Born 1815 Died 1906
Samuel Cunliffe-Lister, born at Calverley Hall, near Bradford, on the 1st of January 1815, was the fourth son of Ellis Cunliffe (1774-1853), who successively took the names of Lister and Lister-Kay, and was the first member of parliament elected for Bradford after the Reform Act of 1832.
It was at first proposed that he should take orders, but he preferred a business career and became a clerk at Liverpool. In 1838 he and his elder brother John started as worsted spinners and manufacturers in a new mill which their father built for them at Manningham, and about five years later he turned his attention to the problem of mechanical wool-combing, which, in spite of the efforts of E. Cartwright and numerous other inventors, still awaited a satisfactory solution. Two years of hard work spent in modifying and improving existing devices enabled him to produce a machine which worked well, and subsequently he consolidated his position by buying up rival patents, as well as by taking out additional ones of his own. His combing machines came into such demand that though they were made for only £200 apiece he was able to sell them for £1,200, and the saving they effected in the cost of production not only brought about a reduction in the price of clothing, but in consequence of the increase in the sales created the necessity for new supplies of wool, and thus contributed to the development of Australian sheep-farming. In 1855 he was sent a sample of silk waste (the refuse left in reeling silk from the cocoons) and asked whether he could find a way of utilizing the fibre it contained. The task occupied his time for many years and brought him to the verge of bankruptcy, but at last he succeeded in perfecting silk-combing appliances which enabled him to make yarn that in one year sold for 23s. a pound, though produced from raw material costing only 6d. or 1s. a pound. Another important and lucrative invention in connexion with silk manufacture was his velvet loom for piled fabrics; and this, with the silk comb worked at his Manningham mill, yielded him an annual income of £200,000 for many years. But the business was seriously affected by the prohibitory duties imposed by America, and this was one reason why he was an early and determined critic of the British policy of free imports.
In 1891 he was made a peer; he took his title from the little Yorkshire town of Masham, close to which is Swinton Park, purchased by him in 1888. In 1886 an Albert medal was awarded him for his inventions, which were mostly related to the textile industries, though he occasionally diverged to other subjects, such as an air-brake for railways. He was fond of outdoor sports, especially coursing and shooting, and was a keen patron of the fine arts. He died at Swinton Park on the 2nd of February 1906, and was succeeded in the title by his son.
Being the entry for MASHAM, 1ST BARON, SAMUEL CUNLIFFE-LISTER in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.