, and describes them correctly, though in a technical manner.’ In 1828 he had published a list of a hundred inventions and alterations in the stocking and lace machines, and he left behind him at his death the manuscripts of ‘Notes of Inventions and Improvements of Lace Machines down to the year 1850.’ He wrote voluminously upon local trade, the claims of workmen, combination laws, and other kindred subjects. He wandered about the coast of England, Scotland, and of northern France, discovering and exposing the tricks of the smugglers. He gave valuable parliamentary evidence on his own subjects, but was more than once imprisoned for complicity in the Luddite riots. He died in poverty at Nottingham in 1852.

[Felkin's History of Machine-Wrought Hosiery and Lace; Wylie's Old and New Nottingham; contemporary local papers.]

W. E. D.