Silk Mill

silk mill

‘Here is a curiosity in trade worth observing, as being the only one of its kind in England, namely, a throwing or throwster’s mill, which performs by a wheel turn’d by the water; and though it cannot perform the doubling part of a throwster’s work, which can only be done by a handwheel, yet it turns the other work, and performs the labour of many hands.’

Daniel Defoe’s description of the first factory, the Silk Mill, Derby, A tour thro’ the whole island of Great Britain (1726)

The Silk Mill in Derby was the world’s first ‘manufactory’- it is also possibly the world’s first example of industrial espionage. John Lombe had copied designs for machines that could twist silk into threads during his time spent working in Italy. The new machines required purpose built buildings and were powered by waterwheels- hence the Silk Mill. The machines were able to produce far greater quantities of silk than the traditional spinsters who had worked in their homes on spinning wheels.

The Silk Mill, Derby as part of Derby Museums is a  Partner on the Stories of Change: Future Works project.


Image: A Prospect of the City of Derby c. 1725

It shows the city of Derby and the first factory, built in 1717 … the Silk Mill. The painting is in the collection of Derby Museums.

Source: wikimedia commons


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