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Richard Garrett I – III

Richard Garrett I (1755-1839)

The Garrett family was well established in East Suffolk and had a long history of tool and machine making when the young Richard Garrett I (1755 –1839) came to Leiston from the family business in Woodbridge in 1778 and joined William Cracey at his forge in the High Street (now Main St.). In October the same year he married Elizabeth Newson, the daughter of a prosperous Leiston businessman. Following the death of Cracey in 1782 he was able to acquire the business which was on the site of what is now the entrance to the Long Shop Museum and to found what was to become Richard Garrett & Sons, ‘a general iron works and agricultural implement manufactory’. A report in the New Suffolk Garland in 1866 describes the business as then consisting of a wheel, worked by a single horse to drive a grindstone and employing at most from eight to ten men.

Richard Garrett II (1779-1837)

RichardGarrett_II Richard I continued in the trade of his father and grandfather making sickles and edge tools until 1805 when he retired to become a farmer leaving the business to his eldest son Richard II (1779-1837) at the early age of 26. Some time after 1806 the firm began manufacturing threshing machines patented by a man called John Ball, who appointed Richard as his agent and later “joined “ himself to the firm. The success of the threshing machine exceeded all expectations and with the development of the corn drill, the manufacture of which began in 1820, progress was rapid and the firm began to prosper. Richard II married Sarah Balls, a well educated lady from Chediston, and they had four children, the eldest Richard III (1807-1866) who inherited the Works and the youngest, Newson Garrett (1812-1893), a malster who built up Snape Maltings and was the father of two famous daughters, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Millicent Garrett Fawcett.

Richard Garrett III (1807-1866)

Richard Garrett III Richard III is said to have made Leiston Works “hum”. He was strong, far sighted and ambitious and was given great responsibility at an early age. In 1826 when only 19 he took over all the financial affairs of the company and ten years later succeeded his father in taking control. Being in the right place at the right time, he took the opportunities offered by the agricultural and industrial revolutions, increasing the business twenty-fold and diversifying its products from all kinds of agricultural implements to steam engines which provided versatile power sources and for which the firm became famous. He was an early member of the Royal Agricultural Society of England and a guarantor and exhibitor at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Here he met Samuel Colt, the first industrialist successfully to employ the assembly line process. On his return to Leiston he set about building the Long Shop, a dedicated building known by the workmen as “the Cathedral”, to house the world’s first flow line assembly for portable steam engines. Richard was a fair employer and looked after the interests of the work force, setting up a Mutual Benefit Society and building a Works Institute. He supported local schools and was one of the founders and chief fundraiser of Framlingham College, the architect of which was his son in law, Frederick Peck. With his brother Newson he held the licence for the shipping at Slaughden and between them they persuaded the authorities that the East Suffolk Railway should be continued as far as Leiston and Aldeburgh with a goods line to Snape. Richard’s interests were not confined to business however and he played his full part in county affairs, being a Justice of the Peace, one of the first Alderman of the newly constituted County of Suffolk and Deputy Lieutenant of the County. In 1855 the directorship of the railway, his involvement with the RASE and his brewing interest as owner of the Camden Brewery required that he should spend more time in London and he moved there from Leiston, leaving the Works in the control of his two elder sons, Richard IV and John. After a serious falling out between John and his father and brother , John withdrew from the business in 1860 and went to Magdeburg, setting up a similar business there. Richard returned to Suffolk setting up home at Carlton Hall near Saxmundham . He gradually withdrew from the Works, and devoted himself to his other interests, dying at the comparatively early age of 59 in 1866. In 1828, Richard married Elizabeth Dunnell, whose family came from Dunwich, although at the time of the marriage she was living in London, where her father was landlord of the Beehive Inn in Marylebone. Her younger sister, Louisa, married Richard’s brother, Newson, in 1834. Richard and Elizabeth had ten surviving children, six girls and four boys. Following the death of Richard in 1866, Leiston Works continued to flourish in the hands of Richard IV, their eldest son, until his death in 1884, when Frank (1845-1918), the youngest, succeeded his brother and led the company into the twentieth century. © The Long Shop Museum 2014