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Historic Machinery

The Museum houses a wide variety of historic machinery used in the Woollen mills of Wales.

From basic hand shears to modern equipment that transformed the industry, some of the machines can be viewed in full operation.

The electric powered Willower - the ‘willy’ or ‘devil’ - is used to disentangle wool with its large revolving drum, covered with rows of iron spikes, opening up the wool in preparation for carding.

Manufactured in the late 19th century (powered versions were invented in the 18th century), untangling wool previously involved hitting the fleece with willow sticks, hence the Willower’s name.

The Carding Engine at the Museum was used at Abbey woollen Mill, Neath. Also invented in the 18th century, it is used to prepare wool for spinning. The carding engines comb the wool after it has been willowed, preparing the fibres for spinning.

Cambrian Mills here at Dre-fach Felindre had four carding engines, 20 meters long and weighing 10 tons each. They were vital for mass production, because poorly carded wool would keep breaking when spun, wasting time and money, and reducing the quality of both the yarn and cloth woven from it.

The Great Wheel on display was commonplace by the 1300s. Operated by standing, they were relatively cheap to buy so that even poor families could afford one. The Treadle or Anglesey Wheel, a later and more expensive invention, allowed the spinner to sit down while working.

One of the many Spinning Mules originally at Cambrian Mills remains in the Museum today, used throughout the Golden Era of the business and into the 1960s to spin yarn.

You can also see:

For Carding, Spinning and Winding

For Warping, Weaving and Finishing