“ Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 4LA. „
Over the summer I visited the Quarry Bank Mill and Styal Estate (mainly known as Styal Mill).
It is known as a great industrial heritage site and is a very popular National Trust attraction.
Styal Mill is located in Styal, Wilmslow.
--Prices and Opening Hours--
Standard admission prices are:
£13.60 per adult
£6.80 per child
£34.05 family ticket
£12.25 for group over 15
(It is less if you are just wanting to only visit the Mill, but the above prices will cover visiting the whole area - prices can be increased if you want to gift aid your ticket)
Visiting Styal Mill would be free to anyone holding a National Trust Pass.
Opening hours are 11am-5pm, but cafe opening hours are 10:30am-4:30pm
Upon arriving to the mill you will firstly notice how large the site is. It seems to be quite hidden away with all the trees and large grassed areas but it is a well maintained and beautifully kept site. We were greeted by a lady who was in costume from the time period of the mill, who was undertaking tours of the area. We decided to go on the tour and as she walked us round she talked about how the mill was founded by a man called Samuel Greg in 1784. She discussed how Quarry Bank Mill was worked by child apprentices who were housed in the Apprentice House in a separate building not far from the factory.
Throughout the tour we did get a feel for what children's lives would have been like in this time... and although we recognised how children would have had to work hard and had a tough life it was also clear that in them times their lives could have been even worse if they were taken in at other work houses where they may not have been as looked after.
The children who were at Styal Mill had access to an education and schooling there, which although would have been pretty basic it allowed them to learn how to read and write which wasn't always accessible to all children in those times. There were also able to go to church which Samuel Greg had built.
Being shown the Apprentice House was a good experience, we got to see how boys and girls were separated into dormitories and where they slept. Being shown the beds and where they slept really showed how basic everything was as they had straw mattresses and cushions which wouldn't have been changed often. We were able to sit on the beds and look around the rooms which really gave it a good experience as you got a feel for what children's lives were like. We were also shown what would have happened if children were ill and we could look at the doctor's room and medicines that were taken (which looked awful!)
They also showed us where children had classes and we were met by a man who also in costume acted like he would of done had he been the teacher in the setting. He was quite strict and set us some tasks involving writing with a quill which I found really difficult compared to a pen - I found the scratchyness of it when writing with the ink not nice at all and I don't know how people managed to write so much with them! We were able to take away what we had written with the quills, which was a nice little touch. Whilst here we learnt a bit more about the children who would have been there and how they would have came to the school after their long 8-9 hour shifts at the mill making it a very long day.
We were also shown the food that was cooked for the children. They were given porridge to eat mostly but unlike other places they were always allowed to eat as much as they wanted to keep them going. They sometimes also had a range of vegetables incorporated into their meals that were grown outside.
We were then shown the mill where there was a demonstration going on of hand spinning cotton and weaving, again by a lady in costume. This was good to see how it was all done and it did look like a lot of work. We were taken to the machines which were in full working order and were on - as soon as you walked into the mill you can hear how loud the machinery is and it is fascinating to watch all the machines ticking away. It was known as the largest cotton spinning factory in the UK and you can really see why with the extent of it all.
Styal Mill also has the most powerful waterwheel in Europe which was also good to see up close.
--After the tour--
After the tour was over we visited the cafe which was nice and clean and had a range of hot and cold food and drinks available. It was nice to sit in there for a drink and a snack.
Once we had visited the cafe we went for a walk around the gardens. When the weather is nice it really is a nice place to visit and go for a walk. There is a lot to see and a lot of area to cover but it really did look nice in the summer.
There is also a shop placed there which I found similar to all the other National Trust shops. Items in there can be quite expensive but there is also a nice collection of gifts and souvenirs.
Visiting Styal Mill was a great experience and really allowed a detailed insight into the past and how the mill worked and what working there would have been like. You were really able to picture everything that was going on due to all the hands on experience and people being in costumes and giving demonstrations also really aided the whole experience. Visiting this attraction would be great for families and children and would provide a great learning experience for children to see things first hand rather than just hearing about them, and I am sure it could fit in with some things they have learnt about in school. Those who are really keen on history would also like the visit.
The summer would be the best time to visit Styal Mill due to having great weather for walks in the Quarry Bank Gardens and generally making it a nice day out. There is plenty to see with lots of exhibits and demonstrations and very friendly staff and volunteers on hand. There would be a lot of walking involved so I would say to be prepared for that. I'm not sure about wheelchair access in some of the places and it may be worth phoning to check beforehand.
I give it 5 stars for being a great learning experience and for being such a big area that there is plenty to see that would not make it a wasted visit.
Thanks for reading :)
(This review may also be found on other sites under the same username)
Quarry Bank Mill and Styal Estate
Styal, Wilmslow, SK9 4LA
Telephone: 01625 527468
We are National Trust members and so whenever we go somewhere in the UK we always check to see if there are any NT properties we can visit. We spent a long week end near Manchester recently with some friends who are also NT members so we decided to visit this property on the Sunday.
Quarry Bank Mill is located 2 miles south of Manchester Airport, Junctions 5 or 6 of the M56 and very close to the airport. In fact we sort of circumnavigated the airport on our way there.
OPENING TIMES AND PRICES
As NT members we got in free but there are so many variants of prices that are available depending if you want to gift aid your entry fee (usually £1 extra) or only visit the mill, or garden or combinations of mill garden and Apprentice house. However if you want to visit the Mill, Apprentice House, garden the cost will be:
 Adult: £13.10
 Child: £6.55
 Family: £32.75
 Group: £13.00
I would suggest if you are planning a visit that you check for opening times as they seem to vary week by week but Monday and Tuesday seem to be closed. Sometimes the mill is open and the garden closed so you do really need to check.
There were four couples and I don't know whether you have ever noticed nut whenever a group gets to a certain size decisions seem to take four times longer and everything takes more time too. We had breakfast late and then by the time we gathered everyone together again and driven to the property it was already 11.30.
We learned that there was going to be a guided visit to the 'Apprentice House in the next ten minutes so quickly made the decision to go grab tickets ( numbers are limited) and make our way there first.
The owner of the mill, Samuel Greg built an entire community for his workers, which became known as Styal, he built a church and school, as well as terraced housing and cottages for the families. And of course the Apprentice House which was built in 1790 and was home to about one hundred young children who made up a large percentage of his work force and only cost him food and board.
THE APPRENTICE HOUSE
This was where the young children, orphans or paupers who worked in the factory were housed and educated. Having read a lot of Dickens, studied the industrial revolution and living in one of the main areas of Industrial revolution factories I did have a pretty good idea of child labour but visiting this place was still an eye opening.
We were met outside by a lady in costume who took us into the school room. This was pretty much as you would see in any Victorian school room, stark, benches, ink pots with quills and slates. The guide was very good and told us a lot about the lives of these little indentured workers. Apparently they came in as young as nine or ten and signed an agreement to stay until they were about eighteen; not that they had a lot of choice really at that age.
I think these children were some of the luckier ones as they were given a basic education; basically taught to read so they could read the bible and not a lot more. They did this studying after their work at the mill. They did shifts of at least eight hours, sometimes longer, they also worked in the garden and on Sunday they still had chores and also had to walk to church twice a day and the church was four miles away.
They had beds in large dormitories girls separate from boys. The beds were pallets strung with a sort of sacking and then they had straw mattresses which had fresh straw about once or if lucky twice a year. There were a few rather thin looking blankets and apparently a fire was very unlikely up in the bedrooms. Washing was done with water in a bowl and the pot was under the bed which needed emptying. The toilets were earth closets out in the garden. It was the height of luxury for paupers but my goodness, thank the lord I didn't have to live through that time.
What I liked about this tour is that it was very "hands-on" and you are encouraged to touch the objects, and you can even pump water from a well in the yard! You could sit on the beds and I thought that made it very real. We didn't have any children with us but as a former teacher I could see great potential for a school visit or bringing my own children to give them an idea of this aspect of our history in a very real way.
The young workers went to the mill at about 6.30am in the morning without breakfast; this was brought up to them at the mill. It was almost solid porridge as it could be spooned directly into their hands. This warmed the hands, filled the belly and needed no washing up. They could have as much of this gloop as they wanted so they were never hungry. Lunch was, you've guessed it, more solid porridge and again in the evening they had another portion of porridge. Very occasionally there were some vegetables from the garden or gravy to add a bit of variety.
Quarry Bank Mill's last unpaid child apprentice was indentured in 1841 and the child labour system ended in 1847l. The owners of Styal Mill employed Peter Holland as mill doctor and he was responsible for the health of the children and other workers. This was the first family to employ a doctor in such a capacity. Interestingly this doctor was the uncle of Elizabeth Gaskell, the author which i was interesting in learning being a fan of her work.
The children spent long hours working in the mill and this was often very dangerous, many lost fingers and sadly some did die. However, these children were better off working in the mill than the alternative which was life at a workhouse.
This is HUGE. Despite its enormous size it cannot be seen until you are almost right there as it is in a wooded valley and surrounded by trees and of course the gardens too. It looks very like the Arkwright mills we have in Derbyshire, large and imposing and quite familiar to us so I wasn't really surprise at what it looked like more by the way it was so well hidden.
Be prepared for a long walk and it takes a while to get through so if it is near a meal time then think about whether you need a drink or food before going in. I would suggest that a visit of two hours is a visit done at speed and really three hours is needed to do it justice.
This mill is probably the best preserved example of an industrial revolution textile factory and is now a Grade II listed building. The mill was originally founded in 1784 by a Mr Samuel Greg. The mill was powered by an enormous water wheel.
Today the mill is home to the most powerful working waterwheel in Europe and this one was designed by the apprentice of the designer of the original water wheel. As you go round the mill you can see this huge beast still working powering the looms.
The factory built as a cotton spinning factory and by the time Samuel Greg retired in 1832 this was the largest cotton spinning factory in the UK.
You really get an excellent idea of what a working mill was like as many of the machines still work. The NT volunteers wear noise protectors on their ears and it is loud. It is really loud with one or two of the machines going so I was imaging how noisy it must have been with all of them going all day long. You could see where the little children had to crawl along to fill the bobbins and clean the floor. Seeing the machines working was so much more impressive than reading about them in books or just seeing silent machines.
The water-powered Georgian mill still produces cotton calico and also linen and they sell the linen glass cloths in the shop but they are not cheap. The ones you buy from Matalan or similar are much cheaper and these are the simple plain cream linen cloths with a stripe down each side and nothing exciting!
In the mill building there are more traditional museum exhibits as well as the huge machinery areas; indeed there are twelve galleries so as I said be prepared to walk. These galleries tell the story of cotton from the plantations through to the processing. Once again this part of the museum encourages you to touch and do things and children are able to run from one thing to the next without being told off. There is a mountain of information on printed boards as well as all the touchy feely stuff so you can take in as much as you feel able to. All aspects are covered from social history of clothes, food, housing and so on through to the technological revolution and developments in machinery that was taking place throughout this industrial revolution time.
This has items specific to this NT property as well as the similar things you find in other NTshops. We visited in December and the shop was pretty full of Christmas decorations and gifts made up for Christmas giving.
This was a large building and offered full hot meals, sandwiches and rolls, coffee tea and other drinks as well as a good range of tasty looking cakes. It was pretty crowded but there were quite a few tables so we managed to sit but together as a group of eight. The food was pretty good and those that had hot food were very happy with their meals.
These were clean and there were baby changing facilities. At busy times I suspect there would be a queue as there were not many, two or three from memory.
The paths in the ground were all wheel chair and push chair friendly but you were not able to take pushchairs into the factory. They did loan you baby carriers and looked after the pram for you. Now I am not sure what happens for wheel chair users and I would suggest a phone call prior to the visit. If you have difficulty walking then think twice as the factory is really big and there are lots of stairs on the route they take you through. There us a lot of walking involved which is fine for any able bodied person but would be difficult for someone with any mobility problems.
This is a really big site and there is so much to see. If you lived close by it would best to do one thing at a time like the gardens one visit, the Apprentice house on another and the factory on a different visit as there is quite a lot to take in and we did rather rush our visit because of time constraints on the day which was a shame and I felt a bit cheated when we left.
Thank for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
Quarry Bank Mill was a place that my husband and I found quite by accident, which made it all the better at the time! We fancied a nice walk on a sunny Sunday afternoon, so we drove to Styal park (parking is free, and there is room for about 30 cars) to make our way through the forest path.
It was a lovely walk, made all the better by the resident ice-cream man in the car park which meant we set off each with a 99 in hand (shame they don't cost 99p any more but I digress). The walk is down a well maintained path through lush trees, past fields, wetland with ducks and a fishing pond in the middle. It's very popular with ramblers, dog walkers, families and people of all ages.
After about 20 minutes walk, I could hear rushing water. How amazing that Styal Country Park, which leads on to the Quarry Bank Mill estate, has a large and ferocious waterfall!
We had a look at the waterfall, and the surrounding well-kept grounds, which include a large lawn area for picnickers, a wooden play area, seating area with tables and gardens. All are very, very well kept, as this is a National Trust estate.
Quarry Bank Mill comprises of the main mill, which has been converted from it's original use as a working cotton mill established in 1939 to a visitor attraction, a gift shop, a restaurant, and some loos. It is very well visited, as when we went on a sunny but otherwise unremarkable Sunday, it was quite busy. The opening hours are 11 - 4 for all attractions other than the garden which is open 11 - 5.
I can't deny it's a beautiful place to visit, but I have to admit that I was very disappointed to find how very expensive the attraction actually is. It's £14.20 to visit the mill, apprentice house and garden, which is £28.40 for myself and my husband. It's £35.40 for a family. The full price breakdown is as follows:
Mill, Apprentice House and garden: adult £14.20 child £7.05 family £35.40 Mill and Apprentice House or garden: adult £10.50 child £5.25 family £25.20 Mill only: adult £7.35 child £3.90 family £18.60
Garden only: adult £5 child £2.50 family £12.50
Garden upgrade: adult £3.50 child £1.75 family £8.75
Estate: Cars £4, motorcycles £2, coaches £15.
Luckily, we managed to dodge the car parking fee on the estate as we parked on the other side of the park, but I do personally think these prices are far too high. Almost £30 for two, three hours entertainment at most? We are supposed to be encouraging our families to spend time together, get some fresh air, learn something. But these prices are not within the reach of many people, and the only option is to join the National Trust itself, which is £36 for 12 months and allows free parking and entry to all visitors attractions it maintains. It's an initial outlay which seems a lot but if you want to spend your summer visiting places like this, then it is worth it.
So, once the initial shock of the price is over, what's the Mill like? Well, very nice, and well worth a visit especially if you are a member of the National Trust. It covers how cotton was made in the early 1900s and really does go into some depth, which is very interesting, and would appeal to a wide range of visitors. You can expect to spend around 90 minutes, possibly more in there, so it does have a lot to give.
The restaurant is large, with plenty of seating and a wide range of mostly English choices, and it's a welcome place for a drink and snack after spending some time on the estate. Again, expect to pay a premium in here, with a can of soft drink at a ridiculous £1, so if you can, pack a lunch, take a flask of tea or at the very least take some drinks because sandwiches, snacks and a drink for a family of four would leave little change out of £20.
The loos, in a break from tradition, are free to use, are fairly clean and well kept, if a little poorly stocked for tissues. They are handy though.
The gift shop is a nice place to visit, it's fully accessible too, with a stairlift for pushchairs and wheelchairs. The shop sells a range of food goods, natural health and beauty items, toys, National Trust branded items (binoculars, bags, paperweights etc) and so on. It's a lovely place to look around and no doubt if you're looking for a hiking book as a gift or something special for your mum or gran, then you'd be able to find it in here. But generally it's a bit expensive (£5 for a bookmark!?).
Overall, my husband and I had a lovely day at Styal Country Park and Quarry Bank Mill, especially as we found it quite by accident! There is plenty to keep you entertained and educated and you can easily spend a full day there, though you would be better going when the weather is dry if not sunny, as there is so much to see and do out of doors as well as indoors.
The only reason I'm docking the one star is the prices. I have learnt my lesson and will be joining with my husband to the National Trust membership scheme, as I don't think there is any real justification to have a National Trust site, or any historical or natural beauty site cost as much to visit as Alton Towers or Lego Land (which, when push comes to shove, kids would much prefer to visit, let's face it). About £7 I would have been happy with, and they would get a lot more visitors that way too.
If you would like to visit Quarry Bank Mill and Styal Country Park, I would, to summarise:
- Park in Styal Park's car park, as it is free, and the walk to the mill is lovely
- Take a packed lunch and some drinks if you can
- If you plan to visit more than one National Trust site in the next 12 months, join their membership scheme on their site. It costs £36 for the year, all National Trust sites and parking is free with it, and you get a pair of binoculars when you join. If you join up the same day, you get a printable membership card so you can reap the benefits immediately.
Overall, I'd absolutely recommend you visit, as it's amazing - a waterfall, a beautiful park and a wonderful historical attraction. A lovely way to spend a day and I'll be sure to go back in the future.
Quarry bank mill has one of the only working water mill left in Britain.
It is situated in the beautiful village of Styal, on the banks of the River Bollin
The Mill was built by Samuel Greg in 1784, with the giant metal water wheel being built between 1816 and 1820.
The original wheel broke in 1904 and was replaced years later by another iron wheel to make the Mill the proud owner of the last remaining working water wheel in Europe.
The mill was used for the 'spinning' of cotton (and is still used for that purpose today but more for visitors to see rather than commercial use), it was soon the largest cotton producing factory in its time.
Weaving was introduced to the Mill in 1834 by Robert Greg, (son of Samuel), so as to keep up with the revolution.
Samual Greg was an unusually kind employer for the time and treated his workers with great care and much compassion, building them houses in the nearby Styal village, when finished, the village included a chapel and a school.
The houses in the village are still there today to be seen and admired.
*The Apprentice house...
Also at the Mill Samuel was known to use child labour, as all employers used, but he treated the children a lot better than other employers would.
The children were housed in the nearby "apprentice house", a large building a short walk from the Mill.
The house shows how the children lived whilst working at the Mill, the N.T. tried to restore the house to its exact glory.
A school and a doctor were also provided for the children.
Surrounding the Apprentice house there is a well kept allotment which was used at the time for growing the workers food, the allotment was tendered by the elder children.
The smaller children were used in the Mill as they were more capable of getting under the machinery to fix any problems, (many children lost fingers, limbs or even their lives).
The house has tours several times a day with the story of how the workers were treated being told by some friendly members of National trust staff.
It only stopped mass producing in 1959, now only spinning and weaving so visitors can see how things worked.
The National Trust now own the building and the land and have done since 1939.
The Mill can be found just over a mile outside Wilmslow off the B5166 and 2 ½ miles from the Junction 5 of the M56.
It is 10 miles south of Manchester, (you can hear and see the planes coming in and out)
Buses can be used from Chesterfield.
The nearest Train station is Styal, (Sundays excluded)
*Prices....(as of April 2008)
Mill and Apprentice house tour: Adult-£9.00... Children- £4.70...family- £20
Mill only: Adult-£6,..children-£3.70,...family-£16
Discounts for groups and public transport arrivals on request.
(note: all areas free for National Trust members)
Mar- Oct 11am-5pm, 7 days a week
Nov- Jan 11am-4pm, closed Monday and Tuesday
Mar-Oct (tour times vary) 7 days a week
Nov-Jan (tour times vary) closed Monday and Tuesday
Mar to Oct 11am-5pm... 7 days a week
All year 7am -6pm 7 days a week
Mar- Oct 11am -5pm 7 days a week
Nov- Jan 11am-4pm closed Monday and Tuesday ￼
Open BH Mons, Boxing Day & New Year's Day.
Closed 24/25 Dec.
Mill: last admission 1hr before closing.
Apprentice House: limited availability - timed tickets only, available from Mill on early arrival.
Garden: timed tickets may be introduced during busy periods also Apprentice House.
The walks around each building/garden vary but make sure you give yourself plenty of time to spare.
The Mill may take 90 minutes to complete, add an extra 60 minutes if you want to go on the Apprentice house guided tour, (total 2 ½)
(Special tours can be arranged)
£3.00 for a car.
The car park is a good size, with a short walk downhill to the Mill.
There is a Restaurant at the foot of the Mill and a small shop opposite the play area.
Toilets can be found opposite the restaurant.
Quarry bank Mill is a historic and wonderful place to visit for people of all ages.
It will educate every one whilst entertaining the young.
It is worth the time and money to walk around the Mill, to understand how people used to work in some terrible conditions.
Then you should wonder around the Apprentice house, listening to the story of how thirty to forty children would have to sleep in a cramped loft space, feeding on nothing but a slice of porridge and a few vegetables, then having to work all day long in the heat of the Mill.
The tour guides bring the past to life, making you realise just how easy your life is today.....
If you do go on the apprentice house tour take a handkerchief, you may need it.
Quarry Bank Mill and Styal Estate is a site of significant industrial importance, and has been a national trust property since 1939 when the great, great grandson of Samuel Greg, the original owner gifted it to the trust.
The Mill itself is situated within a mile or two of Manchester Airport and close to the town of Macclesfield obviously this whole area looked very different in 1784 when the mill was first opened and it was a world away from the cotton mills of Manchester.
Significantly, the mill was sited on the banks of the River Bollin, and the huge Water Wheel, which finally broke in the early 1900s, was used as a source of power. The damp climate was also suitable for storing cotton.
Most visitors to the village of Styal and the area in general will be taken with the quaintness of the area. The terrace cottages, built for the workers are particularly endearing. The Greg family philosophy was to provide fair wages, comfortable houses and even gardens to grow flowers and vegetables. Every house had a privy, unlike areas in the city where there might be 1 privy for every 100 people. Styal was quite removed from the back to backs or tenements in nearby Manchester and Salford.
I lived in the general area in the late 80s and early 90s, and I have always enjoyed a visit to Styal Mill and enjoyed the tour and Christmas events that have taken place there over the years. Cotton made this area and adjoining Lancashire very affluent in years gone by. Perhaps the fact that the village of Lancashire that I lived during my childhood was in fact the richest town in the world between 1919 and 1921 due to its 30+ cotton mills, has meant I enjoy learning about Mill life and Mill towns.
My most recent visit to Quarry Bank Mill did not disappoint. Entry fee to the Mill, grounds and Apprentice House is not particularly cheap at £9 per head with the usual concessions and in fact if you are not a member of the National Trust then it is worth joining on the day, as there are plenty of NT attractions in this part of Cheshire. Family tickets are £20, which makes a day out more cost effective.
The Apprentice House part of the experience is available via a timed ticket only, and we were fortunate to obtain the last two tickets for the first tour of the day which was 12 noon. You need to go to the main ticket office to get timed tickets, whether you are a paying visitor or a guest, and then need to walk the 5-8 minutes back to the Apprentice House.
The Apprentice house was used to accommodate the children that worked in the mill. Millworkers were found from all over the country, and from Workhouses. Children needed to be nine years of age and over to work in the mill, and got free accommodation and food in return for working a 13 hour day.
The Apprentice House has an extensive allotment area and orchard, which is still tended to very carefully by the staff and volunteers. It is possible to wander among the allotments whilst you wait for the bell to ring, signalling the start of the tour. Our tour guide took us around the different areas of the house, including the dormitories, kitchen, and living areas and gave an excellent insight into how life would have been for children of the day. The diet was quite nutritious although not necessarily appealing but food quantity was unlimited and there was plenty of fresh vegetables as well as plenty of porridge. If you go to Quarry Bank Mill, then the Apprentice house should NOT be missed, the tour was excellent and informative.
The Mill itself is used to house the extensive collection of machinery and equipment that helps paint the picture of cotton production of the era. Much of the equipment is still operational, and indeed there are guides throughout the different areas of production who are able to demonstrate the machinery and pass on knowledge on how conditions might have been.
The tour of the mill continues over several floors of the mill and is divided into four key areas Introduction (to the Industry), then People, Process and Power. This was very much a family business and the national trust has a healthy archive of documentation and artefacts which help build the story. Display boards are of a high quality and winteractive displays and the knowledge emparted by the excellent guides along the route ensure that the tour remains interesting throughout.
The Estate itself should not be overlooked. Styal consists of 300 acres of land and the River Bollin runs through the estate for almost three miles. Thankfully, as the estate has been under national trust ownership, much of the land is unspoilt and habitat has been preserved. Styal village is within the estate and can be reached within ten minutes.
The Mill is typically open from 11am to 5pm during the spring and summer, although the apprentice House is closed on Mondays. See national trust website for latest pricing and opening hours. Allow at least 2.5 hours for a visit.
http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk - search for quarry Bank Mill
How well can you remember being 10 years old? Can you remember somewhere you visited when you were 10, somewhere you went to that has stuck in your mind and left a lasting impression with you? I know I can. I also know that if I were to revisit most of those places they would not be at all as I recall them. Our memories fade over time, and a lot of the things we think we remember were never actually there in reality at all. However, I have just found out that one place I have vivid recollections of visiting at that age is exactly how I remember it to be. I can only suppose that it was my great enjoyment that led me to remember it so clearly after 15 years, but whatever it was, it has stayed with me. The place in question was the apprentice house at Quarry Bank Mill; I returned there for the first time as an adult last weekend. Quarry Bank Mill is the best preserved Georgian factory colony in the country. It is owned and run by the National Trust, but is far from being what you may think of as the average NT property. Mention the words "National Trust" to most people, and images of Jane Austen type grand houses tend to spring to mind, great country piles with everything roped off and people talking in hushed voices. I hated such places as a child. Ruined castles were more fun to me, as at least there you behave like a child without anyone looking reprovingly at you. Quarry Bank Mill, however, is different. It is an active, exciting, noisy, hands-on place that positively encourages children. Perhaps that is why I have remembered it, whilst all those grand houses have merged together in my memory. The property consists of two separate buildings - the mill and the apprentice house - and also has a country estate suitable for walking in. **The Mill** Nestled in a wooded valley, you do not see the mill building as you approach, either by car or on foot from the nearby village of Styal. It comes as quite a shock to sudde
nly be confronted by such a huge and imposing building in a quiet country area - and it is quiet, despite being virtually next door to Manchester airport. The mill was founded in 1784 by Samuel Greg, a Belfast textile merchant, and was placed in this now secluded valley to take advantage of both the fast-flowing River Bollin to drive the mill's water wheel, and by the proximity of the growing city of Manchester. Greg had the building purpose made to house the revolutionary new spinning machines of the time, and the mill was run as a profitable family business right until 1959, when the National Trust took it over and carried out major restoration work. It was opened as a museum in 1978, and in 1984 won the much coveted Museum of the Year award. The mill building is run by the National Trust as a working museum. This means that alongside the "traditional" museum displays interpreting the social and industrial history of the property, there are working machines of the same types that once ran in the 1830s/40s period when the mill was in its heyday. The vast iron waterwheel has been restored to working condition, and machinery has been rescued from other mills to replace the lost originals that once ran in Styal mill. The National Trust employs a team of engineers to run the wheel and machines on a daily basis to give visitors an idea how the mill once worked, which provides an excellent accompaniment to the static displays and historical information provided in the earlier rooms of the museum. You can be told how noisy spinning mules are, but until you actually experience a room full of them in operation, you cannot really begin to appreciate what working conditions in this mill must have been like. The Trust also put the machines to good use in spinning and weaving their own calico, which is sold in the shop in the form of tea towels and other items for visitors to buy. The mill museum is surprisingly large - it has 12 galleries
in all, each dealing with a different subject, ranging from the Greg family to the lives of the workers to how cotton was processed. The galleries to vary a lot in style; some have been in place since the museum first opened, and tend towards being a "book on the wall", while others are newly installed and filled with interactives to get stuck into. The curator (who I have spoken to as part of my PhD research) laments that this is all rather a piecemeal approach, but I rather like it as it means there is something for every kind of visitor. Those who like to read can do so. Those who like to listen to recordings to get information can do so. Those who prefer a more practical approach to learning can try out interactive activities and talk to the engineers running the machines. Technological types can find out about industrial history, while those less interested can learn about social history or watch costumed experts demonstrate spinning and weaving. There is something in this mill for just about everyone who likes to learn something new - and children can run about and get their hands on things, too! **The Apprentice House** One of the main problems of locating a mill in a rural valley was a shortage of labour. It was therefore not uncommon for mill owners to have apprentice houses near their mills - these buildings housed pauper children brought in from local workhouses, who served a period of indemnity (usually for 7 years) learning one of the trades of the adult mill workers. The apprentice house at Quarry Bank Mill was built in 1790 and could house up to 100 children at any one time. Children were usually around 9 years old when they arrived, and were given food, clothing, lodgings and a basic education in return for their work. The child workers were a valuable contribution to the running of Greg's mill, as they were unpaid labour and having people trained to the discipline and long hours of factory work at an early
age meant he had a reliable and skilled workforce when they grew up. Interpretation of the apprentice house is rather different to that in the mill museum. Costumed guides - all very knowledgeable about the property and period, I might add - take around groups of up to 30 people at a time in tours that last 30 to 40 minutes. Tours run once an hour throughout the day, but it is advisable that you book your place at the ticket office when you arrive as places fill up quickly, especially on busy days. The apprentice house is a short walk from the mill, and you need to make sure that you arrive there a few minutes before the printed start time of the tour. Unlike most tours of historic buildings, you are allowed (indeed encouraged) to handle things. The apprentice house has no original items in it, and is a mixture of antiques brought in from elsewhere and replica items that visitors can interact with. Although it is acknowledged that it is not 100% historically accurate (the kitchen grate is Victorian rather than Georgian, for example), the purpose of the apprentice house is to create an atmosphere for visitors, to show just how young working class children would have lived as an 1830s apprentice - it is a far cry from the cosy nurseries of Trust mansions, I can tell you. Child visitors have the opportunity to dress up for the tour as apprentices if they want to. Although you can buy a "mill visit only" ticket, I strongly recommend that you try to get a place on one of these tours, as they really are excellent. I think children in particular get a lot out them, as seeing how kids their own age lived in the past really seems to engage them. **The Country Park** Unfortunately, it rained on the day of my visit - making the pathways around the estate unpassably muddy. I was a little disappointed by this, but I can tell you that there are a number of clearly marked paths and wooded areas to go walking in on the Styal e
state (even if I couldn't get to them myself). Guided walks are offered on the second Sunday of each month at 2pm, and dogs are allowed in the park as long as they are kept under control. From what I could see, the area is very attractive and popular with local walkers, but it would be a good idea to wear good shoes or walking boots if you plan to venture out into the estate. ** Visitor facilities** Quarry Bank Mill is equipped with a newly refurbished licensed restaurant that is open for meals, snacks and drinks for most of the day. As with most Trust eateries, a lot of the food is homemade and very good quality. As a guide to prices, a huge bowl of soup with bread cost me £3, and drinks were mostly around £1 - and there are plenty of cakes available if you have any room left after that! Overall, very reasonably priced, plenty of seating and spotlessly clean. However, you might want to get there early for lunch, as on busy days they can run out of things quite quickly. There is a substantially sized shop in the property, located near the entrance to the mill. Prices in such shops are never cheap, but I always try to buy a souvenir as all proceeds go towards the running and maintenance of the property. You can buy the aforementioned Styal Calico products (tea towels were £2.50 each as I recall), guidebooks (£2.75) or chose from a pretty good selection of general history books and Quarry Bank Mill items (such as pens, mugs and thimbles). The shop is open the same hours as the mill museum. Other facilities include toilets, wheelchairs for visitors to borrow, picnic tables in the estate grounds, baby changing facilities and cycle racks. Visitors in wheelchairs have good access to the property, with ramps leading to and from the car park, full access to all galleries in the mill museum, entrance to the shop and restaurant and to the ground floor of the apprentice house. Unfortunately, the upper floors of the apprentice
house are accessible by stairs only (a lift would destroy the integrity of the property), but photographs albums are provided to show disabled visitors the rooms they cannot physically get to. **Conclusion** Perhaps you can see now why I remembered Quarry Bank Mill so clearly even after 15 years - it is a unique property, and one that is very worthwhile to visit. There is enough to see and do to appeal to all ages and to occupy a full day, making it pretty good value for money, even if you are not a member of the Trust. (And you never know, you might even learn something). I cannot recommend it highly enough. ** Details** Directions - Quarry Bank Mill is located in Styal, near Wilmslow, in Cheshire. If you are going by car, take junction 5 off the M56 and then follow the brown National Trust signs. Styal railway station is only half a mile from the property, so it can be accessed by public transport too. Opening Times - Open throughout the year from 10.30am. The apprentice house closes at 3.30pm in winter (October to March) and 4.30pm in summer (April to September); the mill closes at 5pm in winter and 5.30pm in summer. Last admission is 1.5 hours before closing. Entrance Price - £7 for adults, £3.80 for children to whole property; £5 for adults £3.50 for children to mill only. Free to National Trust members. Further information - Phone (01625) 527468 or visit www.quarrybankmill.org.uk.
I must have driven past this place every morning on the way to work for 3 years and I never knew it existed. As my wife was flicking through the pages of the National Trust Handbook, she enquired 'where?s this?' Hmm, I know where Sytal is its near to Manchester airport but where is the mill? One quick look at the A-Z of Cheshire and I suddenly realise where Quarry Bank Mill is located. For those less enlightened about the Manchester area, the Mill and Styal estate is located within a few minutes of Manchester airport. Basically you go down to the airport but carry on past the airport instead of entering. Once you reach the end of this road, at the traffic lights turn right. The entrance is about 1.2 miles down the road. Its well sign posted once you get near. The road is a called Hollin Lane (B5166). On arrival at Quarry Bank Mill you might become confused as the mill is not visible from the car park and it is only as you walk down the path into the valley that the mill can be seen. The Mill was built in 1784 by Samuel Greg on the river Bollin which was dammed up allowing the water to be used to power the mill. I has the most powerful water wheel of its kind in Europe. Used to spin cotton originally, the mill contains several working exhibitions and several working models of the machines & water wheels which will keep kids and adults amused for hours. The water wheel models kept me and my wife amused for at least 15 minutes.. Lots of the exhibits in the mill tell of days of old and how the mill was built, updated and eventually became a National Trust property as well as giving an insight into how it would have been to have lived and worked at the mill. Some of the more interesting demonstrations are the machinery inside the mill such as the Spinning Jenny and the Looms, which can be felt as well as seen and heard. The staff that run these machines are also willing to provide information about
the job, the machinery and the mill. Some of the staff are ex-employees and know quite a bit about the mill. The mill also has two steam engines which both work, one being a beam engine and the other a horizontal engine. If your interested in the steam engines then a visit at the weekend might be more prudent as the first time we visited was during the week and there was not body there to tell us about them. The old guy who looks after the engines has a full wealth of knowledge which he is eager to share. Also at the mill is the Apprentice House which is about 10 minutes walk away from the mill and portrays life as an apprentice child working at the mill. The children where employed to do the tasks where an adult would be too large, like crawling under the machines o fix or retrieve items. This was usually done whilst the machine was still running. The apprentice house is charged as an extra to the ill admission price and tours can only be taken at set times through out the day. Its well worth taking a look even if its just to scare the kids! If you plan to visit Quarry Bank mill then I would set aside at least half a day to tour around the mill as my wife and I spent about 4 hours just for the mill each time we have visited, which is twice now. The apprentice house tour takes 45 minutes and then there is Styal park to walk round if your still feeling energetic after the mill and apprentice house. There are areas around the mill in the park areas to sit and have a picnic if you want, however the mill restaurant is quite good, as is the ice cream from the Mill shop. There is disabled access to most areas of the mill but not the apprentice house. If you are disabled then the mill has a vehicle which will deposit and collect you from the entrance. Other things to do on the site are the Snack shop which sells superb ice cream, the restaurant, and the obligatory National Trust shop. This is a superb day out for all ag
es and the noises and sights will keep even the biggest kids amused for hours. Have a look at http://www.quarrybankmill.org.uk Admission: Adult: £5 or £6.50 with apprentice house tour Child: £3.40 or £3.70 Parking is £2.50 which is partly refunded on entry to the mill.
Quarry Bank Mill is a National Trust property which is located 2 miles south of Manchester Airport, Junctions 5 or 6 of the M56 and is well worth a visit – it is a history lesson which for once, is not boring, even for children. There is so much to learn from just on visit. Quarry Bank Mill was founded in 1784 by Samuel Greg, who at the time was a young textile merchant who chose the site for many reasons, one of which was for its location as it was near to the River Bollin and had easy access to the Bridgewater Canal, which went through Liverpool. Quarry Bank Mill was staffed by orphan children who lived in the Apprentice House, which you can see as part of the Museum. Through his mill, Samuel Greg built a local community for his workers, which became known as Styal, building local amenities for his staff, such as a church and school, as well as terraced housing and cottages for the families. The Apprentice House was built around 1790 and house about 100 children, whom made up around 50 percent of the workforce. These children could be as young as ten years old, and were contracted to work for seven years. This part of the Museum is very “hands-on” and you are encouraged to touch the objects, and you can even pump water from a well in the yard! As well as the Apprentice House, (my favourite) there is a lot to see at Quarry Bank Mill including the original Mill building, loads of artefacts relating to the Greg family, including pictures and old documents. The working Cotton Mill provides an insight into what life was like working in the Mill, including the sounds and smell of 19th century textile machines. The iron waterwheel, which is recently new addition to the Quarry Bank Museum, is quite awesome as it shows the two major sources of power available during the Industrial Revolution working in its original context – these being a Boulton and Watt type Beam Engine c.1830 and an 1880s Horizont
al Engine which is powered by live steam. Waterpower was the wonder of the late 18th Century and today you can see this technological breakthrough in action at Quarry Bank Mill. Award-winning galleries are devoted to water and steam power, with hands-on displays and exhibits, a 1830s Beam Engine and a Horizontal Steam Engine, which steam daily. Quarry Bank Mill was the best history lesson I have had since being a child – the best £6 I have spent in a long while. I also recommend that you finish your visit with a bite to eat at the Mill Kitchen, which I found to be good value, and reasonably priced.
A working Georgian cotton mill, built in 1784, with a huge 50-ton waterwheel which still powers the mill, Quarry Bank Mill is excellent for children. It's a museum, but not an old-style one. There are plenty of things to do and try out, and it's all very educational, for adults too. There are staff on hand to talk about and demonstrate the exhibits, many dressed in period costume, e.g. you can see an old-fashioned spinning wheel in action, and they actually use the yarn on the hand looms. Later examples of looms are also on show, and some of the staff were actually employed in the textiles industry, and worked on similar machines, so they know what they are talking about. This section of the Mill can be very noisy, and a bit scary for very little ones. There are many sections, e.g. printing, dyeing, as well as displays explaining the social, technical, and economic history. On some days, you can buy 'fents' of fabric made there. Many of the factory workers were children, and a short walk from the Mill is the Apprentice House, where pauper children lived, so you get see how it must have been for them. It's all free for National Trust members, otherwise £2.00 for the car park (which also gives you access to the woodland walks of Styal Country Park), and then there's entrance to the Mill to pay for. You could easily spend a whole day here.
One Sunday we were all sat around in the morning and we said "lets go out" "But where?" was the cry. We ventured forth and ended up at Quarry bank Mill at about 12.00 and found a van in the car park inviting us to join the national trust. Well I must have had a funny turn as I got a family membership for £57.00 for the year, and ventured forth down the track to the mill. When we got to the entrance, we were asked if we would also like to do the apprentice house tour, which I must say was extremely realistic and had my 8 year old in tears when he was told he was just the right age to stay! After that (about 1 hour) we went to the mill itself, and it was fantastic! Various working looms and steam engines etc along with NT volunteers to explain it all. We left at 6.30 pm a wonderful day out!! A brilliant day for about £17 for family (unless Nat Trust then free)