Arkwright's prototype spinning machine, 1769.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Patented by Richard Arkwright (1732-1792) in 1769, this machine succesfully used the method of drafting yarn by rollers, 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 came from a horse mill geared to a vertical shaft with a large pulley to drive the spindles by means of a belt, and through a friction wheel, the upright shaft of which gave 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 the machines became known as water frames.