Before Arkwright built Cromford Mill most cotton was produced by the domestic system; skilled self employed people working in their own homes using manually powered machines. That domestic industry was destroyed by what started at Cromford.
There are several proccesses involved in cotton production and other innovaters besides Arkwright. However, the water frame was an important innovation, particularly because its characteristics lead to his second innovation, the factory.
Arkwright's water frame had a number of important attributes.
- It vastly increased the production of spun cotton. It could not be ignored and was very profitably to its adopters.
- It could not be manually powered. It needed water power.
- It was too expensive for the home weaver and needed substantial capital investment.
- It could be operated by unskilled labour.
Arkwright built the world's first water-powered cotton spinning mill at Cromford in Derbyshire [see map] in 1771. Soon it had 300 workers and by 1789 the mills employed 800 people. The hand weavers had been well paid and were their own masters. After Arkwright many had become unskilled labourers in factories.
The Cromford Mills template was soon adopted elsewhere in the cotton industry, and then in other industries, changing society for ever.
|Water course to power mills and Mill 2in background|
I have visited a number of the old cotton mills and I thought that Cromford compared very badly with the others, such as New Lanark, Stanley and Saltaire [incidentally, Arkwright was involved with both New Lanark and Stanley]. The buildings are generally in a poor condition and there is almost nothing which explains the importance of the site and how the mills operated.
I don't know what has gone wrong at Cromford but clearly something has caused it to be so badly neglected.
|Mill Managers House|