MO4930 Victorian Technologies visit Stanley Mills
October 8, 2013 Leave a comment
Students on Dr Aileen Fyfe‘s special subject module on Victorian technologies (MO4930) had a close encounter with water-powered technologies during their visit to Stanley Mills last week. The day after a class session on heroes of the industrial revolution – which included Richard Arkwright, inventor of the water-frame, for spinning cotton – some of the class visited a mill designed by Arkwright, north of Perth. Stanley Mills were in near-continuous operation from 1786 to 1989, and are notable for never having converted to steam-power: they went from water wheels to water turbines, and then straight to hydro-electricity.
The mill buildings are disappointingly empty of eighteenth or nineteenth-century machinery, but Historic Scotland has done a great job developing displays and interactives to explain what life was like for factory workers, how water wheels work, and how power was transferred from the wheels to the machinery in the mill. The interactives may have been intended for younger students, but St Andrews students proved that age is no barrier to the thrill of getting your fingers (virtually) chopped off by a power loom! The interactive model with water wheels and turbines proved particularly successful, both for the fun of nearly flooding the exhibition area and as a learning tool. They were also intrigued by the very early diesel-powered trolley, and by the use of large numbers of wooden boxes marked ‘Tay Fisheries Salmon’ to store machine-parts. Some interesting discussions ensued about technology transfer, and how you get both the kit and the skills for cotton manufacturing (or anything else) from one place to another.