Richard Arkwright
Overview
 
Sir Richard Arkwright was an Englishman who, although the patents were eventually overturned, is often credited for inventing the spinning frame
Spinning frame
The spinning frame is an Industrial Revolution invention for spinning thread or yarn from fibers such as wool or cotton in a mechanized way. It was developed in 18th century Britain by Richard Arkwright and John Kay.-Historical context:...

 — later renamed the water frame
Water frame
The water frame is the name given to the spinning frame, when water power is used to drive it. Both are credited to Richard Arkwright who patented the technology in 1768. It was based on an invention by Thomas Highs and the patent was later overturned...

 following the transition to water power
Hydropower
Hydropower, hydraulic power, hydrokinetic power or water power is power that is derived from the force or energy of falling water, which may be harnessed for useful purposes. Since ancient times, hydropower has been used for irrigation and the operation of various mechanical devices, such as...

. He also patented a carding
Carding
Carding is a mechanical process that breaks up locks and unorganised clumps of fibre and then aligns the individual fibres so that they are more or less parallel with each other. The word is derived from the Latin carduus meaning teasel, as dried vegetable teasels were first used to comb the raw wool...

 engine that could convert raw cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

 into yarn
Yarn
Yarn is a long continuous length of interlocked fibres, suitable for use in the production of textiles, sewing, crocheting, knitting, weaving, embroidery and ropemaking. Thread is a type of yarn intended for sewing by hand or machine. Modern manufactured sewing threads may be finished with wax or...

. A self-made man, he was a leading entrepreneur of the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

. Arkwright's achievement was to combine power, machinery, semi-skilled labour, and a new raw material (cotton) to create, more than a century before Ford
Henry Ford
Henry Ford was an American industrialist, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production. His introduction of the Model T automobile revolutionized transportation and American industry...

, mass produced yarn.
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Sir Richard Arkwright was an Englishman who, although the patents were eventually overturned, is often credited for inventing the spinning frame
Spinning frame
The spinning frame is an Industrial Revolution invention for spinning thread or yarn from fibers such as wool or cotton in a mechanized way. It was developed in 18th century Britain by Richard Arkwright and John Kay.-Historical context:...

 — later renamed the water frame
Water frame
The water frame is the name given to the spinning frame, when water power is used to drive it. Both are credited to Richard Arkwright who patented the technology in 1768. It was based on an invention by Thomas Highs and the patent was later overturned...

 following the transition to water power
Hydropower
Hydropower, hydraulic power, hydrokinetic power or water power is power that is derived from the force or energy of falling water, which may be harnessed for useful purposes. Since ancient times, hydropower has been used for irrigation and the operation of various mechanical devices, such as...

. He also patented a carding
Carding
Carding is a mechanical process that breaks up locks and unorganised clumps of fibre and then aligns the individual fibres so that they are more or less parallel with each other. The word is derived from the Latin carduus meaning teasel, as dried vegetable teasels were first used to comb the raw wool...

 engine that could convert raw cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

 into yarn
Yarn
Yarn is a long continuous length of interlocked fibres, suitable for use in the production of textiles, sewing, crocheting, knitting, weaving, embroidery and ropemaking. Thread is a type of yarn intended for sewing by hand or machine. Modern manufactured sewing threads may be finished with wax or...

. A self-made man, he was a leading entrepreneur of the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

. Arkwright's achievement was to combine power, machinery, semi-skilled labour, and a new raw material (cotton) to create, more than a century before Ford
Henry Ford
Henry Ford was an American industrialist, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production. His introduction of the Model T automobile revolutionized transportation and American industry...

, mass produced yarn. His skills of organization made him more than anyone else, the creator of the modern factory system, especially in his mill at Cromford
Cromford
Cromford is a village, two miles to the south of Matlock in the Derbyshire Dales district in Derbyshire, England. It is principally known for its historical connection with Richard Arkwright, and the Cromford Mill which he built here in 1771...

.

Life and work

Richard Arkwright, the youngest of thirteen children, was born in Preston, Lancashire
Lancashire
Lancashire is a non-metropolitan county of historic origin in the North West of England. It takes its name from the city of Lancaster, and is sometimes known as the County of Lancaster. Although Lancaster is still considered to be the county town, Lancashire County Council is based in Preston...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 on the 23rd December 1732. His father Thomas was a tailor and a Preston Guild burgess. The family are recorded in the Preston Guild Rolls now held by Lancashire Record Office
Lancashire Record Office
Lancashire Record Office, established in 1940, is the County Record Office for Lancashire, England. It is located in Preston.Lancashire County Council appointed Reginald Sharpe France as the first County Archivist; from 1947 he also taught on the Diploma in Archive Administration at the University...

. Richard's parents, Sarah and Thomas, 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 was apprenticed to a Mr. Nicholson, a barber at nearby Kirkham and began his working life as a barber and wig-maker, setting up a shop at Churchgate in Bolton in the early 1750s. It was here that he invented a waterproof dye for use on the fashionable 'periwigs' (wigs) of the time, the income from which later facilitated his financing of prototype cotton machinery.

Arkwright married his first wife, Patience Holt, in 1755. They had a son, Richard Arkwright Junior
Richard Arkwright Junior
Richard Arkwright junior , the son of the famous Sir Richard Arkwright of Cromford, Derbyshire, was the financier of Samuel Oldknow of Marple and Mellor and a personal friend. His son Captain Arkwright married Francis Kemble, daughter of the famous theatre manager Stephen Kemble.-Biography:Richard...

, who was born the same year. In 1756, Patience died of unspecified causes. Arkwright later married Margaret Biggins in 1761. They had three children, of whom only Susanna survived to adulthood. It was only after the death of his first wife that he became an entrepreneur.

Water frame

On his own Arkwright took an interest in spinning
Spinning (textiles)
Spinning is a major industry. It is part of the textile manufacturing process where three types of fibre are converted into yarn, then fabric, then textiles. The textiles are then fabricated into clothes or other artifacts. There are three industrial processes available to spin yarn, and a...

 and carding
Carding
Carding is a mechanical process that breaks up locks and unorganised clumps of fibre and then aligns the individual fibres so that they are more or less parallel with each other. The word is derived from the Latin carduus meaning teasel, as dried vegetable teasels were first used to comb the raw wool...

 machinery that turned raw cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

 into thread. In 1768 he and John Kay
John Kay (spinning frame)
John Kay was a clockmaker from Warrington, Lancashire, England known for the scandal associated with the invention of the spinning frame in 1767: an important stage in the development of textile manufacturing in the Industrial Revolution...

, a clockmaker, relocated to the textile centre of Nottingham. In 1769 he patented the water-frame, a machine that produced a strong twist for warps, substituting wooden and metal cylinders for human fingers. This made possible inexpensive yarns to manufacture cheap calicoes, on which the subsequent great expansion of the cotton industry was based.

Carding engine

Lewis Paul
Lewis Paul
Lewis Paul was the original inventor of roller spinning, the basis of the water frame for spinning cotton in a cotton mill.-Life and work:Lewis Paul was of Huguenot descent. His father was physician to Lord Shaftesbury...

 had invented a machine for carding
Carding
Carding is a mechanical process that breaks up locks and unorganised clumps of fibre and then aligns the individual fibres so that they are more or less parallel with each other. The word is derived from the Latin carduus meaning teasel, as dried vegetable teasels were first used to comb the raw wool...

 in 1748. Richard Arkwright made improvements to this machine and in 1775 took out a patent for a new Carding Engine, which converted raw cotton buds into a continuous skein of cotton fibres which could then be spun into yarn. Arkwright and John Smalley set up a small horse-driven factory at Nottingham. Needing more capital to expand, Arkwright partnered with Jedediah Strutt
Jedediah Strutt
Jedediah Strutt or Jedidiah Strutt – as he spelt it – was a hosier and cotton spinner from Belper, England.Strutt and his brother-in-law William Woollat developed an attachment to the stocking frame that allowed the production of ribbed stockings...

 and Samuel Need, wealthy hosiery manufacturers, who were nonconformists. In 1771 the partners built the world's first water-powered mill at Cromford
Cromford Mill
Cromford Mill was the first water-powered cotton spinning mill developed by Richard Arkwright in 1771 in Cromford, Derbyshire, England, which laid the foundation of his fortune and was quickly copied by mills in Lancashire, Germany and the United States...

, which had water power and skilled labour. Arkwright spent £12,000 perfecting his machine, which contained the "crank and comb" for removing the cotton web from carding
Carding
Carding is a mechanical process that breaks up locks and unorganised clumps of fibre and then aligns the individual fibres so that they are more or less parallel with each other. The word is derived from the Latin carduus meaning teasel, as dried vegetable teasels were first used to comb the raw wool...

 engines. Arkwright had mechanized all the preparatory and spinning processes, and he began to establish water-powered cotton mills even as far away as Scotland. His success encouraged many others to copy him, so he had great difficulty in enforcing the patent he was granted in 1775. His spinning frame was a significant technical advance over the spinning jenny
Spinning jenny
The spinning jenny is a multi-spool spinning frame. It was invented c. 1764 by James Hargreaves in Stanhill, Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire in England. The device reduced the amount of work needed to produce yarn, with a worker able to work eight or more spools at once. This grew to 120 as technology...

 of James Hargreaves
James Hargreaves
James Hargreaves was a weaver, carpenter and an inventor in Lancashire, England. He is credited with inventing the spinning Jenny in 1764....

.

After this, Arkwright returned to his home county and took up the lease of the Birkacre mill at Chorley
Chorley
Chorley is a market town in Lancashire, in North West England. It is the largest settlement in the Borough of Chorley. The town's wealth came principally from the cotton industry...

, a catalyst for the town's growth to becoming one of the most important and industrialized towns of the Industrial Revolution.

By 1774 the firm employed 600 workers; in the next five years it expanded to new locations. He was invited to Scotland where he helped establish the cotton industry. A large new mill at Birkacre, Lancashire, was destroyed, however, in the anti-machinery riots in 1779. Arkwright in 1775 obtained for a grand patent covering many processes that he hoped would give him monopoly power over the fast-growing industry, but Lancashire opinion was bitterly hostile to exclusive patents; in 1781 Arkwright tried and failed to uphold his monopolistic 1775 patent. The case dragged on in court for years but was finally settled against him in 1785, on the grounds that his specifications were deficient and that he had borrowed his ideas from Leigh reed-maker Thomas Highs
Thomas Highs
Thomas Highs , of Leigh, Lancashire, was a reed-maker and manufacturer of cotton carding and spinning engines in the 1780s, during the Industrial Revolution...

. The story is that clock-maker Kay, who had been commissioned by Highs to make a working metal model of Highs's invention, had given the design to Arkwright, who formed a partnership with him.It was also said that he was an arrogant man.

In 1777 he leased the Haarlem Mill
Haarlem Mill
Haarlem Mill, on the River Ecclesbourne in Wirksworth, Derbyshire, was an early cotton mill. Built by Richard Arkwright, it was the first cotton mill in the world to use a steam engine, though this was used to supplement the supply of water to the mill's water wheel, not to drive the machinery...

 in Wirksworth
Wirksworth
Wirksworth is a small market town in Derbyshire, England, with a population of over 9,000.The population of the Wirksworth area including Cromford, Bolehill and Middleton-by-Wirksworth is about 12,000. Wirksworth is listed in the Domesday Book in 1086. Within it is the source of the River...

, Derbyshire
Derbyshire
Derbyshire is a county in the East Midlands of England. A substantial portion of the Peak District National Park lies within Derbyshire. The northern part of Derbyshire overlaps with the Pennines, a famous chain of hills and mountains. The county contains within its boundary of approx...

 where he installed the first steam engine
Steam engine
A steam engine is a heat engine that performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid.Steam engines are external combustion engines, where the working fluid is separate from the combustion products. Non-combustion heat sources such as solar power, nuclear power or geothermal energy may be...

 to be used in a cotton mill, though this was used to replenish the millpond that drove the mill's waterwheel, rather than to drive the machinery directly.

Arkwright also created another factory, Masson Mill. The factory was made from red brick, which was expensive at the time. In the mid 1780s, Arkwright lost many of his patents when courts ruled them to be essentially copies of earlier work. Despite this, he was knight
Knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

ed in 1786 and was High Sheriff of Derbyshire
High Sheriff of Derbyshire
This is a list of High Sheriffs of Derbyshire from 1568.The High Sheriff is the oldest secular office under the Crown. Formerly the High Sheriff was the principal law enforcement officer in the county but over the centuries most of the responsibilities associated with the post have been...

 in 1787.

Aggressive and self-sufficient, Arkwright proved a difficult man to work with. He bought out all his partners and went on to build factories at Manchester, Matlock, Bath, New Lanark (in partnership with David Dale) and elsewhere. Unlike most entrepreneurs, who were nonconformist, he attended the Church of England.

Recognition

Arkwright's achievements were widely recognized; he served as high sheriff of Derbyshire and was knighted in 1786. Much of his fortune derived from licensing his intellectual rights; about 30,000 people were employed in 1785 in factories using Arkwright's patents. He died at Willersley Castle
Willersley Castle
Willersley Castle is a late 18th century country mansion situated above the River Derwent at Cromford, Derbyshire which is now a Grade II* listed building....

, the mansion he had built overlooking his Cromford mills, on 3 August 1792, aged 59, leaving a fortune of £500,000. He was buried at St. Giles Church in Matlock. His remains were later moved to St. Mary's Church in Cromford.

The Arkwright Society, set up after the two hundredth anniversary of Cromford Mill
Cromford Mill
Cromford Mill was the first water-powered cotton spinning mill developed by Richard Arkwright in 1771 in Cromford, Derbyshire, England, which laid the foundation of his fortune and was quickly copied by mills in Lancashire, Germany and the United States...

, now owns the site and works to preserve the industrial heritage of the area.

Inventions

Richard himself had previously assisted Thomas Highs, and there is strong evidence to support the claim that it was Highs, and not Arkwright, who invented the spinning frame. However, Highs was unable to patent or develop the idea for lack of finance. Highs, who was also credited with inventing a Spinning Jenny several years before James Hargreaves produced his, probably got the idea for the spinning frame from the work of John Wyatt
John Wyatt (inventor)
John Wyatt , an English inventor, was born near Lichfield and was related to Sarah Ford, Doctor Johnson's mother. A carpenter by trade he began work in Birmingham on the development of a spinning machine...

 and Lewis Paul
Lewis Paul
Lewis Paul was the original inventor of roller spinning, the basis of the water frame for spinning cotton in a cotton mill.-Life and work:Lewis Paul was of Huguenot descent. His father was physician to Lord Shaftesbury...

 in the 1730s and 40s.

The machine used a succession of uneven rollers rotating at increasingly higher speeds to draw out the roving, before applying the twist via a bobbin-and-flyer mechanism. It could make cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

 thread
Yarn
Yarn is a long continuous length of interlocked fibres, suitable for use in the production of textiles, sewing, crocheting, knitting, weaving, embroidery and ropemaking. Thread is a type of yarn intended for sewing by hand or machine. Modern manufactured sewing threads may be finished with wax or...

 thin and strong enough for the warp
Warp (weaving)
In weaving cloth, the warp is the set of lengthwise yarns that are held in tension on a frame or loom. The yarn that is inserted over-and-under the warp threads is called the weft, woof, or filler. Each individual warp thread in a fabric is called a warp end or end. Warp means "that which is thrown...

, or long threads, of cloth
Textile
A textile or cloth is a flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw fibres of wool, flax, cotton, or other material to produce long strands...

. Arkwright moved to Nottingham, formed a partnership with local businessmen Jedediah Strutt and Samuel Need, and set up a mill powered by horses. But in 1771, he converted to water power and built a new mill in the Derbyshire village of Cromford.

It soon became apparent that small town would not be able to provide enough workers for his mill. So he built a large number of cottages near the mill and imported workers from outside the area. He also built the Greyhound public house (Greyhound Hotel) which still stands in Cromford market square. The hotel is planned to become a museum of Richard Arkwright. In 1776 he purchased lands in Cromford, and in 1788 lands in Willersley, the vendor on both occasions being Peter Nightingale, the great-uncle of Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale OM, RRC was a celebrated English nurse, writer and statistician. She came to prominence for her pioneering work in nursing during the Crimean War, where she tended to wounded soldiers. She was dubbed "The Lady with the Lamp" after her habit of making rounds at night...

.

In 1775, Arkwright took out a patent for a carding
Carding
Carding is a mechanical process that breaks up locks and unorganised clumps of fibre and then aligns the individual fibres so that they are more or less parallel with each other. The word is derived from the Latin carduus meaning teasel, as dried vegetable teasels were first used to comb the raw wool...

 machine, the first stage in the spinning process, replacing the hand-carding that the factory used until then. The high royalties that he charged on both inventions encouraged others to challenge his patents in court. The second patent was overturned, but not before he had become a very rich man.

His main contribution was not so much the inventions as the highly disciplined and profitable factory system he set up, which was widely followed. There were two thirteen-hour shifts per day including an overlap. Bells rang at 5 am and 5 pm and the gates were shut precisely at 6 am and 6 pm. Anyone who was late not only could not work that day but lost an extra day's pay. Whole families were employed, with large numbers of children from the age of seven, although this was increased to ten by the time Richard handed the business over to his son.

Arkwright encouraged weavers with large families to move to Cromford. He allowed them a week’s holiday a year, but on condition that they could not leave the village. Later in life, he himself taught the simple branches of education. Arkwright was later known as 'the Father of the Industrial Revolution'.

Patent problems

In 1781, Arkwright went to court to protect his patent
Patent
A patent is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention....

s, but the move rebounded when they were overturned. Four years later, after seeing his patents restored temporarily, in another, definitive court battle, Thomas Highs, a remorseful John Kay, Kay's wife and the widow of James Hargreaves all testified that Arkwright had stolen their inventions. The court agreed: Arkwright's patents were finally laid aside.

Memorials

  • Richard Arkwright's barber shop in Churchgate, Bolton was demolished early in the last century. There is a small plaque above the door of the building that replaced it, recording Arkwright's occupancy.

  • Sir Richard Arkwright lived at Rock House in Cromford, opposite his original mill. In 1788 he purchased an estate from Florence Nightingale
    Florence Nightingale
    Florence Nightingale OM, RRC was a celebrated English nurse, writer and statistician. She came to prominence for her pioneering work in nursing during the Crimean War, where she tended to wounded soldiers. She was dubbed "The Lady with the Lamp" after her habit of making rounds at night...

    ’s father, William, for £20,000 and set about building Willersley Castle
    Willersley Castle
    Willersley Castle is a late 18th century country mansion situated above the River Derwent at Cromford, Derbyshire which is now a Grade II* listed building....

     for himself and his family. However just as the building was completed it was destroyed by fire, and Arkwright was forced to wait a further two years whilst it was rebuilt. He died aged 59 in 1792, never having lived in the castle, which was completed only after his death. Willersley Castle is now a hotel owned by the Christian Guild company.

  • In the UK, the Arkwright Scholarships
    Arkwright Scholarships
    Arkwright Engineering Scholarships are awarded to students in Great Britain who aspire to a career in engineering and related areas of design. The Scholarships are awarded through rigorous selection to high-calibre students from all educational backgrounds to support them through their A Levels or...

     Trust was set up in 1991 in Sir Richard's memory to provide prestigious Scholarships to aspiring future leaders in engineering and design. By 2010, the Trust was awarding in the region of 280 Scholarships annually to support Scholars through their 'A' levels and Scottish Highers and to encourage Scholars into university engineering courses.

External links

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