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Who was Colonel Frank Seely?

frankFrank Evelyn Seely was born on 05th July 1864, the son of Sir Charles Seely. Durning his early adult years, he attended Cambridge University (Trinity College) where he obtained his BA. He quickly joined the family business at Babbington Colliery.

On 8th August 1899, he married Leila Elizma Russell and had 3 children (Leila Emily Seely – 24th August 1900, Frank James Wriothesley Seely – 28th August 1901 and William Evelyn Seely – 16th October 1902). After the death of Leila, on 2nd October 1907 he married Gertrude Fanny Thornton, who bore him two daughters (Sheila Katherine Seely – 25th September 1908 and Nina Mary A Seely – 23rd November 1911).

He obtained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the South Nottinghamshire Yeomanry and fought in WW1 in Egypt and Gallipoli.

He was widely known for all his philanthropic work in Nottinghamshire through Convalescent Homes and the Nottinghamshire Social Services. In 1922 he was made High Sherriff of Nottinghamshire (mentioned in the London Gazette 17th March 1922). He represented Calverton on the county council before he passed away at the age of 81 on 16th April 1928.

In 1957 the Colonel Frank Seely Academy was opened in memory of him.


Who was William Lee?

williamleeWilliam Lee (ca. 1563-1614) was an English inventor who devised the first stocking frame knitting machine in 1589, the only one in use for centuries.  Its principle of operation remains in use.

Lee was born in the village of Calverton, Nottinghamshire.  He entered Christ’s College, Cambridge in 1579 as a sizar and graduated from St. John’s College in 1582.

Lee was a curate at Calverton when he is said to have developed the machine because the woman whom he was courting showed more interest in knitting than in him (or alternatively that his wife was a very slow knitter).  His first machine produced a coarse wool, for stockings.  Refused a patent by Queen Elizabeth I, he built an improved machine that increased the number of needles per inch from 8 to 20 and produced silk of finer texture, but the Queen again denied him a patent because of her concern for the security of the kingdom’s many hand knitters.  He entered into a partnership agreement with one George Brooks on 6th June 1600, but the unfortunate Brooks was arrested on a charge of treason and executed.  Eventually, he moved to France with his brother James, taking 9 workmen and 9 frames.  He found better support from the Hugenot Henry IV of France, who granted him a patent.  Lee began stocking manufacture in Rouen, France, and prospered until, shortly before Henry’s assassination in 1610, he signed a contract with Pierre de Caux to provide knitting machines for the manufacture of silk and wool stockings.  But the climate changed abruptly on the king’s death and despite moving to Paris, his claims were ignored and he died in distress in 1614.

After Lee’s death, his brother James returned to England and disposed of most of the frames in London before moving to Thoroton, near Nottingham where Lee’s apprentice Aston (or Ashton), a miller, had continued to work on the frame and produced a number of improvements.  This led to the establishment of two knitting centeres, one in London and one in Nottingham.

Although the industry took nearly a century to develop in wool, silk and lace, the machinery that he developed remained the backbone for far longer and this is reflected in his appearance in Coat of Arms of Worshipful Company of Frame work knitters.

Colonel Frank Seely Academy