John Lofting (1659 – June 15, 1742), originally Jan Loftingh, was a highly inventive engineer and entrepreneur from the Netherlands who set up his businesses in Islington after moving to London, sometime before 1686. He was probably the first person in England to advocate the use of a wired suction hose. Called a leather worm, which he described in the patent as “an engine for quenching fire, the like never seen before in this kingdom,” it could carry water over long distances and throw it as high as 400 feet. The engines were used at several royal palaces, and were even praised by Sir Christopher Wren. Until the Great Fire of London of 1666, fire-fighting had been an ill-thought out and haphazard affair – but the cost of the damage done to the City had concentrated minds, accelerating technological innovations. He became a citizen of London in 1699. His other major invention was a horse-powered thimble knurling machine, which he ran from a mill in Islington. However, in or about 1700, he moved his main operation to Great Marlow in Buckinghamshire to take advantage of the River Thames’ ability to turn a water wheel which improved productivity, enabling the production of over 2 million thimbles per year. This street has undergone various incarnations both in name and length. From 1819 to 1897 it was plain John Street and Upper John Street. The Barnsbury Central section was not completed until the 1860s and from January 1, 1974 the stretch running between between Hemingford Road and Caledonian Road was renamed Bridgeman Road.
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