Key Figures – Peter Nightingale 1736 to 1803
The founder of Lea cotton spinning mill came from a local family who, during the 18th century, had moved up the social ladder from being peasant farmers to prosperous lead smelting merchants and land owners. Peter Nightingale developed his family’s lead and land interests and engaged in other industrial and commercial enterprises. He was among the promoters of the Cromford Canal Company and the Lea Bridge arm of the canal, which he built at his own expense and which linked his smelting and cotton mills to the canal network. By 1776 he had become Richard Arkwright’s financial partner and landlord at Cromford. His venture into cotton spinning in 1783 was not conspicuously successful and he would have sold his mill if he had found a buyer. Arkwright took legal action against him for entering into a partnership with Benjamin Pearson, one of Arkwright’s most trusted managers and for the unauthorised use of his machinery. Peter Nightingale never married but he too was linked to the Derwent Valley factory masters’ network by family ties. His sister Anne married George Evans, 1726- 1808, the brother of Thomas Evans, who was the banker and founder of the Darley Abbey enterprise. For more than a century after Peter Nightingale’s death his descendants continued to live in the area. Today the name Nightingale is remembered less for the achievements of Peter Nightingale the founder of the family’s fortune than for the reputation of his great niece, Florence, 1820-1910, the pioneer of hospital and nursing reform.