Quarry Bank Mill: A workers life
Also includes a Brief History of the Victorian Era
Published by Helen Rowlands, 13th September 2012
Quarry bank Mill and Styal, is one of the most important industrial heritage sites in the world, this article is for people who are interested in textiles and how the Industrial revolution began in Manchester the North of England. (7)
Making Yarn – Carding
Carding separates the cotton fibres and takes out most of the remaining impurities such as seed heads. It also removes short fibres which would cause trouble in the later processes.
The Revolving Flat Card
On this machine the cotton starts as a lap – a thick layer of tufts rolled up like a huge roll of cotton wool. The cotton unwinds off the lap at the back and passes between two surfaces covered in wire teeth (the “flats” and the main cylinder). The cleaned cotton appears at the from of the machines as filmy web. This is gathered and passed between rollers to become a loose, rope-like strand called a sliver. The cotton fibres are now “untangled” and lying parallel
The sliver is coiled into the revolving can ready be taken to the Drawframe. Each can holds of a mile or 1,220m of cotton.
A Typical Day For An Apprentice At Quarry Bank Mill in 1830
5.30 am Get Up
6.00 am Start Work
7.00 pm/8.00pm Work Ends
Evening Duties at The Apprentice House
Textile manufacturing processes were revolutionised by the development of numerous machines c.1770-1830
They replaced hand processes and gave Britain a world lead.
(Before the Industrial Revolution “mill” meant a small building, perhaps a corn mill. Afterwards it came to mean a building like Quarry Bank Mill)
Bale Breaking of cotton processing is opening out the bale. After the metal straps and fabric cover have been removed layers of matted cotton fibres are taken by hand and thrown into an opening machine where the process of cleaning and mixing the cotton fibres starts.
The type of cotton is selected to match the yarn and cloth to be made. Several bales are mixed together to even out the grade and length of fibres (staple).
Before it can be spun by the Mule, the cotton needs to go through two carding processes.
The Breaker Card turns the cotton lap – a layer of cotton tufts rolled up into a huge roll – into soft ropes of cleaned and straightened fibres called slivers.
The Finisher Card cleans the cotton further and divides it into finer strands called rovings.
The Breaker Card
The cotton is cleaned as it passes between two surfaces covered in card wire – rollers and cleaners and the main cylinder.
The cleaned cotton appears as a filmy web at the front of the machine and then it goes through and under to make a soft rope-like sliver. The sliver is then wound up into a can and then taken to the Derby.
The Derby Doubler
The doubler prepares the cotton for the Finisher Card. 96 slivers – soft rope-like rolls of cotton made on the Breaker Card – are fed onto a long wedge shaped table.
The slivers are drawn towards the end of the table by heavy rollers and then rolled into a lap ready for the Finisher Card.
Making Yarn – Drawing
The process of drawing out and twisting the fibres on this type of machine may be performed up to four times before the cotton is actually spun into yarn. Each process has a different name but all use a type of spinning bobbin called a flyer.
This machine uses cotton from the Slubbing Frame. The cotton from two bobbins is fed together to even out thick and thin places. The rollers draw out the cotton fibres making the strand thinner. It is twisted by the spinning flyer and wound onto a bobbin.
At Quarry Bank Mill they put the cotton through two flyer frames before they spin – it in the Slubber and the Intermediate. To produce very fine yarn the cotton would be drawn through two further machines a Roving Frame and a Jack Frame.
The cotton is twisted and wound onto the bobbin by the actions of the spindle, ring and traveller.
The bobbin (1) turns on the spindle. The ring (2) acts like a collar which does not turn but moves up and down so that the cotton is wound onto the bobbin making a particular shape.
The traveller (3) is a ring clipped onto the collar and so it also moves up and down. The cotton is threaded through the traveller which is rotating and the ring, twisting the cotton as it is turns around the bobbin.
Making Yarn – Mule Spinning
The Mule is a condenser mule used at Quarry Bank Mill. It uses waste cotton (short fibres) to weave cloths like tea towels and dusters. A fine mule spins much thinner yarn of a higher quality. Today most cotton is spun by Ring Spinning which you can see upstairs. For many years however the British Cotton Industry relied on mule spinning to produce yarn.
It is called a Mule because it combines the spinning action of the Jenny and the drawing or drafting action of the water frame.
Invented in 1779 the Mule was originally operated part by hand and then part by water power. The carriage stayed out under waterpower but had to be taken back by hand. The first fully automatic mule was invented by Richard Roberts, a Manchester Millwright in 1830 but “hand” mules were still in use in the 1880s.
The Spinning Process
Two rope-like rolls of cotton (roving’s) are fed together to make one single roving. This evens out thick and thin places.
The roving is drawn out to the thickness of the yarn required, twisted to give it strength and then wound onto a bobbin.
Drafting, twisting and winding onto the bobbin all take place continuously. This is unlike Mule Spinning which you can see downstairs where the yarn is made by first drawing out and twisting the cotton, and then winding it.
Please note the article about Quarry Bank Mill is split over several posts.