There are many recipes for success. One of them is “no time to lose”. This could very well apply to the old Cromford spinning mill in Ratingen in the Bergisch Land, now one of the on-site museums belong to the Rhineland Industrial Museum. Johann Gottfried Brügelmann, an extremely wealthy merchant and textile magnate from Wuppertal at the end of the 18th century, learnt how to profit from saving time at a very early stage in his life. One glance at his palatial villa – equally a part of the museum – is enough to give you an impression of his self-assured economic power. The metronome of the dawning industrial age – a clock – hangs prominently over the magnificent stairway to the house making it clear that “Time is money”. The new world order took on its own dynamic immediately behind the magnificent residence. Here the tall factory rises into the sky. A huge wooden bucket wheel dominates the ground floor. Once driven by the re-routed waters of the River Anger, it set the ingenious mechanism into action via massive gear wheels and heavy transmission beams, which kept both men and machines in suspense. The museum takes visitors along the many steps from cotton to yarn, showing them. how the wool was combed and compromised on huge hooked drums of coarse and fine card before being refined again and again into roving by the rollers and finally stretched and twisted into tenacious yarn by the fine cotton jenny.
Brügelmann’s model was England. He admired the business acumen and inventive spirit of the English so much that he decided to exploit their know-how to the full with the help of industrial espionage. This is how what is probably the first factory on the European continent came into being in Ratingen in 1784. In 1977 almost two hundred years later production came to an end. After a long and painstaking period of preparation the museum was finally opened in 1996. The original machines no longer exist. That said, the clattering machines now in operation in the museum have at least one thing in common with their predecessors. They are also modelled on English originals – this time completely legally in the service of historical reconstruction. The accompanying sound and video installations, and the highly readable texts paint a multi-facetted portrait of the grinding work in an early industrial spinning mill.