Do you know the Cockerill saga? (episode one)
Whenever the name Cockerill is mentioned, it is naturally the first name ‘John’ which comes to mind. However, there was a whole family around him, a family which enables this industrial empire which became the Cockerill company, to emerge.
The story starts with William Cockerill, an English mechanic from the Lancashire region. At the time, this title of mechanic designated anyone who made measuring instruments or machines. He was specialized in textile machines, which mechanized the cotton industry and constituted the first step towards the Industrial Revolution. With his wife Betty, he had three sons – William, James and John – and a daughter – Nancy. In order to escape from the famine which was afflicting the British Isles, he decided to confront the law on the English monopoly which punished with permanent exile, anyone who sold the secrets of textile machines abroad.
He therefore sets out on a four year expedition which saw him cross Russia and Sweden, and finish in Hamburg. Despite the interest which these machines aroused, he does not manage to set up sustainably.
It was then that he met Mr. Mali, a sales agent for the Simonis & Biolley company, a well-known drapier in Verviers (Belgium). This gentleman, convinced by the interest of Cockerill mechanisms, which will lead to a saving in time and labour, persuades William to set up on the banks of the Vesdre. Well aware of the goldmine which this new technology represented, the Simonis & Biolley company ensures that it obtains exclusivity on the services of William Cockerill. It is thus that, accompanied by his two eldest sons, William and James, he moves into the Dauchap house, where he sets up his workshop. As success came quickly, he brings the rest of his family over in 1802. To get to know the ropes John, then only 12 years old, comes into his father’s workshop as a simple worker. The reputation of the Cockerill range of machines spreads beyond the limits of the Liège region, into France and Germany. There is a great deal of demand. It therefore becomes a matter of urgency to be released from the monopoly agreement concluded with the Simonis & Biolley company. This is when the sons and sons-in-law of William enter the scene…
To be continued.