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Quarry Bank Mill & Styal Country Park (Manchester)
Member Name: helencb
Quarry Bank Mill & Styal Country Park (Manchester)
Advantages: Important National Industrial Heritage, working water wheel, Apprentice House
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
Summary: An Excellent day out for all the family.
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