Cottonopolis


 
 
 
As my thirst for knowledge continues about the British Manufacturing industry and what exists today, I took a trip to one of the oldest Cotton Mills in the UK; Sir Richard Arkwright’s Masson Mill in Matlock Derbyshire. I fell in love with the car park as soon as we arrived. 
After I’d got over the car park we visited the working textile museum, where you could clock in with your ticket. It’s open from 10am until 4pm, but there are two showings of the weaving and spinning machines working with demonstrations from experts linked to the trade. The last apprentice still works there, supporting the running of the museum.
Cotton was imported from America, India and even Egypt. Spun into yarn, and weaved into different fabrics. The image attached to this blog post is an old pattern maker, invented before computers where the holes were punched in different places to make a dogtooth, check or paisley pattern in the fabric. Amazing piece of Machinery, and great to see how manual life and skills used to be before computers.
Richard Arkwright was the son of a tailor, and a pioneer in factory industry with his inventions sparking the Industrial Revolution. In 1761 he was a merchant in the wigs industry, traveling the country buying, dying and spinning human hair into wigs. When wig fashions declined, he looked into mechanical inventions in the field of textiles to make his fortunes. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/arkwright_richard.shtml
Arkwright’s fortunes continued to rise and he constructed a horse-driven spinning mill at Preston – the first of many. He developed mills in which the whole process of yarn manufacture was carried on by one machine and this was further complemented by a system in which labour was divided, greatly improving efficiency and increasing profits. Arkwright was also the first to use James Watts’ steam engine to power textile machinery, though he only used it to pump water to the millrace of a waterwheel. From the combined use of the steam engine and the machinery, the power loom was eventually developed.
From 1775, a series of court cases challenged Arkwright’s patents as copies of others work, and they were revoked in 1785. Nonetheless, Arkwright was knighted in 1786 and by the time of his death on 3 August 1792, Arkwright had established factories in Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Lancashire and Scotland, and was a wealthy man.
Well worth a visit, I was certainly inspired!

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