on February 21, 2012
THEMILLThis 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.THE SHOPThis 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.THE CAFE/RESTAURANT 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. TOILETSThese 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.OTHER FACILITIESThe 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.SUMMARYThis 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.
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