Industrial Museum Visit

Industrial Museum Visit

In February we ventured out and visited the Leeds Industrial Museum at the time of the Engineery exhibit. The exhibit was put on to celebrate the 300th anniversary of John Smeaton, 'The Father of Civil Engineering'.

While the exhibit was centred around Civil Engineering, the mill itself was first built in the 16th century to process wool and has had a rich history over the years. It became the largest wool mill in the world during the industrial era, turning wool into finished garments for around 260 years. Now it's the home of the world’s smallest loom and littered with plenty of machinery that would happily take your arm off!

There were some great exhibits around; optics in film and photography, textile manufacture, and some serious steam powered machinery! It was great to see so much rich history right on our doorstep. We even managed to spot a Helical gear! (It was a little bigger than our Helico 😉). Pictured below is the beast of a steam driven generator, (don't get your arm too close to this one in the dark!)

And check this out for some early computer programming - looms were the birthplace of 1's and 0's to create different patterns in fabrics! We thought these were interesting, as the wooden pegs are movable so new patterns could be programmed in much easier; it's plug and play but not as we know it! This method transferred to CNC machines that ran on punch cards until they became fully digital. 

Something a little more nature inspired that we wanted to share with you was our discovery of the Teazle!

They’re quirky looking things and we weren’t quite sure how they were incorporated into the milling process. These spiky guys were mounted on pins, so they rotated as they brushed the woollen cloth making it extra soft and refined. This process was eventually replaced by machines using metal teeth, which were slightly more robust, meaning less breakages and replacements.

At the time these were in such high demand that factories would pay locals to go out collecting them when they were in season, also there were businesses set up purely to supply Teazle’s like this one pictured below!

These are an interesting reminder of how early in the Industrial Revolution they were still using techniques that had been around for hundreds of years, that incorporated a lot of the natural world, and then scaled up into machinery.

If you're local, this exhibition runs until 28th September 2025, so there's still loads of time to visit. For a hot and steamy day out, they even have steam days where they fire up the steam engine that powered the mill!

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