Leeds Museums and Galleries object of the week-Woollen spinning mules
Dominating a huge room at Leeds Industrial Museum, these enormous woollen spinning mules are an impressive throwback to Leeds’s industrial past.
The pair of spectacular machines were both manufactured by Platt Brothers and Co in Oldham and date from 1871 and 1904, when they were used to spin textile fibres into yarn.
The older of the two is thought to be the oldest of its kind anywhere in the world while the 1904 model is still fully operational and is regularly maintained by staff at the museum alongside specialists from A.W Hainsworth and Sons in Stanningley.
Twice a day, the 1904 mule produces high quality woollen yarn that is used in commercial blanket production, filling the room with the sights and sounds of a traditional, working textile mill.
Mules were originally invented by Samuel Crompton in 1779, and are so called because they are a hybrid between Arkwright's water frame and James Hargreaves' spinning jenny in the same way that mule is a mixture of a female horse with a male donkey.
Mules took the moving carriage of the jenny and combined it with the rollers of Arkwright’s water frame, allowing spinners far greater control of the weaving process and the ability to make many different types of yarn.
Armley Mills itself was built in 1805 by Benjamin Gott and was once the world’s largest woollen mill. Production there ended in 1969 and the site opened as Leeds Industrial Museum in 1982.
Councillor Brian Selby, Leeds City Council’s lead member for museums and galleries, said:
“These incredible machines really to have to be seen to be believed and help to paint an amazing picture of what life in such a huge working mill must have been like.
“Today they also stand as a lasting tribute to the hugely important role that the textile industry has played in our city’s heritage.”
For more information about Leeds Industrial Museum, including opening times and prices, visit: www.leeds.gov.uk/armleymills