John Ferrabee established the Phoenix Iron Works foundry at Thrupp Mill in 1828. The foundry produced cloth-making and farm machinery, steam engines, the world's first lawnmower and the adjustable spanner. By 1855, his son James was running the business.
Among James Ferrabee's important inventions were his card feed of 1858 and fulling machine. His machinery won medals at the international exhibitions in London in 1862 and in Paris in 1867.
In 1863, James Ferrabee's set up a clothier business at Port Mill. Phoenix Iron Works was taken over by George Waller & Company.