|The business was initially established due to the abilties and dedicated hard work of Jedidiah Strutt (1726-1797), who was responsible for obtaining patents for the Derby Rib Attachment which improved cotton spinning machines and for helping to develop factories which took advantage of the opportunities for mass production.
The son of William Strutt, a farmer and maltster of South Normanton, Jedediah had been apprenticed to a wheelwright in Findern, but on the death of an uncle in 1754, he took over a farm in Blackwell. In 1755 he married Elizabeth Woollat, whose brother William Woollat was in the hosiery trade. Jedediah, with his brother-in-law William, developed an idea to improve William Lee's framework knitting machine by adding what became known as the Derby Rib Attachment, for which Jedidiah obtained patents in 1758. Jedediah went into partnership with his brother-in-law William Woollat from 1762 to 1794, and they established a very successful hosiery business in Derby based on the silk mill built there, by which means Strutt amassed a considerable fortune. When they ran short of capital they sought the financial backing of Samuel Need, a wealthy Nottingham hosiery manufacturer, and they formed a partnership with Richard Arkwright, who established a cotton spinning mill at Cromford in the 1770s, which partnership lasted until Samuel Need's death in 178 .
Jedidiah Strutt had began his own spinning operations in Belper, building the first South Mill there in 1775, which was working by 1778. The site for the Milford mills was purchased about 1780, and further mills were built there, including a bleaching mill. More mills were built in Belper over the nest 30 years; the North Mill, begun in 1784 and working by 1786, which was destroyed by fire on 12 January 1803 but was soon rebuilt and operating again by the end of 1804: the West Mill, begun in 1792 and working by 1796: the Reeling Mill, built in 1807 and operating by 1808: and the Round Mill, built between 1803-1813 and working by 1816.
Jedediah's family were heavily involved in the running of the busines, with his sons and daughter Elizabeth taking on different areas of managerial responsibility. After the death of Jedidiah in 1797, his brother William Strutt (1730-1800) became the figure head of the company, which was styled William Strutt and Co until William's detah in 1800. Jedediah's three sons William, George and Joseph, took on the management of the business, with company being styled W G & J Strutt from 1801 onwards. The three brothers were William Strutt (1756-1830), responsible for mill design, making various attempts to fireproof the Derby Mills and then designing the rebuilding of the iron framed "fireproof" Belper North Mill: George Benson Strutt (1761-1841), who managed the Belper and Milford mills and estates: and Joseph Strutt (1765-1844), who developed the commercial side of the business, as well a great benefactor of Derby, donating and helping to design the world's first Arboretum in Derby.
Succeeding generations of the Strutt took on the management of the company. George's son, Jedediah Strutt (1784-1854) took over from him in running the Belper and Milford factories, while two more of his sons, Anthony Radford Strutt (1791-1875) and John Strutt (1793-1858), were heavily involved in the business. Jedediah II's son, George Henry Strutt (1826-1895) was made a partner of the company in September 1848, which he remained until 1881, when he retired. In 1892, however, he bought out the interests of the sons of Edward Strutt (1801-1880). who had taken no active role himself in the running of the business, pursuing a successful political career, which resulted in him being elevated to the peerage as Lord Belper of Belper. With the buying out of the two sons, Henry Strutt, 2nd Lord Belper, and Frederick Smith, control of the company passed in effect to George Henry's son, George Herbert Strutt (1854-1928). George Herbert had not been encouraged to take any interest in the family business, and so had found himself suddenly catapolted into it. In a time of depression for the cotton industry, he was able to keep the mills going with the help of managers John Hunter and James Grant, albeit making no profit.
Eventually in 1897 fourteen firms, whose individual owners did not actually sell their properties or interests until later, combined to form the English Sewing Cotton Company, this event was reported in the September 18th issue of The Drapers' Record as "most important event the consolidation into a powerful and wealthy corporation of many of the principal old-established and well-know English thread makers" The original 14 firms were:
John Dewhurst & Sons Ltd, of Skipton and Airton, Yorkshire
Ermen & Roby Ltd, of Pendelbury and Patricroft, Lancashire
S. Manlove & Sons, of Chesterfield and Belper
W. G & J Strutt, of Belper and Milford
Sir Richard Arkwright & Company, of Cromford, Matlock Bath and Mellor
C A Rickards, of Bell Busk and Skipton, Yorkshire
Bagley & Wright, of Oldham, Lancashire
Edmund Ashworth & Sons Ltd, of Bolton, Lancashire
Crawford Brothers, of Beith, Scotland
J & E Waters & Co, of Hulme in Manchester and Carlisle
William Waller & Co, of Manchester
Marsland, Son & Co, of Manchester
John Thomas Raworth, of Leicester
George Wigley & Co, of the Old Silk Mill, Derby