Water frame

The water frame is the name given to the spinning frame, when water power was used to drive it. Both are credited to Richard Arkwright who patented and exploited the technology in 1762. It was based on an invention by Thomas Highs and the patent was later overturned. John Kay, a clock maker and mechanic who helped Highs build the spinning frame, sold the design to Arkwright (for what might be considered a derisory sum). It was Arkwright, however, who made the system work, realising that account had to be taken of the fibre lengths in the batch being spun.

The water frame is derived from the use of a water wheel to drive a number of spinning frames. The water wheel provided more power to the spinning frame than human operators, reducing the amount of human labor needed and increasing the spindle count dramatically. However, unlike the spinning jenny, the water frame could only spin one thread at a time until Samuel Crompton combined the two inventions into his spinning mule in 1779. However the water frame could be assembled with hundreds of spinning heads in a single building and was easy to operate.

In 1771 Arkwright installed the water frame in his cotton mill at Cromford, Derbyshire, on the River Derwent, creating one of the first factories that was specifically built to house machinery rather than just bringing workers together.

Called by his contemporaries "The father of the factory system", he is considered an innovator as he combined water power,the water frame and continuous production with modern employment practices.


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