Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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John Levers

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or John Leavers

Inventor of the Levers (or Leavers) lace-making machine.

Levers was a hosiery frame-smith and setter-up when he moved from Sutton-in-Ashfield to Derby Road in Nottingham. There, starting in 1812, he embarked on the development and manufacture of lace-making machinery, improving on the machines of John Heathcote (John Heathcoat). He was helped by two brothers and a nephew. Financial help for building production machines came from the lace-making firm of John Stevenson and Skipwith. Levers did not patent his machines. In 1821 he emigrated to Rouen, where he set up his lace-making machines. He died in France.[1]. However, see below.

To confuse matters, three members of the family engaged in the machinery development were called John Levers (senior, junior, and nephew). JL sr. died at New Radford, and JL jr. died in Rouen[2]

For a comprehensive account of the development of the Levers machine, see 'A History of the Machine-Wrought Hosiery and Lace Manufactures'[3]. This emphasises the ingenuity and determination required in the development of machinery to do skilled textile work which had only previously been done by skilled hands. We also learn the names of some of those who assisted the Levers, including John Farmer, a Mr Dann, a Mr Young, Benjamin Thompson ('an extraordinarily clever workman in metals', who mastered the art of making metal bobbins 'perfectly flat, and capable of turning without friction or accident in the carriages'). Thompson's 'uncertain habits seem to have rendered further aid necessary. Mr Anthony Shepperley, then a watchmaker in Chapel Bar, and having workshops in Woodland Place, was employed by Stevenson & Co. to make a part of the bobbins, turn the verges, put in the springs, and finish the carriages.'. John Levers (the nephew) went on to become a partner in Fisher and Levers.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Biographical Dictionary of the History of Technology, edited by Lance Day, Ian McNeil, Routledge, 1996
  2. [1] List of inventions and inventors in the Report of the Commissioner appointed to inquire into the Condition of the Frame-work Knitters: THE SESSIONAL PAPERS OF THE HOUSE OF LORDS, IN THE SESSION 1845, Vol XXIII
  3. [2] 'A History of the Machine-Wrought Hosiery and Lace Manufactures' by William Felkin, Longmans, Green & Co., 1867