on January 30, 2013
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. --Location-- 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 --The Visit-- 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 those 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. They 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 scratchiness 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. --Final thoughts-- 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.
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