Newest Review: ... 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. Th... more
An education for all and a great day out
Quarry Bank Mill & Styal Country Park (Manchester)
Member Name: catsholiday
Quarry Bank Mill & Styal Country Park (Manchester)
Advantages: Excellent historical resource and hands on learning
Disadvantages: You do have to be prepared to walk a long way so elderly or young children could get tired
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.
Summary: A brilliantly preserved working cotton mill and mueum
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