Arkwright's prototype spinning machine, 1769.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Detail. Patented by Sir Richard Arkwright (1732-1792) in 1769, this machine used the drawing roller method invented by Lewis Paul in 1738. The fibres are drafted (teased out) by the action of pairs of rollers running at different speeds, and then twisted, as in a spinning wheel, to make a firm yarn. The motive power comes from a horse mill geared to a vertical shaft with a large pulley which drives the spindles by means of a belt. The upright shaft of a friction wheel gives motion to the rollers. The invention of this machine revolutionised the production of yarn and led to rapid mechanisation throughout Britain. From about 1775, horse power was replaced with water power and these machines became known as water frames.