Arkwright's Water Frame spinning machine

Contributed by Helmshore Mill Textile Museum

Richard Arkwright's famous spinning machine which he patented in 1769.  Later it came to be called a Water Frame. © LCMS

Arkwright made a fortune of about £30m in today's money by building & licensing mills to spin cotton with these machinesRichard Arkwright was a barber & wig maker in Bolton around 1750 where he learnt that he could make a lot of money if he could invent a machine to spin cotton fibre into yarn, or thread, quickly and easily. He teamed up with a clockmaker called John Kay and by the late 1760's they had a workable machine that could spin four strands of cotton yarn at the same time. Arkwright paid for a patent in 1769 to stop others copying his invention.
This spinning machine spins 96 strands of yarn at once. It was one of many similar machines installed in mills in Derbyshire and Lancashire and powered by waterwheels, so they were called Water Frames. Now it is the only complete machine of its kind in the world. His machines did not need skilled operators so Arkwright paid unskilled women and others to work on them. His spinning mills were the earliest examples of factories where hundreds of workers had to keep pace with the speed of the machines.

Comments are closed for this object

Most of the content on A History of the World is created by the contributors, who are the museums and members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC or the British Museum. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site’s House Rules please Flag This Object.

About this object

Click a button to explore other objects in the timeline


Patented 1769. This machine made c1778


View more objects from people in Lancashire.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.