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Gideon Murch

Gideon and the Flying Shuttle

Gideon Murch was christened 10 May 1721 in Ottery St Mary. His parents were Robert Murch and Elizabeth Bastone, and Gideon was their fourth child (and second son). His baptism took place in the local Church of England church, as his family were Protestant Dissenters.

He became a weaver when he grew up, so it is assumed he was also apprenticed as such as a young boy. Apprenticeships usually lasted seven years, during which the apprentice was not allowed to marry, and (depending on his master) his behaviour would have been strictly proscribed.

Gideon was aged about 12 when the first key invention made itself known in weaving. John Kay's 'flying shuttle' impacted the lives of both Gideon and his father Robert. At first, the new shuttle must have been awe-inspiring, allowing weavers to move faster and complete wider cloths. The way Gideon had learned to weave was with a bobbin holding yarn which was pushed from side to side by hand across a series of taut
strings of yarn which made up the warp of the cloth. This technique sometimes even needed two weavers, one on each side, to catch the bobbin with the weft yarn, if the piece of weaving was so wide that one person could not stretch across it. John Kay’s ‘flying shuttle’ changed all that. Only one weaver was needed, because all he had to do was move a lever, and the bobbin would throw itself across the warp.

The 'flying shuttle' was connected by cords, so it did not need a second person standing opposite; a single weaver could manoeuvre the shuttle. The cords were attached to something called a ‘picking peg’, which itself was attached to shuttle boxes on both sides of the piece of fabric being woven. These boxes were attached to each other by a long board, known as a ‘shuttle race’. If a weaver became skilled at using the ‘flying shuttle’, he could even weave the cloth using only one hand.  


Flying Shuttle marked at ' I '

Linked toMURCH, Gideon

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