Arkwright water frame

Objectname: Arkwright water frame

Creator: patented by Richard Arkwright

Date: c. 1775

Description:  Four spindles are located at the front of an open wooden frame, the back of which supports four bobbins, each feeding a series of drafting rollers that feed the spindles.

Dimensions:  686 mm (l) x 610 mm (w) x 1270 mm (h)

Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester, UK

EMu user since 2000


august_small.gifThis four-spindle water frame dates from about 1775 and was last used at Richard Arkwright’s Masson Mills in Matlock Bath, Derbyshire. Richard Arkwright (1732-1792) developed this type of spinning frame in 1768 and patented it in 1769. Born in Preston, Arkwright spent his early adult life as a barber and a wig maker. After the invention of the Spinning Jenny in about 1764, Arkwright spotted a new business opportunity. He engaged a Warrington clockmaker, John Kay, to help him build a spinning machine that could be driven by water power. The Arkwright spinning frame could spin yarn quickly and continuously. The series of rollers that drew out the yarn created a thin, strong yarn suitable for the warp thread of cloth. The water frame revolutionised the cotton industry.

Arkwright opened his first water-powered mill at Cromford, Derbyshire, in 1771. His mill in Shude Hill, Manchester, opened in 1781 and in 1783 became the first mill in Lancashire to use steam power, although indirectly. It used an atmospheric steam engine to pump water to the millrace of a waterwheel. Arkwright is regarded as the ‘father of the factory system.

Knighted in 1786, he died a rich man, with factories in Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Lancashire and Scotland and an estate worth about £500,000.