on February 21, 2012
Quarry Bank Mill and Styal EstateStyal, Wilmslow, SK9 4LATelephone: 01625 527468We 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 PRICESAs 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: £13.00I 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.OUR VISITThere 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 HOUSEThis 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.
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009