What is scutching and why did it need a room with a crane?
The answer is that before cotton is processed it has to be cleaned of its seeds and other impurities, which in the early days was done by spreading the raw cotton on a mesh and beating it with sticks, a process known as willowing or batting.
Scutching was the first stage of the spinning process and was where cotton bales were brought into the mill to be broken up and prepared for the later phases of spinning.
Initially cotton bales were brought to the mill by canal boat being unloaded at Butts Basin and brought into the mill using a gantry.
The scutching machine passes the cotton through a pair of rollers, then strikes it with iron or steel bars called beaters. The beaters, which turn very quickly, strike the cotton hard and knock the seeds out. This process is done over a series of parallel bars, allowing the seeds to fall through. At the same time air is blown across the bars, which carries the cotton into a cotton chamber. The end result is a continuous sheet of cotton, ready for the next stage of the production process, carding.