I had the pleasure of visiting the mill this weekend and it affords plenty to do over a day’s visit. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn about the cotton industry and you can even pick up some bobbins and factory-made cloth in the shop.
Quarry Bank Mill in Styal, Cheshire, England, is one of the best preserved textile mills of the Industrial Revolution and is now a museum of the cotton industry.
This is the website for Quarry Bank.
You can read a little more about the founder, Samuel Greg (26 March 1758 – 4 June 1834) here.
He was a British entrepreneur of the early industrial Revolution and a pioneer of the factory system. He built Quarry Bank Mill, which at his retirement was the largest textile mill in the country. He and his wife Hannah took their responsibilities to their employees seriously, building a whole village alongside the factory.
The mill houses a number of different looms and tells a story throughout four floors.
One of the most poignant talks was at the apprentice house where you can hear about the child labour and living conditions. Children at Quarry Bank were looked after much better than other places but it’s still sad listening to stories of their everyday conditions. The school room, kitchen and medical room talks were very interesting.
A walk around the mill also takes you past the steam engines which provided central heating, not for the workers, but for the cotton fibres which needed to stay warm to avoid breaking.
The gardens were resplendent with rhododendrons but would be wonderful at any time I should imagine.
Plenty of inspiration for any embroidery or textile art to be honest, all those colours and shapes!
A walk around the village tells you more about how folk were looked after by the Gregs. It brings up conflicting emotions as you try to remember how different times were back then. And not much is mentioned of the slave trade which the cotton industry was based on. Samuel Greg seemed to do more than most for this workers, and yet profit and slavery were both fundamental parts of his textile empire.
Above, the rented cottages today and below, a little piece of wallpaper layers from inside a worker’s cottage. The vivid green at the bottom is the arsenic in the colour which has preserved it better:
I do hope you get the chance to visit. If not, then perhaps this has given you enough to whet your appetite for researching more of our textile heritage.