The museum had, for a long time, been the owner of a pair of mules – which are in fact a very old type of machinery used for spinning woollen yarn. The particular ones we are talking about are over 100 years old!
Back in 1990 when I started as a mule apprentice at Hainsworth – the majority of spinning was done by mule. Over the years as efficiencies were more important, the transitional to increase production frames meant the slow removal of the traditional mule.
So… the two mules at the museum – one had been running until a few months previously, the other which is in fact the oldest exhibit of a mule in the country, is in such disrepair it may never run (sad but true).
The time came when it was ready to spin a yarn, a billiard yarn type of which Hainsworth pride themselves on the quality, albeit 100 year old machinery it spun like a dream, very slow but almost expected from such old machinery.
So here we are in 2011 with a large part of history of woollen spinning in a runnable condition and it is our aim to work with the museum, utilise museum staff to learn about the mule and for future generations to learn about the history of woollen spinning in Leeds.
If you would like to see this fascinating piece of history running, please get in touch. We aim to run it at some point almost every day. We are training museum staff up to be able to demonstrate the process. If I am at the museum, I would be delighted to show you and answer any questions.
Paul Smith (Yarn Operations Technician)