Exploring water power and cotton spinning at Helmshore Textile Museum

So much to see and do at Helmshore Textile Mills Museum last Friday (10th Nov) when children from Brabin’s and St Mary’s Schools went on a visit.

We looked at the mill pond and the waterwheel and the children experimented with water power.



We worked out why large breast-shot wheels such as that at Kirk Mill are very efficient.


Also we saw a model water wheel working.


In a corner of the cotton mill, we caught a glimpse of the Preston inventor, Sir Richard Arkwright, with his prototype water-powered cotton spinning machine.  His invention is often called the “water frame” or “roller spinning” machine.

Then came a special few minutes looking at Arkwright’s full size spinning machine, which is exactly the same as those built and set up in Kirk Mill in 1785.  A very complicated looking invention!  Mostly made of wood with some metal fittings.

Helmshore Mill has the only complete example now in the UK.

And there, along the lower part of the machine were small bobbins like the one which chair maker John Wells discovered in the attic at Kirk Mill.

Helmshore has various working machines. These large spinning mules in the foreground were amazing.  Scores of bobbins could be filled at the same time with spun thread.

Some simpler mule machines were set up at Kirk Mill by the second company in the 1790s.  To make space, extensions were built along the back of the building near the dam and across the end near Kirk House.

Helmshore Mill is well worth a visit. It’s a wonderful place to discover Lancashire’s textile heritage and the tour guides are excellent. Currently, due to cutbacks, visitors have to book and be in parties of 10 or more, but there are hopes that normal visiting arrangements will soon be restored.


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