Richard Arkwright and the Factory System (Classroom Activity)

Richard Arkwright and the Factory System (Classroom Activity)

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Richard Arkwright, the sixth of the seven children of Thomas Arkwright (1691–1753), a tailor, and his wife, Ellen Hodgkinson (1693–1778), was born in Preston on 23rd December, 1732. Richard's parents were very poor and could not afford to send him to school and instead arranged for him to be taught to read and write by his cousin Ellen.

Richard became a barber's apprentice at Kirkham before moving to Bolton. He worked for Edward Pollit and in 1754 he started his own business as a wig-maker. Arkwright's work involved him travelling the country collecting people's discarded hair. In September 1767 Arkwright met John Kay, a clockmaker, from Warrington, who had been busy for some time trying to produce a new spinning-machine with another man, Thomas Highs of Leigh. Kay and Highs had run out of money and had been forced to abandon the project. Arkwright was impressed by Kay and offered to employ him to make this new machine.

Arkwright also recruited other local craftsman, including Peter Atherton, to help Kay in his experiments. According to one source: "They rented a room in a secluded teacher's house behind some gooseberry bushes, but they were so secretive that the neighbours were suspicious and accused them of sorcery, and two old women complained that the humming noises they heard at night must be the devil tuning his bagpipes."

In 1768 the team produced the Spinning-Frame and a patent for the new machine was granted in 1769. The machine involved three sets of paired rollers that turned at different speeds. While these rollers produced yarn of the correct thickness, a set of spindles twisted the fibres firmly together. The machine was able to produce a thread that was far stronger than that made by the Spinning-Jenny produced by James Hargreaves.

Arkwright's machine was too large to be operated by hand and so he had to find another method of working the machine. After experimenting with horses, it was decided to employ the power of the water-wheel. In 1771 Arkwright set up a large factory next to the River Derwent in Cromford, Derbyshire. Arkwright later that his lawyer that Cromford had been chosen because it offered "a remarkable fine stream of water… in a an area very full of inhabitants". Arkwright's machine now became known as the Water-Frame. It not only "spun cotton more rapidly but produced a yarn of finer quality".

Mr. Arkwright asserts that he invented the Water-Frame in 1768... Mr. Arkwright was not the inventor... His "great mechanical abilities" consisted solely in having cunning enough to pump a secret out of a silly, talkative clockmaker, and having sense enough to know when he saw a good invention.

John Kay: Mr. Arkwright asked whether I could make him a small model (spinning by rollers). Yes, says I.

James Adair: Before you go farther, who did you get the method of making these models from?

John Kay: From Mr. Highs, the last witness.

James Adair: Did you tell Mr. Arkwright so?

John Kay: I told him, I and another man had tried that method at Warrington.

In 1769 Richard Arkwright, a wig-maker from Preston, invented the water-frame.

The mob completely destroyed property valued at £10,000 in Chorley... their plan was to take Bolton, Manchester and Stockport on their way to Cromford, and to destroy all the water-frames in England.

On the 16th December 1775 Mr. Arkwright took out a patent for a series of machines used in preparing silk, cotton, flax, and wool for spinning.., by their means yarns were produced that were far superior in quality to any spun before in England, as well as lower in price... The water-frame, the carding engine, and the other machines which Arkwright brought out in a finished state, required both more space than could be found in a cottage, and more power than could be applied by the human arm. Their weight also rendered it necessary to place them in strongly-built mills, and they could not be turned by any power then known but that of water.... The fame of Arkwright resounded through the land; and capitalists flocked to him, to buy his patent machines... The factory system in England takes its rise from this period.

What took him (Richard Arkwright) to the savage outback of Derbyshire? The roads were so bad that it was probably a day's journey from Nottingham, even though the distance is less than 30 miles. What he wanted was a strong and regular flow of water to power his factory. He chose Cromford because of Bonsall Brook, a good swift stream that flows out into the River Derwent half a mile downstream. And flowing into Bonsall Brook is Cromford Sough, which is essentially a drain from the lead mines in that hill.

Wanted at Cromford. Forging & Filing Smiths, Joiners and Carpenters, Framework-Knitters and Weavers with large families. Likewise children of all ages may have constant employment. Boys and young men may have trades taught them, which will enable them to maintain a family in a short time.

Be it for good or evil, Arkwright was the founder in England of the modern factory system, a branch of industry which has unquestionably proved a source of immense wealth to individuals and to the nation.

Arkwright's machines require so few hands, and those only children, with the assistance of an overlooker. A child can produce as much as would, and did upon an average, employ ten grown up persons. Jennies for spinning with one hundred or two hundred spindles, or more, going all at once, and requiring but one person to manage them.

Within the space of ten years, from being a poor man worth £5, Richard Arkwright has purchased an estate of £20,000; while thousands of women, when they can get work, must make a long day to card, spin, and reel 5040 yards of cotton, and for this they have four-pence or five-pence and no more.

There is some fear of the mob coming to destroy the works at Cromford, but they are well prepared to receive them should they come here. All the gentlemen in this neighbourhood being determined to defend the works, which have been of such utility to this country. 5,000 or 6,000 men can be at any time assembled in less than an hour by signals agreed upon, who are determined to defend to the very last extremity, the works, by which many hundreds of their wives and children get a decent and comfortable livelihood.

Arkwright stood, and still stands, as the archetypal self-made man.... Still unknown are the means by which he, or Highs, stumbled upon the spinning by rollers that clearly originated with Paul and Wyatt. Research has confirmed the contemporary awareness of Arkwright's ruthless borrowing, be it of ideas or capital, from others; it has also revealed his ability, perhaps originating in the years of deference and service as a barber, to move within ever higher ranks and degrees of society.

Questions for Students

Question 1: Who is the "silly, talkative clockmaker" referred to in source 2? It will help you to read source 3 before answering this question.

Question 2: Study source 10. Whereabout in the house do you think the weavers worked? Explain your answer.

Question 3: Compare the information in sources 2 and 5. Give possible reasons why these two historians disagree about the invention of the water-frame.

Question 4: Why did Richard Arkwright build his textile factory in Cromford?

Question 5: (i) What kind of people did Arkwright employ in his factory? (ii) Why did Arkwright prefer to employ certain types of workers? (iii) Describe some possible consequences of this employment policy.

Answer Commentary

A commentary on these questions can be found here.

Richard Arkwright and the Factory System (Classroom Activity) - History

The father of the factory system was Richard Arkwright.

Arkwright was born at Preston in Lancashire on 23 December 1732. He was the youngest of 13 children, and was sent off as a teenager to be apprenticed to a hairdresser. He became a hairdresser himself, and a maker of wigs, or perukes.

(Also born Dec 23: Akihito, Japanese Emperor, 1933 Neils Jerne, British-Danish immunologist (Nobel prize 1984), 1911.)

About 1767, with some friends, he began to build a machine to spin cotton. They rented a room in a secluded teacher's house behind some gooseberry bushes, but they were so secretive that the neighbours were suspicious and accused them of sorcery, and two old women complained that the humming noises they heard at night must be the devil tuning his bagpipes.

So Richard Arkwright moved over the hills to Nottingham, and designed a big machine to be driven by five or six horses, but before he even got it working he took a momentous step. He borrowed money and built a huge ``manufactory,'' to house dozens of machines and hundreds of people.

He probably borrowed the idea from Matthew Boulton, the great industrialist in Birmingham, a titan who loomed through the mists of the eighteenth century. In 1762 Boulton had gathered together a whole collection of small businesses and put them together in one complex in Soho in Birmingham he called it the Soho Manufactory.

Arkwright went one stage further. He planned the whole thing from the ground up, and employed unskilled workers to operate the machines that he had designed and built. He leased the land in August 1771---it cost him GBP14 pounds per annum---and the mill was finished before the end of the year. The building was five floors high, and three of them still stand, although it all looks rather sorry for itself today.

What took him to the savage outback of Derbyshire? The roads were so bad that it was probably a day's journey from Nottingham, even though the distance is less than 30 miles. What he wanted was a strong and regular flow of water to power his factory. He chose Cromford because of Bonsall Brook, a good swift stream that flows out into the River Derwent half a mile downstream. And flowing into Bonsall Brook is Cromford Sough, which is essentially a drain from the lead mines in that hill.

The point is that the water comes out of the ground positively warm---there are hot springs just up the road---and so the sough never froze in winter. And that is what Arkwright wanted---a fast and reliable stream of water.

So he rented a little piece of land, took the brook under the factory, and put a water wheel on the end of the building. Then he brought the sough down the other side of the factory, with another waterwheel. The waterwheels have gone, but you can still see the massive stones where the bearings were, and a mark where the stones have been scraped by the wheel going round.

To begin with he used undershot wheels, with the stream flowing underneath and the wheels just hanging in it, but then he heard about John Smeaton's pioneering experiments, which proved that overshot wheels are much more efficient. So Arkwright raised the levels both of the sough and of the brook so that his wheels could be overshot. That gave him enough power to run the entire mill. Five floors of water power.

He had tremendous confidence in his idea, considering that the experimental mill in Nottingham did not work until a year later. He must have seen the potential of a full-sized mill, and persuaded his backers that they would make a fortune.

Why did he have such confidence? What was his great invention?

The conventional way to spin cotton was to start with raw imported cotton, straight from Egypt or somewhere. First, card it this gets rid of some of the seeds and other grot, and straightens out the fibres a bit.

The cotton is then teased out into a long thin sliver, and then further into ``roving.'' This has just a suspicion of a twist in it, but it is extremely weak. The critical process comes next, the actual spinning, which converts the thick weak roving to strong thin thread.

The problem in 1770 was that one person can spin only one thread at a time. You need half a dozen spinners to keep one weaver busy, and the demand for cloth was going up. That's why a spinning machine seemed like a good idea. The spinning jenny had already been invented, but that was essentially a mechanical version of the hand-spinning technique, and it needed not only hand power but also a highly skilled operator.

Arkwright analysed the spinner's action, and realised that two things are going on. First you have to stretch out the roving, and second you have to twist the thread.

Several spinning machines were designed at about this time, but most of them tried to do the stretching and the spinning together. The problem is that the moment you start twisting the roving you lock the fibres together.

What you must do is first pull them gently out, so the thread gets longer, and then twist it to lock the fibres together and give it strength. If you twist it first and then try to lengthen it the fibres lock up and break.

Arkwright's idea was to stretch first and then twist. The roving passed from a bobbin between a pair of rollers, and then a couple of inches later between another pair that were rotating at twice the speed. The result was to stretch the roving to twice its original length. A third pair of rollers repeated the process. Arkwright's original machine had four sets of rollers. Later ones had three. They increased the length of the cotton yarn by a factor of four.

He discovered that a critical feature was the distance between the rollers it had to be between one and three inches. The best cotton fibres were about an inch long. The rollers had to be more than an inch apart, because if they were less then they would snap the fibres.

The machine was called a water frame because it was powered by a water wheel. There is still one Arkwright water frame, at the Helmshore Museum, and a quarter of it works, powered by electricity, since they don't yet have a working water wheel.

Two things are obvious the moment you see the wonderful beast in action. First, there are 32 bobbins along each side of each end of the water frame---128 on the whole machine. Second, it is so automatic that even I could operate it.

A conventional spinning wheel needs one skilled operator to spin one thread. The spinning jenny could spin say a dozen threads, but needed a highly skilled operator. Arkwright's water frame needed no skill, and spun 128 threads at a time. Arkwright was well on the way to mass-production.

There were really two separate parts of Arkwright's brilliance. First was the machine that turned what had been a slow and skilled operation into childsplay. Second was to get children to do it.

Not only did he build a huge mill, but he also built houses for his workers in the village. He transformed Cromford from a scattered community of lead-mining families into a tightly-knit village. He advertised for weavers with large families. Then he gave them houses with a weaving shed on the top floor, where his cotton could be woven, and he took the mothers and children to work in the mill.

The kids came in at the age of about ten. They worked from six in the morning until seven at night, with half an hour off for breakfast and 40 minutes for dinner. They got their education in the church on Sundays. The factory inspectors who came round said he treated the kids well, though in one report they said ``the privies were too offensive to be approached by us!''

The mills worked for 23 hours a day, and John Byng said ``when they are lighted up, on a dark night, look most luminously beautiful.''

Arkwright's mill was essentially the first factory of this kind in the world. Never before had people been put to work in such a well-organized way. Never had people been told to come in at a fixed time in the morning, and work all day at a prescribed task. His factories became the model for factories all over the country and all over the world. This was the way to build a factory. And he himself usually followed the same pattern---stone buildings 30 feet wide, 100 feet long, or longer if there was room, and five, six, or seven floors high.

He built houses for the workers, and a chapel, and he built himself first a house and later a castle, about which John Byng wrote ``it is really, within, an effort of inconvenient ill-taste.''

Arkwright himself, one-time hairdresser, one-time pub landlord, was, according to Carlyle, ``a plain, almost gross, bag-cheeked, pot-bellied Lancashire man . of copious free digestion,'' which I think meant that he farted a lot. Yet he was knighted, and became High Sheriff of Derbyshire.

He was bright enough to invent a spinning machine. He had the vision to see that he could make lots of money by mass-production, even though no one had ever done that before. And he was a brilliant manager he was exceptionally skilful at persuading people to work for long hours in difficult conditions.

Sir Richard Arkwright

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Sir Richard Arkwright, (born Dec. 23, 1732, Preston, Lancashire, Eng.—died Aug. 3, 1792, Cromford, Derbyshire), textile industrialist and inventor whose use of power-driven machinery and employment of a factory system of production were perhaps more important than his inventions.

In his early career as a wig-maker, Arkwright traveled widely in Great Britain and began his lifelong practice of self-education. He became interested in spinning machinery at least by 1764, when he began construction of his first machine (patented in 1769). Arkwright’s water frame (so-called because it operated by waterpower) produced a cotton yarn suitable for warp. The thread made on James Hargreaves’ spinning jenny (invented about 1767) lacked the strength of Arkwright’s cotton yarn and was suitable only for weft. With several partners, Arkwright opened factories at Nottingham and Cromford. Within a few years he was operating a number of factories equipped with machinery for carrying out all phases of textile manufacturing from carding to spinning.

He maintained a dominant position in the textile industry despite the rescinding of his comprehensive patent of 1775. He may have borrowed the ideas of others for his machines, but he was able to build the machines and to make them work successfully. By 1782 Arkwright had a capital of £200,000 and employed 5,000 workers. In 1786 he was knighted.

The Rise and Fall of the Scottish Cotton Industry 1778-1914: ‘the Secret Spring’

Tony Cooke has made a notable contribution to our understanding of early industrialisation and its impact, including some important studies of textile history and the heritage of the industry. Some of his early work focused on the great inventive genius and sharp business operator, Richard Arkwright, and it is no surprise that we meet the inventor and his devices early on in Cooke’s wide ranging and comprehensive history of the Scottish cotton industry.

This is both a work of synthesis and extensive new research. Cooke has trawled every major archive and many smaller collections in Scotland and elsewhere to construct a detailed picture of the industry. He has also looked at many sources, such as legal records in the National Archives of Scotland, which have rarely been tackled by historians who either did not know of their existence or found them too dusty and troublesome. But Cooke’s work on sequestration or bankruptcy cases, inventories of land, machinery and other property, linked to estates and wills, reveals a vast quantity of new information about the industry and its masters.

Most industrial or business histories tend to be essentially chronological and developmental, but here the industry is examined both chronologically and through specific treatment of major themes such as an examination of the industry’s precursors, its technology, its capital and employers, its markets, labour and work, all placed in broader economic and social contexts. Throughout important comparisons and contrasts are drawn with the experience of the industry in England, on the continent, and above all, the United States, where cotton textiles were established almost as rapidly as in Scotland.

Like other textile manufacturing cotton had a long pre-history, an extended and so-called ‘proto-industrial’ phase common to those regions where cloth making of one kind or another was established and to the regions where cotton ultimately took off in Lancashire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and the Scottish Lowlands. In Scotland, as in Lancashire, there was an important link to linen, in skills, technology and capital formation. Another significant source of investment in the new industry was the Atlantic trade, Glasgow and the Clyde being to the west of Scotland (and well beyond) what Liverpool and the Mersey were to Manchester it and its hinterland. The third source of capital, though as difficult to quantify as the others, was the landed gentry, the great majority of whom embraced cotton manufacture as an extension of their ‘improving’ agendas (there were other explanations, to which we’ll come).

While it can be reasonably claimed, as Cooke does with some reservations, that the Scottish cotton industry in its early stages owed much to technological transfers from England, the Scottish linen and silk industries were already benefitting from mechanisation encouraged by the state (through the Board of Trustees, set up after the union with England to encourage manufactures), by the British Linen Company, and organisation by large-scale capitalists, like David Dale, who made his fortune in linen, becoming one of Glasgow’s merchant princes. Dale was to prove untypical in the extent of his involvement with the new industry, but he was not alone.

Given the relative simplicity of the technology involved in mechanised spinning it might strike us as surprising that the breakthrough to mass manufacture was so long delayed, but within a few years of Arkwright’s various inventions, the industry began to take on dynamic of its own, separate from its hybrid existence with linen. It seems probable that piracy played a big part in Scotland, as it did in England (and on the Continent and in New England), but in any case the patent laws did not strictly apply north of the border. Arkwright thus made deals with merchants and landowners to install his machines in several of the massive mills which typified the earliest phase of factory spinning, and to provide initial training at his headquarters in Cromford.

Major attractions for entrepreneurs were the copious supplies of water power, cheap labour, and an extensive network of skilled outworkers scattered throughout the Lowlands. The landed gentry were generally encouraging: cotton mills brought revenue and employment for labour displaced by agricultural improvement, the Scottish equivalent of enclosure, and in the Highland variant, land clearances which accelerated established patterns of seasonal then permanent migration to Lowland towns. So mills could be seen as extensions of the paternalism exercised by the elites and it is not without its interest that the best of the mill owners emulated this approach, especially in the country spinning mills in places like Catrine, New Lanark and Stanley. But of course, they also made money, in many cases a great deal.

The industry expanded at a dramatic rate, quickly overtaking linen. This remarkable surge in activity, seen in several other sectors, suggests that the Scottish industrial revolution, after a later start, was concentrated in a much narrower time-frame than that of England, more closely resembling the experiences of continental emulators, notably Belgium and Silesia. Moreover, Gershenkron’s tendency to ‘big-ness’, or much larger-scale enterprises in late starters, is also evident in the Scottish context generally, and in cotton even the businesses that survived the later 19th-century decline were large by the standards of British industry.

The thematic chapters also provide some remarkable revelations about the complexity and varying fortunes of this industry. In technology what Mokyr called the ‘macro’ inventions from England that set the industry going were quickly followed by ‘micro’ ones inspired by Scots. Several were at the sharp end of the production process, such as more efficient spinning and weaving machinery, but it was in the finishing trades and the industrial chemistry they inspired that Scottish innovators really scored. Cooke’s examination of the bleaching, dyeing and printing industries is thus a reminder of the more extensive and practical nature of education in Scotland compared to England, especially in the universities and colleges.

Perhaps the most revealing chapters are those on workers and employers. Cotton in all its branches was a huge employer of labour, mostly women and children, and a vast army of outworkers suggestive of the parallel paths along which industrialisation proceeded well into the 19th century. This also helps explains the success of the Scottish trade which, like many other industries north of the border, was essentially sustained by cheap labour compared to England. Workers of this period rarely speak except when mediated by parliamentary commissioners, but Cooke has trawled the evidence very thoroughly to pick up the experiences and impressions of ordinary folk. Conditions were tough, even in the best of country spinning mills where paternalism at least resulted in better housing and social provision than prevailed in places like Glasgow and Paisley. The critique of the factory system probably reflected the reality of harsh conditions and long hours, though some of the evidence has to be treated with caution as some of those testifying were undoubtedly in the pockets of reactionary mill masters intent on resisting the national implementation of reforms proposed by Owen, Ashley and others.

In his chapter on employers Cooke has built on a recently published study he made of the Scottish cotton masters, who until then had been strangely neglected given the importance of the industry. While Crouzet’s path breaking work on the early industrialists suggested lower-middle-class dominance, Cooke’s research, in line with more recent work in England, sees the majority of businessmen in cotton coming from much better established merchant and manufacturing (and occasionally inventive) backgrounds. There were some remarkable success stories, for example David Dale and Kirkman Finlay from the early stages, and the great Paisley thread makers like Peter and Thomas Coats, the chemists like Charles Macintosh and Charles Tennant, and others too numerous to mention. The failures do not go un-noticed, their demise invariably traced in voluminous and acrimonious bankruptcy proceedings, rather than hagiographic obituaries accorded the successful, whose philanthropic endeavour endowed places like Paisley with churches, schools, libraries, art galleries and museums.

Setting aside sugar production, also built on slavery, cotton was the first global industry and the first to be transformed by mass production based on new technology. It is thus interesting that at both ends of the production process it remained enormously labour-intensive and that neither the abandonment of slavery at one end or further innovation at the other did much to alter those positions. The connection to slavery, though subject to investigation by several scholars including Cooke, remains something of a black hole in Scottish history, but incongruously something that has recently come to light is that fact that Dale, one of the founding fathers of the Scottish cotton industry, was a prominent supporter of abolition. In the longer term there can be little doubt that the freeing of the slaves, combined with the impact of the Cotton Famine during the Civil War, linked to the overwhelming competition from Lancashire and elsewhere contributed to the decline of the Scottish industry. However, the big question remains which takes us back to the old debate about entrepreneurial failure, Payne’s thinking being that second-third generation businessmen did not fail – only acted rationally in the context of the time. Much of Scottish industry, like that of Britain generally by 1914, simply could not compete.

While it is undoubtedly the case that the Scottish cotton industry had shrunk dramatically by 1914, there was, in fact, quite a lot left, highly specialised though it was. Notable among surviving firms were the great Paisley thread manufacturing firms, which as Cooke points out, had become multi-national, much as had the major jute enterprises in Dundee which also managed to survive in an increasingly globalised sector. New Lanark was extensively modernised as late as the 1950s, remaining a significant employer locally, and managed to keep going until 1968. The Stanley complex, built around the original mill, survived even longer, outliving many of the major Lancashire firms. It is thus incongruous that the enterprises that survived longest were the very ones that had pioneered the factory system while later enterprises succumbed long beforehand.

This is a significant study of a key sector in early British industrialisation, but it is also a valuable case-study of longer-term trends in the economy that continue to perplex historians and resonate to this day. Historical analogies are always dangerous, but there are many lessons here about enterprise, innovation, the creation of a skilled labour force, success in increasingly challenging markets, plus the downsides of entrepreneurial failure, loss of technological advantage, changing consumer behaviour, foreign competition, the ultimate demise of the industry and many of the communities it sustained.

But concluding on a more optimistic note, the history of the Scottish cotton industry is at least celebrated in several outstanding monuments. Two, if not more, are directly associated with the great Arkwright, Stanley on the river Tay, restored by Historic Scotland and the Phoenix Trust, which incorporates the best preserved Arkwright-type mill in the world, and New Lanark, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where history and social regeneration jointly underpin the restoration and interpretation of one of the most significant relics of the Industrial Revolution internationally.

Founding Fathers Encouraged Intellectual Piracy

Lowell was hardly the first American to pilfer British intellectual property. The Founding Fathers not only tolerated intellectual piracy, they actively encouraged it. Many agreed with Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, who believed that the development of a strong manufacturing base was vital to the survival of the largely agrarian country. Months before taking the oath of office as the first president in 1789, George Washington wrote to Thomas Jefferson that “the introduction of the late improved machines to abridge labor, must be of almost infinite consequence to America.”

The fledgling country, however, lacked a domestic textile manufacturing industry and lagged far behind Great Britain. The quickest way to close the technological gap between the United States and its former motherland was not to develop designs from scratch𠅋ut to steal them.

In his 1791 “Report on Manufactures,” Hamilton advocated rewarding those bringing “improvements and secrets of extraordinary value” into the country. Among those who took great interest in Hamilton’s treatise was Thomas Attwood Digges, one of several American industrial spies who prowled the British Isles in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in search of not just cutting-edge technologies but skilled workers who could operate and maintain those machines.

In order to protect its economic supremacy, the British government banned the export of textile machinery and the emigration of cotton, mohair and linen workers who operated them. A 1796 pamphlet printed in London warned of 𠇊gents hovering like birds of prey on the banks of the Thames, eager in their search for such artisans, mechanics, husbandmen and laborers, as are inclinable to direct their course to America.” 

Digges, a friend of Washington who grew up across the Potomac River from the president’s Mount Vernon estate, was one such intellectual vulture. Foreigners recruiting British textile workers to leave the country faced 򣔀 fines and a year in prison, and Digges found himself jailed repeatedly.

The American spy printed 1,000 copies of Hamilton’s report and distributed them throughout the manufacturing centers of Ireland and England to entice textile workers to the United States. His most successful recruit was Englishman William Pearce, a mechanic whom Digges thought a “second Archimedes.”

Dispatched to the United States with letters of introduction to both Washington and Jefferson, Pearce initially worked on manufacturing projects for Hamilton. He later established a cotton mill in Philadelphia that was personally inspected by Jefferson and George and Martha Washington. The first president praised Digges for “his activity and zeal (with considerable risk) in sending artisans and machines of public utility to this country.”

The first water-powered textile mill established by English-born Samuel Slater in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

An Interdisciplinary Approach to British Studies

After viewing our curriculum units, please take a few minutes to help us understand how the units, which were created by public school teachers, may be useful to others.


Advances in agricultural techniques and practices resulted in an increased supply of food and raw materials, changes in industrial organization and new technology resulted in increased production, efficiency and profits, and the increase in commerce, foreign and domestic, were all conditions which promoted the advent of the Industrial Revolution. Many of these conditions were so closely interrelated that increased activity in one spurred an increase in activity in another. Further, this interdependence of conditions creates a problem when one attempts to delineate them for the purpose of analysis in the classroom. Therefore, it is imperative that the reader be acutely aware of this when reading the following material.

The narrative portion of this unit is intended for the teacher’s use as a guide to teaching about this subject. It does not purport to include all that is needed to teach about the Industrial Revolution. It does provide a basis for teaching about the subject, leaving room for the teacher to maneuver as his/her style of teaching permits. One manner of capitalizing on any shortcomings in this material is to design individual or small group student activities which will enhance their study skills (reference materials, library use, research reports, etc.), while at the same time locating specific information. Also included are suggestions for utilizing this material in class. In the final analysis it is the teacher who will determine the manner in which this material is used, so it is his/her’s to modify as deemed necessary.

Agricultural Changes

The improved yield of the agricultural sector can be attributed to the enclosure movement and to improved techniques and practices developed during this period. A common practice in early agriculture was to allow the land to lie fallow after it had been exhausted through cultivation. Later it was discovered that the cultivation of clover and other legumes would help to restore the fertility of the soil. The improved yields also increased the amount of food available to sustain livestock through the winter. This increased the size of herds for meat on the table and allowed farmers to begin with larger herds in the spring than they had previously.

Other advances in agriculture included the use of sturdier farm implements fashioned from metal. Up until this period most farming implements were made entirely out of wood. We do not find much technical innovation beyond the slight improvements made on existing implements. We do find increased energy being placed into the breeding of livestock, control of insects, improved irrigation and farming methods, developing new crops and the use of horsepower in the fields to replace oxen as a source of power.

These changes which have occurred in agriculture made it possible to feed all of the people that were attracted to the industrial centers as factory workers. By providing enough food to sustain an adequate work force, England was preparing the way for expansion of the economy and industry.

A strategy which may be employed to promote the students’ understanding of the changes that have occurred in agriculture during the period of this unit, and from this period to today’s modern farms, is to start with the present and work back in time to the period we are studying. Students may participate in an informative and interesting discussion centered around today’s farming methods and machinery. Classroom activities could also center about constructing a chart which lists farming methods in pre-industrial revolution times, during the industrial revolution and today. Also, activities could be centered around having students write letters to manufacturers of farm machinery, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or other farm-related concerns (e.g., farm museums).

In 18th century England, the enclosure of common village fields into individual landholdings, or the division of unproductive land into private property was the first significant change to occur. This concentrated the ownership of the land into the hands of a few, and made it possible to institute improved farming techniques on a wider scale. Students may engage in a debate over the question of enclosure, concerning its effect on the rural poor. Historians are not in complete agreement on the effects of enclosure on the poor, some arguing that it contributed to swelling the numbers of poor, while others argue that their plight was only marginally related to the enclosure movement. An excellent resource for the teacher’s use in this section is Chapter Seven of E. P. Thompson’s book, The Making of the English Working Class .


The organization of the textile industry was complicated and grossly inefficient before the age of mechanization. Differences existed from one locality to another generally, a merchant employed putters-out to distribute the raw materials to spinners and weavers who were scattered throughout the countryside.

Changes in the textile industry were already occurring in the early 1700s however, these changes were not easily accepted as evidenced by the workers’ riots which broke out in response to these new machines. John Kay’s flying-shuttle, which enabled one weaver to do the work of two, and Lewis Paul’s roller spinner, which was to make spinning more efficient (later to be perfected by Richard Arkwright), were the precursors of the inventive spirit and the application of new technology to the textile industry.

In the mid-1760s the textile industry began to experience rapid change. James Hargreaves’ jenny, a device which enabled the operator to simultaneously spin dozens of threads, was readily adopted. By 1788 nearly 20,000 of them were being employed in England. Arkwright and others developed the water frame. This device performed similarly to Paul’s roller spinner, though its use demanded greater power than could be applied by muscle.

Arkwright enlisted the financial support of Samuel Need and Jedidiah Strutt to set up a water-powered factory that utilized his invention. This factory, located in Cromford, employed more than 600 workers, many of whom were women and children. The adage “necessity is the mother of invention” is quite appropriate here, for this machine spun the cotton thread faster than human hands could supply the carded and combed raw material. This led to Arkwright’s development of a machine which would perform that function.

The changes that took place in the textile industry must certainly center about the inventions and their inventors, though not necessarily be limited to them. These inventions that were perfected and employed led to tremendous change in the world of work. Gone were the days of the Domestic System, yielding to the new ways of the Factory System. These factories which were to spring up throughout the countryside were large, dusty, poorly illuminated and ventilated and dangerous. The employment of women and children was commonplace and desired, for they were paid lower wages than their male counterparts. Working conditions in these factories were not subject to much regulation.

A strategy similar to the one that was suggested in the previous section may easily be employed here also. Discussions may center around today’s textile industry, before moving on to the methods of preindustrial and industrialized England. Today, blue jeans are often referred to as “America’s national dress.” Some interesting discussions may develop around the manufacture of blue jeans, from the cotton fields to the finished product.

By comparing and contrasting conditions of work today and in days gone by, the students should begin to grasp the magnitude of impact that technological change has had on societies. The modern-day factory bears very little resemblance to Arkwright’s factory at Cromford. Students may be assigned to write letters to the U.S. Department of Labor and its related agencies to request materials on factories today. Letters may also be written to representatives of the textile industry, as well as to labor unions within the industry. Students may also gather information concerning governmental regulation related to work in the textile industry. An excellent resource which should be used by the teacher is E. Royston Pike’s, Hard Times: Human Documents of the Industrial Revolution .

Coal Mining

Different methods of mining coal were employed in various locales throughout England. All coal mining had one trait in common the movement of coal was accomplished solely by muscle power—animal, man, woman and child, the latter being the most desirable for their size. The process of removing the coal was obviously as slow as it was dirty. Coal was moved along horizontal tunnels by the basketful and hauled up a vertical shaft to the surface. Later, the underground movement of coal was speeded up by the utilization of ponies and carts on rail. The production of coal increased steadily, from 2 1/2 million to more than 15 million tons by 1829.

Improvements in coal mining came in the form of improved tunnel ventilation, improved underground and surface transportation, the use of gunpowder to blast away at the coal seams, and improved tunnel illumination through the use of safety lamps.

Coal mining today continues to be a hazardous job, though modern machinery and safety equipment have made the industry more efficient and safe. Students should better understand the difficulties of mining coal in the 19th century by studying modern-day coal mining. Several modern-day issues related to the use of coal (strip-mining, air pollution, etc.) should make for some lively discussions in class. Discussions may also touch upon the question of health-related problems of this industry (black lung disease).

It was not uncommon in the 19th century for women to be employed in the mining of coal. Entire families could be found working side by side in the mines. Several sections of Pike’s book, Hard Times , are an excellent teacher resource for material related to women and children working in England’s coal mines. All of these short stories, as well as the illustrations, should be sufficient to help the students to understand the harsh conditions that were endured by these people.



The mid-1700s began the first construction of canals between industrial districts. The construction of trunk lines opened the central industrial districts in the 1770s. The major thurst of financial backing came from the merchants and industrialists, who had a great stake in their construction. The problem of moving bulk goods overland was addressed, at least for the time being, by canals. However, their days were numbered, for the coming of the railroads was imminent.

The principles of rail transport were already in use in the late 1700s. Tramways, using cast iron rails, were being employed in a number of mines in England. By 1800 more than 200 miles of tramway served coal mines. It is not surprising, then, to find a number of engineers connected with coal mines searching for a way to apply the steam engine to railways.

A number of men were involved in experimentation concerning the development of railroads in England. Between 1804 and 1820 we find a few partially successful attempts at developing a practical means of rail transport: Richard Trevithick’s “New Cast1e,” a steam locomotive that proved to be too heavy for the rails, John Blenkinsop’s locomotive, which employed a toothed, gear-like wheel, and William Hedley’s “Puffing Billy,” which was used for hauling coal wagons from the mines.

A pioneer in railroads that bears mentioning here is George Stephenson. Stephenson was invited by the Stockton and Darlington Railway to build the railroad between those two towns. The Stockton to Darlington line was the first public railroad to use locomotive traction and carry passengers, as well as freight. The equipment on this line proved to be too expensive to maintain. This was not the last to be heard from Stephenson.

In 1829 the Liverpool and Manchester Railway sponsored a competition to determine the best type of locomotive. This contest took place on the Rainhill level at Lancashire from October 6 to 14, 1829. Three steam locomotives participated in the Rainhill Trials Timothy Hackworth’s “Sans Pareil,” John Braithwaite and John Ericsson’s “Novelty,” and Stephenson’s “Rocket.” The “Rocket” won the Rainhill Trials. It is interesting and ironic to note here that the first railroad accident death occurred at these trials.

Railroads dominated the transportation scene in England for nearly a century. Railroads proliferated in England, from 1,000 miles in 1836 to more than 7,000 miles built by 1852. Here again is another example of economic necessity producing innovation. The development of reliable, efficient rail service was crucial to the growth of specific industries and the overall economy.

By researching the railroad industry in the United States, students will find them to have been neglected over the years. Railroads have been superceded by modern forms of transport and superhighways. Perhaps a renaissance is due for the railroads in this country. Students will also find that the railroads are a reliable means of transportation for passengers and freight in Europe. Some interesting discussions may evolve around the railroads’ role in mass transit in an energy-conscious world.


The development of a practical, efficient steam engine and its application to industry and transportation caused a great leap for industrialization. Its application was virtually limitless, and it was responsible for lifting industries from infancy to adolescence. Obviously, the study of steam power can be a course of study unto itself, and it is included in various sections within this unit. H. W. Dickinson and H. P. Vowles book, James Watt and the Industrial Revolution , is an excellent teacher resource for use in the classroom. This book contains a number of drawings of early designs of steam engines, as well as a complete history of the search for the practical design.

The Human Aspect

One can find a myriad of reasons for the growth of the population, in addition to those above. Industry provided higher wages to individuals than was being offered in the villages. This allowed young people to marry earlier in life, and to produce children earlier. The old system of apprenticeship did not allow an apprentice to marry. City life provided young people with a greater choice of prospective partners, in contrast to the limited choices in some isolated village. Finally, industry provided people with improved clothing and housing, though it took a long time for housing conditions to improve.

With the adoption of the factory system, we find a shift in population. Settlements grew around the factories. In some cases, housing was provided to workers by their employers, thus giving the factory owners greater control over the lives of his workers. In some cases factories started in existing towns, which was desirable because a labor pool was readily available. The prime consideration for locating a factory was the availability of power. The early form of power was derived directly from moving water. Thus, we find factories cropping up in the hills near streams and rivers. Later, when steam power was developed, factories could be located near any source of water. Other factories, such as those involved in the manufacture of iron, had considerations of a different kind involving their location. Due to the great difficulty in moving bulk materials, such as iron ore, these mills had to be located close to the mineral source. In such situations, large communities grew directly above the seams of ore in the earth.

The development of the steam engine to drive machinery freed the mill owners from being locked into a site that was close to swiftly moving water. The steam powered mill still had to be located near a source of water, though the field of choice was much wider. Also, factories could be located closer to existing population centers or seaports, fulfilling the need for labor and transportation of materials.

The towns that grew in the North were crowded, dirty and unregulated. They grew so rapidly that no one took the time to consider the consequence of such conditions. In the areas of public sanitation and public health, ignorance reigned. No one understood the effects of these unsanitary conditions upon humans. Conditions in these densely populated areas worsened to the point of the reappearance of outbreaks of disease. In the mid-1800s there were several outbreaks of typhoid and cholera. Some attention to these conditions was accorded by Parliament in the form of Public Health Acts. These acts did improve conditions, though they were largely ineffective, for they did not grant local Boards of Health the powers to compel improvements.

E. Royston Pike’s Hard Times is literally a treasure chest brimming with short stories that document living and working conditions during the Industrial Revolution. These stories may be utilized in the classroom in a variety of ways, and they should be quite effective in conveying the reality of life during this period. Pages 43-57 of Pike’s book provide an excellent overview of typical living conditions.


In the early years of this period we find most investments being made in a field closely related to one’s original source of capital. Manufacturers took a substantial portion of their profits to “plough back” into their business, or they invested capital in ventures that were related to their primary business. Eventually, as opportunities to realize great profits proliferated, it was not uncommon to find these entrepreneurs investing substantially in concerns about which they knew very little.

Two kinds of capital were needed by these industrialists long-term capital to expand present operations, and short-term capital to purchase raw materials, maintain inventories and to pay wages to their employees. The long-term capital needs were met by mortgaging factory buildings and machinery. It was the need for short-term capital which presented some problems. The need for short-term capital for raw materials and maintaining stock was accommodated by extending credit to the manufacturers by the producers or dealers. Often, a supplier of raw materials waited from 6 to 12 months for payment of his goods, after the manufacturer was paid for the finished product.

The payment of wages was not an easily solved problem, one which taxed the creativity of employers. The problem was in finding a sufficient amount of small value legal tender to pay the wages. Some employers staggered the days on which they paid their employees, while others paid them in script. Some paid a portion of their work force early in the day, allowing them to shop for household needs. When the money had circulated through the shopkeepers back to the employer, another portion of the work force was paid. All of these methods proved to be unacceptable.

The root of the problem was the lack.of an adequate banking system in these remote industrial centers. The Bank of England, established in the late 1690s, did not accommodate the needs of the manufacturers. It concentrated its interest on the financial affairs of state and those of the trading companies and merchants of London.

The early 1700s brought with it the first country banks. These private banks were founded by those who were involved in a variety of endeavors (goldsmith, merchant, manufacturer). Many industrialists favored establishing their own banks as an outlet for the capital accumulated by their business and as a means for obtaining cash for wages. When the Bank of England tightened credit because of government demands, many of these banks failed. A great number of them had a large proportion of their assets tied up in long-term mortgages, thus leaving them vulnerable when demands for cash were presented by their depositors. From 1772 to 1825, a large number of these banks failed. Their limited resources were inadequate to meet the demands of the factory economy. A banking system was eventually set up to distribute capital to areas where it was needed, drawing it from areas where there was a surplus.


The factory system changed the manner in which work was performed. Unlike the domestic system the work was away from home, in large, impersonal settings. Workers were viewed by their employers merely as “hands.”

Slowly, workers began to realize the strength they could possess if they were a unified force. It was a long, uphill battle for workers to be able to have the right to organize into officially recognized unions. Their lot was one of having no political influence in a land where the government followed a laissez-faire policy.

This hands off policy changed as the pressure from growing trade unions increased. A movement was beginning to free workers from the injustices of the factory system. Political leaders called for reform legislation which would address these injustices (see lesson plans for specific legislation).

Lesson Outline

A “study set,” consisting of maps, drawings and other resources is also available to supplement the unit. Copies of this set are available through the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. This material may be used in a variety of ways.

Geography —spend as much time as is necessary to acquaint students with major geographical features of England. This knowledge will be helpful to the student later in the unit to make the connection between the location of industry and geographical features.

Agriculture —construct a chart which outlines the major changes from pre-industrialization to the present (see narrative).

Techniques and inventions:

Inventors :

Write letters to:

Mining :

Locate mining centers (see map) Present improvements in coal and iron mining (see narrative) Stories from Pike’s Hard Times (see study set) Transportation —discuss improvements (see narrative).
Canals Assign individual students the task of
Roads locating the addresses of museums re-
Railroads lated to these forms of transportation
Steamboats Write letters to museums.

Prominent figures in transportation revolution:

Steam power—this topic may be adequately covered in the section on transportation. Certainly, it may be studied in depth by small groups or individual students.

Living conditions —a number of class periods may be spent on this topic. Discussions may center around: Has the quality of life improved since the 18th century? What have we learned about public health? What is the importance of providing for local Boards of Health in modern-day cities?

Capital and labor —These two sectors of our system are purposely blended into one. The employers and employees, though seemingly at odds with one another, are very much dependent on each other. It is as important to the employer to have a healthy and adequate labor force, as it is for jobs to be available to the workers.

Discuss the major points of capitalism. Research labor legislation: From the early 1800s to the early 1900s, a number of laws pertaining to factory work were enacted in England: —Pauper Apprentice Act 1802 —Cotton Factory Act 1819 —Factory Act 1833 —Mines Act 1842 —Ten Hour Act 1847 —Safety Code 1855 —Factory Code 1878, 1902 Discuss the rise of the labor movement. Discuss the major “weapons” of unions and employers:
Workers’ Weapons Employers’ Weapons
Strike Lockout
Boycott Injunction
Collective bargaining blacklist
Legislative lobbying Individual bargaining
Political action Open shop
Picketing Right-to-work legislation
Closed shop
Union shop

At the level for which this unit is intended, seventh grade, it is important for the students to be exposed to some classic pieces of literature as part of their assigned reading. Thus, the work of Dickens is made to order.

Dickens’ writings selected for use in this unit should prove to be entertaining to the students, while bringing the material contained in the narrative to life. The imagery that Dickens creates should be adequate to convey to the students the real “flavor” of life in England during this period, and his social criticisms that are evident in them should aid the students in their understanding of the issues of the times.

The teacher should select the best method for utilizing Dickens in his/her classroom. Readings may be assigned to individuals, or to small or large groups. It was very common in the Victorian period for members of a family to read to others in the early evening. The teacher may choose to read aloud to the class, or even have individual students read to the rest of the class.

Notes on Oliver Twist

Oliver was treated very well by Mr. Sowerberry, though he was mistreated by several other characters in the story. One morning Oliver decides to run away.

Upon his arrival at the outskirts of London, Oliver meets a young boy named Artful Dodger. Dodger takes Oliver to meet Fagin, a master criminal. Oliver gets involved with the law when he is with two thieves who rob an old gentleman. Oliver is saved from jail by Mr. Brownlow. Later, Oliver is kidnapped by two of Fagin’s cohorts and made to participate in a burglary, during which Oliver is shot.

The plot thickens when the reader learns that Oliver’s half-brother made a pact with Fagin to make Oliver a criminal, thus disinheriting him from their father’s will.

Suggested questions for discussion:

Notes on Hard Times

The utilization of this book in the classroom can best be determined by the teacher. This may be the book that teacher chooses to read aloud to the class. Dickens’ descriptions of Coketown and some of its inhabitants are quite graphic and are examples of his best writings.

Cromford: A Factory Community

Image: Housing in North Street, Cromford, Derbyshire. Richard Arkwright built houses to attract people to work in his factories. North Street contained two parallel rows of substantial dwellings. The school, which was built in 1832, is located at the right-hand edge of the picture.

1. Introduction: Cromford, a Factory Community

Cromford was the creation of Richard Arkwright (1732-1792), the Preston barber who created the cotton factory. Arkwright became a successful businessman by exploiting his inventions which mechanised and accelerated the process of cotton spinning. He built mills at Cromford and nearby Matlock Bath and created a factory community with homes, a market and additional transport facilities. Arkwright rose from relatively humble origins to be knighted by George III and become one of the wealthiest men in Britain.
Arkwright patented his invention, the water frame in 1769. It enabled unskilled minders to oversee cotton spinning without the need for skilled workers. The original machine of four spindles in his patent increased in size to ninety-six spindles in production models. In 1775 he patented a second machine to open and clean the raw cotton, which was less successful. Arkwright’s machines were big. They had to be located in large buildings and powered by water wheels. Cotton was produced cheaply and this helped to stimulate demand. Arkwright’s entrepreneurial skills led him to seek an appropriate location for factory production.
Cromford was in a remote and sparsely populated part of the Derwent Valley, but its fast-flowing streams could be controlled to power the water wheels of his mills. Arkwright and his partners, Jedediah Strutt and the financier Samuel Need leased a site there in August 1771. It was close to the Bonsall Brook and Cromford Sough, a drainage channel for a lead mine, which provided a regular supply of water for his first factory. Between 1771 and 1790, Arkwright constructed mills, dams, workshops, warehouses, market and homes. His successors built a school and additional dwellings for employees. Canals, roads and railways provided the transport systems which linked Cromford to the wider world.
Little is known about the development of Cromford during the 1770s. The first mill was constructed in 1771-72, but production was slow, it was difficult to attract workers and Arkwright had to secure additional finance. A second mill was built in 1776-77 together with high quality dwellings for employees in North Street. In 1783 he constructed Masson Mill at Matlock Bath, outside of Cromford on the site of a former paper mill. Viscount Torrington visited Cromford in 1789 and 1790. He noted Arkwright’s importance: “his grateful country must adore his inventions, which have already so prosper’d our commerce and may lead to yet wonderful improvements.” (Bruyn Andrews, C, The Torrington Diaries, vol. 2 (1935), p. 40.)
Richard Arkwright II took over his father’s business in 1792 and the Cromford mills were retained by the family until the early 20th century. Profits declined in the 1820s. Stagnation can be measured in population figures. In 1811, 1821 and 1831, census returns record numbers of inhabitants which remained static at 1,259, 1,242 and 1,291.
Masson Mill remained successful, manufacturing sewing machine thread. The Upper and Lower Mill complex ceased to make cotton. One building became a brewery and another was turned into a colour pigment factory and laundry. Fires, reconstruction, new technology and demolition affected the site. Cromford declined economically in the late 19th and 20th century. It was this decline, however, which helped to preserve much of the town with its unique collection of 18th and early 19th century grade I, II* and II listed buildings.
In 2001, the Derwent Valley was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. As well as Cromford, it included, Derby’s silk factory built by the Lombe brothers in 1721, cotton mills and housing at Darley Abbey and the factories and communities created by the Strutts at Milford and Belper. The Derwent Valley became one of only 21 such sites in the United Kingdom. This enhanced opportunities to preserve buildings and other features in the local landscape and access funding to develop tourism and education.

Richard Arkwright

Richard Arkwright is born in Preston on 23 December 1732. He’s the youngest of thirteen children. Only seven of them make it through childhood. His father, Thomas, is a struggling tailor. Richard will have a lifelong fascination with fabrics and attraction to wealth. The last of a large family, there’s no money to school him. So his cousin Ellen teaches him to read and write. Richard determines to escape the poverty of his situation.

He starts works as an apprentice barber. In 1755, he marries Patience Holt. They have a son. But a year later, Patience is dead. Grief gives way to ambition. Richard, a hairdresser, decides he wants to become an entrepreneur and start his own company. Richard’s second marriage is to Margaret Biggins in 1761. They have three children. Only their daughter survives into adulthood.

Arkwright believes the real money in hair is not in cutting it, but in collecting it. He decides to manufacture male wigs. But by the time he starts up his own Bolton based business in 1762, the fashion for them is already passing its peak. During his travels round the country collecting hair he comes across a method for dyeing it that makes it waterproof. The extra cash it generates will give him the money to finance the development of his first spinning machine. But it’s his ability to network on his travels, with weavers, spinners, indeed anyone with a better idea than him that will really make his fortune.

When the wig making business starts to decline, Arkwright explores the new mechanical inventions in the textiles industry. The textile business at this time is often literally a cottage industry. Raw cotton is turned into threads using a spinning wheel in the family home. These turn cotton or wool into threads, one at a time, which are then woven onto looms to make fabric. This fabric can be then used to make, for example, clothes. It’s an extremely laborious process. There’s a technological race to find a mechanical solution. Arkwright believes he can make his fortune from the right invention.

A machine for carding cotton, forming strands of cotton ready for spinning, and a labour saving spinning jenny has already been invented by the time Arkwright enters the race. In 1767, he teams up with a Warrington watch and clockmaker, John Kay. Kay and reed-maker Thomas Highs have been working on a mechanical spinning machine. But a lack of funding frustrates them. With Arkwright’s financial backing, Kay creates a working machine. It substitutes the need for human hands and fingers using instead machine and metal to create stronger spun thread, more quickly and easily. It will revolutionise the world of work but it will also make thousands of skilled workers obsolete.

Their first spinning frame is put into use in 1768. Able to spin 128 threads at a time, it’s faster than anything before it and the thread it produces is stronger.
It is the first powered, automatic, and continuous textile machine.
It marks the move away from home production to mass manufacturing in factories.

“Arkwright didn’t just invent the spinning machine. He invented the modern factory.”
Edward Meig

In 1769, it’s Arkwright who needs finance to expand. And it’s his banker who introduces him to Jedediah Strutt, the modifier of the stocking frame (essentially a knitting machine) and businessman Samuel Need. Strutt and Need are impressed with Arkwright's machine and agree to form a partnership. Arkwright’s machines will convert the raw cotton and then Strutt and Need will use the thread in their knitting business. That year, Arkwright takes out a patent on his spinning machine.

As Arkwright's spinning frame is too large to be hand operated, horses are employed. But when this experiment fails, they harness the power of the water wheel.
In 1771 the three men set up a large water powered mill factory on the banks of the River Derwent in Cromford, Derbyshire. Arkwright's machine now became known as the Water-Frame. It is the world’s first successful water powered cotton powered spinning wheel. But the water supply at Cromford proves erratic.

Copying the methods of the existing silk mills, Arkwright brings together workers into one specialised workplace. And as there aren’t enough local people to supply Arkwright with the staff needed, he builds a large number of cottages close to the factory. And then he moves people in from all over Derbyshire. Arkwright prefers weavers with large families so that women and, especially their children, can work in the spinning-factory.

He also opens up a mill in Chorley and by 1774 is employing 600 people there. And just as the cotton factory system rapidly taking shape, the government removes the costly import tariff on raw cotton. A small group of men are about to become very, very rich.

In 1775, Arkwright makes various modifications to a Lewis Paul carding machine improving its ability to disentangle, clean and intermix fibres. He patents his ‘invention’ that year.

Arkwright's fortunes continue to rise. He’s mechanised the preparatory and spinning process. He now develops mills in which the whole process of yarn manufacture is carried on by one machine. Productivity increases are further complemented by a system in which labour is divided, greatly improving efficiency and increasing profits.

Arkwright is the first to use James Watt's 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 is eventually developed.

From 1775 a series of court cases challenge Arkwright's patents as copies of others work. If he’s concerned, he doesn’t show it. He purchases a large estate and begins building a castle to be his home.

In 1779, arsonists destroy his new Chorley mill. Arkwright’s machines make skilled workers jobless and employ only cheap unskilled labour, often children, instead. Apart from an engineer to repair the machine, everyone else is expendable.
The anti-technology, machine destroying Luddites are yet to emerge. But their grievances are first aired around Arkwright.

In 1780 Ralph Mather publishes a book detailing Arkwright’s new factory system:

"Arkwright's machines require so few hands, and those only children, with the assistance of an overlooker. A child can produce as much as would, and did upon an average, employ ten grown up persons. Jennies for spinning with one hundred or two hundred spindles, or more, going all at once, and requiring but one person to manage them. Within the space of ten years, from being a poor man worth £5, Richard Arkwright has purchased an estate of £20,000 while thousands of women, when they can get work, must make a long day to card, spin, and reel 5040 yards of cotton, and for this they have four-pence or five-pence and no more."

Richard Arkwright's employees work 13 hour days from 6am to 7pm and he employs children as young as six years old. In some factories, two-thirds of Arkwright's staff are children. He avoids employing those over forty and workers need to have their wits about them. In one factory, there is a machine called ‘The Devil’. It opens and breaks up raw bales of cotton using large rotating spikes. Accidents, mainly amputations, are common. And like most industrial factories, fatalities occur.

But despite being no Cadbury, for his time, he is a considerate boss. And many of his workers stand ready to defend him against the machine breakers. Despite this, the incredible profits possible mean industrial espionage is rife. Workers sell secrets away. Others start building their own water-powered textile factories.

When Strutt’s old business partner Samuel Need dies in 1781, Strutt dissolves his partnership with Arkwright. He fears Arkwright is expanding too far and too fast.
Before he’s finished, Arkwright will have built mills in Manchester and all the way from Staffordshire to Scotland.

In 1783, Arkwright builds the showpiece cotton mill Masson Mills at Matlock Bath, Derbyshire. A single water wheel harnesses the river delivering ten times the power of Cromford. This six storey expensive red brick design denotes wealth.
But these riches attract many who dispute Arkwright’s patents.

Arkwright’s business habit of borrowing others ideas, especially reed manufacturer Thomas High’s, leads to lawsuits. Arkwright is no stranger to court having tried unsuccessfully to protect his patents before. This time, the court hears from Highs, Kay, and Kay’s wife. They are not the only ones to testify that Arkwright has stolen their ideas. But the case is not just about Highs and Kay being recognised and receiving reparations. Many are using Arkwright’s patented creations and don’t want to pay him royalties. In 1785, his patents are revoked.

But by then, Arkwright has made his money. Through leasing, shares and financing, he has interests in over a hundred factories. The following year, he’s knighted.
When he dies, on 3 August 1792, estimates put Sir Richard Arkwright’s personal fortune at half a million pounds, over £200 million in today’s money.

Arkwright was born into poverty. Through his entrepreneurship, he could afford to build a castle as a family residence. Many dispute how much Arkwright actually invented, borrowed or stole from others. But most agree his cotton spinning empire helped kick-start the industrial revolution. And for his innovative approach to production - grouping together a workforce in large buildings housing powered machinery - the Victorians will dub him the ‘Father of the factory system’.

3 August 1792: Richard Arkwright, ‘Father of the Industrial Revolution’, dies

© The Print Collector/Getty Images

Richard Arkwright was born in 1732, the 13th child of a Preston tailor. He never went to school, but was taught by his cousin, became apprenticed to a barber, and set up shop in Bolton.

Then, thinking there would be more money in it, he started making wigs. He travelled around the country, doing deals and making contacts, and invented a waterproof wig dye that gave him enough money to get out of the wig game just as gentlemen's hairpieces went out of fashion.

At the time, an awful lot of people were trying to work out how to automate the manufacture of textiles. There were plenty of riches on offer to the man (or woman!) who could crack it. So Arkwright turned his attention to doing just that.

He and a man called John Kay came up with a machine – the water frame – that could spin cotton in industrial amounts, cheaply and quickly, using unskilled labour. He built a water-powered mill in Cromford, a Derbyshire village, where he employed whole families, children included, housed in company accommodation. He expanded rapidly, and made extra money by licensing his patents to other manufacturers.

However, despite being credited with all sorts of inventions, he was dragged through the courts, accused of stealing the work of others.

Thomas Highs of Leigh (and others) sued him for infringing his patents. Highs claimed, among other things, that he had given John Kay his plans for a spinning machine for him to make a model, only for Kay to betray him and sell them to Arkwright.

Many of Arkwright's patents were overturned, but nevertheless, Highs died in obscurity and poverty in 1803, while Arkwright was knighted and entered the history books as the inventor of the modern factory system. He died on this day in 1792, leaving a fortune of £500,000.

9th Grade End of Year Project

The following is a list of individuals that you will be choosing from to complete your end of the year poster project. Take a look at the list and get an idea of who you would like to learn about for your project.

John Adams (1735-1826) - American revolutionary and president

Muhammad Ali (1942 - ) - Boxer and sporting legend

Sir Richard Arkwright (1732 - 1792) - 18th century pioneer of the factory system

Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) - founder of modern Turkey

Jane Austen (1775 - 1817) - 19th century author

Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626) - Renaissance philosopher, statesman, scientist

Aphra Behn (1640 - 1689) - first female professional writer, 17th century

Alexander Graham Bell (1847 - 1922) - Victorian inventor of the telephone

Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) - first chancellor of united Germany, 19th century

William Blake (1757 - 1827) - 18th century poet, artist

Anne Boleyn (c.1504 - c.1536) - second wife of Henry VIII, executed

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 - 1821) - 18th-19th century emperor of France, general

The Brontë Sisters (1818-1855) - 19th century authors

Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797) - 18th century politician, political philosopher

Josephine Baker (1906-1975) – Entertainer, singer, actress

Josephine Butler (1828 - 1906) - 19th century social reformer

Edmund Cartwright (1743-1823) - 18th century industrial pioneer, invented the power loom

Catherine of Aragon (1485 - 1536) - wife of Henry VIII, mother of Mary

Catherine the Great (1729 – 1796) - Russian empress for more than 30 years

Neville Chamberlain (1869 - 1940) - pre-World War Two Conservative prime minister

Charles I (1600 - 1649) - king of England, scotland and Ireland, executed

Charles II (1630 - 1685) - king of England, scotland and Ireland, restored the monarchy

Chiang Kai-shek (1887 - 1975) - 20th century Chinese nationalist leader

Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965) - statesman, World War Two prime minister, national hero

Thomas Clarkson (1760-1846) - leading campaigner against slave trade

Bill Clinton (1946- ) - late 20th century US president

Christopher Columbus (1451 - 1506) - Italian explorer, discovered the Americas, 15th century

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 - 1930) - 19th-20th century author, created Sherlock Holmes

Captain James Cook (1728 - 1779) - 18th century explorer, navigator

Copernicus (1473-1543) - astronomer, said earth orbits the sun

Hernando Cortés (1485-1547) - Spanish conquistador who conquered the Aztec empire

Thomas Cranmer (1489 - 1556) - architect of English Reformation, advisor to Henry VIII

Oliver Cromwell (1599 - 1658) - English revolutionary, regicide and lord protector

Marie Curie (1867 - 1934) - 19th-20th century scientist, winner of two Nobel prizes

Vasco da Gama (c.1460 - 1524) - Portuguese explorer, navigator, 16th century

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 -1519) - Italian Renaissance artist, inventor

Charles Darwin (1809 - 1882) - Victorian naturalist, formulated theory of evolution

Ferdinand de Lesseps (1805 - 1894) - 19th century administrator, built the Suez Canal

Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870) - Victorian author

Sir Francis Drake (c.1540 - c.1596) - Elizabethan mariner, explorer

W.E.B. DuBois (1868-1963) – Civil rights activist, author and sociologist

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) - theoretical physicist, Nobel prize winner

Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) - World War Two general, US president

Elizabeth I (1533 - 1603) - Tudor queen of England, perceived as bringing a 'golden age'

Elizabeth II (1926-) - queen of the United Kingdom, reigning monarch

Olaudah Equiano (c.1745 - 1797) - 18th century African writer, anti-slavery campaigner

Erasmus (c.1466 - 1536) - Dutch writer, scholar, humanist of the Reformation

Leif Erikson (11th century) - 11th century explorer, may have discovered the Americas

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) - American revolutionary, diplomat, inventor

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) - 19th-20th century pioneer of psychoanalysis

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) - Italian Renaissance scientist, philosopher

Mohandas Gandhi (1869 - 1948) - 20th century leader of India's independence movement

Marcus Garvey (1887 - 1940) - 20th century civil rights activist

Charles de Gaulle (1890 - 1970) - 20th century French general, president, national hero

George III (1738 - 1820) - 18th century king of the United Kingdom, lost the American colonies

Che Guevara (1928 - 1967) - Cuban revolutionary leader

Henry VIII (1491 - 1547) - Tudor king of England, initiated English Reformation

Heinrich Himmler (1900 - 1945) - Nazi, head of the SS, architect of genocide

Emperor Hirohito (1901-1989) - Japanese emperor during World War Two

Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945) - leader of Nazi Germany, architect of genocide

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) - 17th century political philosopher

Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616) - Warrior, statesman and founder of the Tokugawa dynasty of shoguns

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) - American revolutionary, president

Martin Luther King (1929 - 1968) - 20th century US civil rights leader, assassinated

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) - 19th-20th century writer, Nobel prize winner

John F Kennedy (1917 - 1963) - Cold War US president, assassinated

Vladimir Lenin (1870 - 1924) - Russian revolutionary, leader of the Soviet Union

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) - 19th century US president, won the American Civil War

David Livingstone (1813 - 1873) - Victorian missionary, explorer in Africa

Louis XIV (1638-1715) - king of France, made France dominant on the continent

Louis XV (1710-1774) - king of France whose policies precipitated revolution

Louis XVI (1754-1793) - king of France, executed during the French Revolution

Martin Luther (1483-1546) - German theologian, inspired the Protestant Reformation

Nelson Mandela (1918 - 2013) - The first democratically-elected president of his country

Mao Zedong (1893-1976) - Chinese communist leader, founder of the People's Republic of China

George C Marshall (1880 - 1959) - general, politician, creator of the 'Marshall Plan'

Karl Marx (1818 - 1883) - 19th century philosopher, developed theory of international communism

Mary I (1516 - 1558) - first queen of England in her own right, persecuted Protestants, Tudor

Mary II (1662 - 1694) - 17th century queen of England, co-ruler with William III (of Orange)

Michelangelo (1475-1564) - Italian Renaissance artist

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) - 19th century philosopher, economist and social reformer

Claude Monet (1840-1926) - 19th-20th century Impressionist artist

Thomas More (1478 - 1535) - Tudor chancellor, resisted England's break with papacy

Jean Moulin (1899 - 1943) - French World War Two resistance leader, killed

Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) - World War Two fascist dictator of Italy

Isaac Newton (1643 - 1727) - 17th century mathematician, physicist, discovered gravity

Nicholas II (1868-1918) - last tsar of Russia, executed by the Bolsheviks

Florence Nightingale (1820 - 1910) - Victorian pioneer of nursing

Richard Nixon (1913-1994) - 20th century US president, resigned after Watergate scandal

Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) - invented dynamite, established the Nobel prizes

Caroline Norton (1808 - 1877) - Victorian campaigner for women's rights

Louis Pasteur (1822 - 1895) - French chemist, biologist, proved the germ theory of disease

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) - 20th Century Spanish artist

Paul Robeson (1898-1976) – Singer, actor, civil rights and political activist

Franklin D Roosevelt (1882 - 1945) - statesman, World War Two US president

Theodore Roosevelt (1858 - 1919) - 20th century US president

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 - 1778) - French 18th century political philosopher

Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794) - French revolutionary leader, executed

Adam Smith (1723-1790) - 18th century political economist, wrote 'Wealth of Nations'

Joseph Stalin (1879 - 1953) - World War Two Soviet leader, dictator

Leon Trotsky (1879 - 1940) - Russian revolutionary, exiled and assassinated

Jethro Tull (1674 - 1741) - 18th century agriculturalist, inventor of the seed drill

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) - Dutch post-Impressionist artist

Victoria (1819 - 1901) - queen of Great Britain, the longest reigning British monarch

Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) - World War One US president, envisioned the League of Nations

William III (of Orange) (1650-1702) - king of England, Scotland, Ireland, deposed James II

Watch the video: The Children Who Built Victorian Britain Part 1