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There are words listed that may have multiple meanings. The definition that relates to the context in which the word has been used in this resource is provided. 

An account of a person's life written by them.

Richard Arkwright
(1732 - 1792) Entrepreneur and industrialist who invented the Water Frame and created the modern Factory System at his mills in Cromford, Derbyshire. Partnered David Dale to build New Lanark Mills in 1784, his involvement in New Lanark was short-lived.

belt drive
A loop of material used to link rotating shafts mechanically by pulley. Belts were used as a source of motion to transmit power from the water wheels to the spinning machines in the mill. 

British Colonies
Countries overseas ruled by the British

A natural non-metallic chemical element

Part of the preparation process for spinning, in which cotton or wool fibres are teased and combed to form long slivers / person who undertakes this task.

A member of the the law-making body called Congress in the United States of America.

These are organisations that are owned and managed by the people who use their services.

A wooden or plastic bobbin or pirn that spun cotton or wool is wound onto during spinning.

Cotton Gin
A time-saving mechanical tool to clean cotton and remove seeds and debris.

A person's face


Physical blemish or disfigurement

How much an item or service is wanted at a specific time and price.

When an object or person's state has worsened.

Something that stops or prevents.

developing countries
Countries that do not have modern industries or the wealth or resources to ensure that the population have a high standard of living. 

The process of removing cops full of spun cotton or wool from the spindles on a spinning machine and replacing them with empty ones/person who undertakes this task.

drawing and roving
The name for the process after carding to prepare yarn fibres for spinning. These are drawn out, by hand or machine, and slightly twisted to form lengths suitable for spinning. These unspun strands of fibre are the rovings.

A machine that produces a current by converting mechanical energy into electrical energy.

Money or wages earned from work.

To leave your home country to live permanently in another country.

Extreme tiredness

To send an item or product to another country for trade.

Factory Acts
Laws introduced by the British Parliment to limit the working hours of women and children.

fettlin' under
Cleaning under the spinning machines.

Flying Shuttle
A holder for a bobbin of thread that is used in weaving for passing the thread of the weft between the threads of the warp.

An oven where heat is produced.

Your sex - whether you are are male or female

genetically modified
Crops and animals that have been deliberately changed by the addition of genes that aren't a natural part of the plant, fruit, vegetable or animal. There are many reasons for this that include: to make them more resistant to pests; larger or to change certain characteristics.

A frame that is used for weaving operated by a person and not a machine.

Highland Clearances
This term describes the forced removal or displacement of people from the Scottish Highlands during the 18th and 19th century. The reason for this was because land owners wanted to use their land for sheep farming instead of havig tenants with crofts.

A contract that binds someone to work for another for a set period of time.

induction motor
A small engine that transforms energy into motion using a rotor. They are most widely used when a constant speed is needed. 

The spinning jenny is a multi-spool spinning frame. It was invented in 1764 by James Hargreaves. The original machine could be operated by a worker able to work eight or more spools at once. This grew to 120 as technology advanced.


Lord Shaftesbury
Anthony Ashley Cooper, the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury (1801-1885) was an MP who became a leader of the factory reform movement in the House of Commons. He proposed a bill to Parliament in 1833 to reduce the working day for children to 10 hours. The bill was defeated but the 1833 Factory Act was passed that provided some protection for children, but did not limit working hours to 10 hours. 

To move from one place to another.

Mill lade
Water channel connected to the mill water-wheels to allow water to flow to create power for spinning machines. 

A spinning machine created as a hybrid of the spinning jenny and the water frame.

Thomas Newcomen
Inventor of the first practical steam engine to pump water.

open line shafting
A line shaft is a rotating shaft that was often used in early mills to transmit power from a large central power source like a water-wheel or turbine to machinery throughout mill buildings. This power was distributed from the shaft to the machinery using a system of belts, gears and pulleys. 

A supervisor or superintendant - someone who manages others.

The supreme law-making and governing body of the UK that consists of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. These Houses are called together and dissolved by the reigning king or queen.

pauper apprentices
The name given to poor children who were bonded to a mill for work and board for a set period of time.

Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850)
British Prime Minister from 10 December 1834 to 8 April 1835, and again from 30 August 1841 to 29 June 1846. During his career he brought about many reforms including the 1844 Factory Act which finally reduced the working day for children under 13 by law to under 10 hours.

Peel Committee
A special government committee set up by Robert Peel to investigate child labour. Mills and factories were visited around the country and mill-workers interviewed by doctors. A report was published of their findings.

physical constitution
The physical condition or health of a person.

Work that is paid for a set rate by each item they make or produce.

The job of joining broken threads together on a spinning machine

A wooden or plastic bobbin that spun cotton or wool is wound onto during spinning.

A large estate where crops are grown on a large scale often in tropical areas.

A binding promise

Power Loom
A mechanised frame to weave cloth that used water or steam power rather than humans.


A set period of time of testing to check suitability or good behaviour of a person.


Job of a mill-worker who operated machinery winding yarn onto bobbins. Other names for this job include winder, spooler. 

A rule or order that might have the force of law.

roving and drawing
The name for the process after carding to prepare yarn fibres for spinning. These are drawn out, by hand or machine, and slightly twisted to form lengths suitable for spinning. These unspun strands of fibre are the rovings.

of the country

The job of a mill-worker than had to clear any fibres or waste from underneath machinery, often while it continued to move. This job was commonly done by young children because they were small and nimble.

The name for part of the cleaning process of fibres before carding and spinning. The scutching machine removed seeds and stems by beating it to knock the seeds out.

This is an untwisted strand of fibre produced from a carding machine to prepare it for spinning.

sluice gate
A mechanical barrier set into the sides of a waterway like a mill lade or canal that control the flow of water or water levels.

A run-down area of a city that is often overcrowded and has very poor housing.

The process of converting fibres into thread or yarn. This may involve operation of a spinning wheel (by hand) or spinning machine.

The process of joining or connecting interweaving strands of yarn.

Not moving or not in motion

Allowed or required by law

steam engine
An engine that uses steam generate power

A supervisor - someone who manages others.

A type of cloth or woven fabric or a word to describe the industry that makes cloth.

Throstle spinning machine
A machine for spinning wool, cotton, that was different from the spinning mule  as it would twist and wind fibres continuously.

Fabric that holds mattresses together

Truck System
An arrangement where workers are paid in items or money substitute (like tokens or tickets) rather than with standard money.

UN Convention
International agreement whereby governments worldwide promise and agree to certain rules on a specific subject.

A person who doesn't have a special skill or training.

The supply of air in a room or space.


Water frame
The name of the first power spinning machine that was driven by water. It was patented by Richard Arkwright in 1769.

James Watt (1736 – 1819)
Scottish inventor and engineer who created the first practical steam engine.

The process of making cloth by interlacing threads of the weft and the warp on a loom.

The health, happiness, and fortunes of a person or group.

Eli Whitney (1765–1825)
American who invented the cotton gin.

The name for a person involved in the process after carding to prepare yarn fibres for spinning. Fibres are drawn out, by hand or machine, and slightly twisted to form lengths suitable for spinning. These unspun strands of fibre are the rovings.

Cleaning raw cotton to remove dirt and seeds before the carding process.





New Lanark: A Case Study
Child Labour in the Past
Child Labour Today
Fairtrade & Cotton

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