Cromford - an early case of industrial espionage

The most characteristic example of European intervention is undoubtedly the case of Brügelmann. In 1783, the wealthy Elberfeld merchant and textile magnate founded the first factory in continental Europe with a textile factory in Rhenish Ratingen.

The ingenious mechanics, however, which set a huge wooden paddle wheel on powerful gears and heavy transmission beams in motion, had not invented it, but the Englishman Richard Arkwright. He had built the first industrial cotton mill in the world 12 years earlier in the Middle English village of Cromford.

Brügelmann succeeded in secretly recreating Arkwright's revolutionary spinning machine, but instead of covering up this early case of industrial espionage, he paid tribute to the business acumen and ingenuity of the English entrepreneurial colleague and pointedly called his Ratingen factory Cromford. This story, which in retrospect reads like a thriller, connects the two places to this day.