The Strutt family are central both to Belper's history and prosperity. Much is already known and available online about the family and I do not intent to "reinvent the wheel". But I will post my own research into the family plus some general information that is less easy to locate.
Early History & Background
The Hearth Tax records show that a few Strutt families were in existence at that time. They were in the area known to be the home of William Strutt, the father of the famous Jedediah.
From early records it appears that Jedediah's father was a farmer and malster. This means he produced grain for malting (turning into ale) and therefore would have contacts with local victuallers and fellow-malsters.
The Strutts (before the family became famous in Belper) lived in an area of Derbyshire shown on the map below. Places associated with the Strutts are South Normanton, Blackwell, Shirland, Newton By Blackwell, and Nth and Sth Wingfield. As you can see from the map, these are located close to one another.
The Blackwell by Alfreton parish registers, thankfully, go back to the 16th century, and other nearby villages have contributed their births, marriages and deaths so that it is not impossible to work out some of the family connections. However, nothing can be proven beyond a shadow of doubt.
GO BACK to the summary of available pages about the Strutts, Arkwrights, and the Mills
Here is a map from 1791 that shows the area in the Strutt's time - notice that Blackwell is shown as a small village, along with Newton (in-Blackwell), and Carnfield Hall is marked prominently as the Seat of Tristram Revell, Esq, as are some other houses of the local Gentry.
William Strutt, father of Jedediah, was born around 1698-1700. Who might his father be?
The Strutts are living in Blackwell at this time: in 1670, a John Strutt and Richard Strutt are listed in the Hearth Tax records for Derbyshire, with one hearth each. Earlier we find an Anthony Strutt in Blackwell as a Farmer/Victualler in 1577 and a Thomas Strutt who died in 1790 leaving a will, thus having been born around 1710-1740, contemporary with Jedidiah.
In the same year, in Shirland/Higham a James Strutt is listed (two hearths).
In Bonsall a Widow Strutt is listed. She paid for three hearths, so is from the middle-classes. In that area also we find a Henry Strutt (Wirksworth). We read of the father of Henry Strutt (possibly Samuel) who was buried in Wirksworth church in May 1662; and in the same year "Henry Strutt ye Carpenter" with "two sons" is paid for his work by the Wirksworth Churchwardens Accounts.
Around the same time as the marriage of William to Martha Statham (1723) we find a William Strutt marrying Hannah Holbrook in Matlock in 1738.
The Strutts are clearly represented in other areas of Derbyshire at that time, and not just the Alfreton area.
There is also a John Strutt in Belper or the Belper area, for his name appears in documents of the 18th century. For instance, he turns up on a jury in 1784. A John Strutt, possibly the same man, was paid rent money by The Strutts for his frames for framework knitting in 1780-81. See "The Strutts & The Arkwrights" by Fitton and Wadsworth. Page 56.
John Strutt (the same man??) is mentioned in connection with the marriage of Dorothy SMEDLEY of Duffield and Nathaniel HILL, of Wirksworth in September 1789. This marriage was recorded in the Parish Register of Wirksworth and Middleton-by-Wirksworth. John STRUTT and George SALT (Parish Clerk at Wirksworth) were witnesses. The Smedleys were hosiers and woolcombers and this strengthens my belief that John Strutt is the man who married into the WARD family (Hosiers of Belper), and was intimately involved in the trade; but I will take up that line of research on the Ward pages.
William Strutt's Marriage
However, I am most interested in William Strutt's marriage to Martha STATHAM of Shottle (or, Hazelwood.) It is a matter of conjecture how William Strutt, a farmer of Newton-in-Blackwell came to meet Martha Statham of Shottle.
Certainly, there could have been a connection through their faith, for the Stathams had been, of old, Dissenters of one kind or another - Roman Catholics when they were out of favour, and later on Protestant Dissenters. By the time the Strutts and Stathams intermarried, they held to the faith of Presbytarianism, (later some branches adopted a more liberal approach - they were called Unitarians).
If the data I have been given by others turns out to be correct, then Martha's father was a local dissenting preacher. (I have listed the Dissenting Preachers and their activities in the Belper area on this site, including two Stathams in the early years of the 18th century.)
We know that such preachers travelled the local area holding meetings and that people sometimes travelled many miles to hear a man speak. Can we assume that Martha went with her father on some occasions to help him and to take part in the worship at the meetings? If this is true, then it is perfectly feasible that William Strutt met Martha at one of these meetings either near her home village, or his.
But there is no hard evidence of William Strutt being a devout Presbytarian. Why did William Strutt visit Shottle? He may have known family members in the area (especially given the presence of a John Strutt living nearby.) He may have met with families connected to his profession. We do not really know and I doubt we ever will.