About this image
Richard Arkwright, a pioneer of the factory system, was born in 1732 in Preston, son of a barber. As a young man Arkwright worked as a barber and wig maker, and travelled around the country selling his wigs. His travels brought him into contact with people working in the cotton trade and having had some education and being ambitious, he realised that there was a fortune to be made from designing an efficient spinning machine.
In 1768, Arkwright and a clockmaker from Warrington, called John Kay, looked at ways of producing a working model and perfected a roller spinning machine which came to be known as the spinning frame and later the water frame. Before mechanisation, spinning had always been done in houses and small workshops, where a spinning wheel was worked by hand or foot. This was a slow process and not enough yarn could be produced to keep pace with the knitters and weavers who turned the yarn into cloth and garments.
James Hargreave's spinning Jenny was invented about 1764 and it has speeded up the production of yarn but it was difficult to operate and required skilled labour. The advantage of Arkwright's machine was that it could be operated by young people with very little learning (the sad graves of his child labourers can be seen at Papplewick, where he operated very small, water driven mills). Thus with the development of the water frame, factory production became possible.
Requiring finance to patent the machine, Arkwright found 2 partners in John Smalley and David Thornley. A patent was obtained in 1769 and with 2 more partners, Jedediah Strutt and Samuel Need, they set up a horse powered mill at the bottom of Woolpack Lane in Nottingham. Horse power, however, proved expensive as well as unfeasible for large scale production. Arkwright was resolved to use water power and in 1771 began to build a water powered mill at Cromford in Derbyshire, and it is his Cromford Mill rather than his Nottingham Mill which is generally accepted today as the first 'factory'.
Arkwright lived at Rock House, Cromford and purchased the estate to build Willersby Castle from Florence Nightingale's father. Unfortunately, the house was destroyed by fire and he died before the rebuild wasfinished.
This image is one of a collection by the famous local antiquarian, Thomas Bateman, of Middleton by Youlgreave. (1821-1861). Bateman organized his collection by inserting them into a 4 volume copy of Lysons Magna Britannia, Derbyshire, creating a fascinating and unique illustrated record of the county. The purchase of the collection for Derbyshire Libraries was made possible by the generous bequest of Miss Frances Webb of Whaley Bridge, well known local historian, who died in December 2006.