The Online Library of Knowledge

Famous inventors

Richard Arkwright

Richard ArkwrightRichard Arkwright Sir Richard Arkwright (1732–1792) was an English inventor and businessman. In the 1760s he became interested in finding ways of mechanizing cloth-making as a means to make his fortune. He invented the spinning frame, which he patented in 1769. A later version powered by running water was called the water frame. This machine allowed cotton to be spun into yarn (thread) on an industrial scale. It was a significant improvement on the spinning jenny, invented by James Hargreaves in 1764, and made a huge contribution to the Industrial Revolution.

Spinning frameSpinning frame

Spinning frame

Arkwright decided to develop a machine that would improve on the spinning jenny. Teaming up with the clockmaker, John Kay, Arkwright's machine replaced the workers that were still required to operate the jenny. First demonstrated in 1768, the spinning frame, as it was called, was able to drive 128 spindles at a time, and the thread it produced was stronger.

First spinning mill

Cromford Mill todayCromford Mill todayToo large to be hand-operated, Arkwright's frame needed a source of power to run it. Along with his new business partners Jedediah Strutt and Samuel Need, he decided to harness the power of the water wheel, previously used for grinding grain and in papermaking. In 1771 Arkwright installed the machine in a purpose-built mill on the banks of the River Derwent in Cromford, Derbyshire. He still needed a workforce, so he had a number of cottages built close to the mill, and this workers came to work there, rather than in their own homes. Arkwright's mill was the first modern factory.

As a young man, Arkwright ran a barber's business. Having acquired a secret method for dyeing hair that made it waterproof, he travelled around Britain buying up human hair for use in wig-making.

© 2020 Q-files Ltd. All rights reserved. Switch to Mobile