Air, Water and Energy in the Industrial Revolution

Energy - water, steam and electricity

As you see from this page about a typical Victorian mill, Armley Mills has run from a number of different power sources. In fact, it was originally built at this site due to the potential of water power. Looking in more detail at the power sources used at the Mill, you can see the clear advantages and disadvantages of all the sources. Gott was one of the first mill owners to introduce steam power at another of his Mills, Bean Ings. This was run alongside the waterwheels and was more efficient, giving a greater element of independence as they were not solely dependent on the river flow affecting the level of power being generated. Gott held off introducing steam power at Armley Mills until much later as the water power available on the site was so great and efficient.


  • Location
  • Renewable
  • Energy source
  • Free (originally)


  • Flooding/Drought
  • Fluctuations on water levels could affect the water wheels and  production. The proximity of the water also meant that waste was poured back into it e.g. waste from the dyeing process
  • Back watering - when the water comes back into the mill when river levels are high



  • Eliminated the fluctuations due to river flow
  • Flexibility as the engine could be moved about, unlike the waterwheels


  • Dangerous boilers often exploded and the effect was like a bomb going off
  • Expense you would need to buy a boiler to produce steam
  • Specialist knowledge and skills were needed to run and maintain the equipment
  • The exhaust gases from the boiler caused pollution the fuel used to run the boiler was coal which is a non-renewable energy source
  • As coal had to be delivered, you were reliant an outside source and external factors.



  • Convenient (switch on and switch off)
  • Less waste
  • Efficient
  • Less power shafts are needed


  • Cost implication (supplied originally from the Leeds Electric Company, Whitehall Road Power Station)
  • Pollution the more electricity used by industries and homes results in more pollution generated by the power stations
  • Greater maintenance costs


Drought - lack of water

Dye - to put colour into something
External - outside
Fluctuation - change or variation
Generated - created or produced

Implication - suggestion

Industries - businesses

Location - place, setting or position

Maintenance - looking after

Power source - the energy needed to operate machinery
Potential  - possible ability
Proximity - closeness
Pollution - contamination or poison usually of the environment

Renewable - not likely to run out

Source - the supply or starting place

Steam power - something driven by steam

Document icon Learning article provided by: Armley Mills Museum, Leeds Museums and Galleries | 
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