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Thursday, 4 April 2013

Those places Thursday - Quarry Bank Mill, Styal, Cheshire

Quarry Bank Mill and its chimney
Quarry Bank Mill is one of the most popular sites run by the National Trust and it is one of my favourites too. Much as I enjoy visiting the many 'stately homes' also run by the Trust, I love Quarry Bank Mill because it shows how ordinary people lived and worked (in places other than the kitchens - always a popular part of the stately home tour). You have probably seen the mill on TV, as its working machinery is often featured in documentaries on the Industrial Revolution. It is not just the buildings that are well-preserved, there are unusually good records of the Greg family who owned the mill, and even better, for the mill's apprentices and employees. The Unitarian Greg family were regarded as model employers who treated their staff much better than most other industrialists; all the same, when you look at the details the lives of the child apprentices were still very hard.

The mill is set to be a TV star again, not in a documentary this time, but in a Channel 4 costume drama based on real people and events in the mill's history. The working title is 'The Mill' and there is is no transmission date as yet, but it should be on our screens later this year. Sounds interesting, and I will certainly watch it. I hope it is a good production, but even if it isn't I can turn off the sound and enjoy looking at the locations.

As well as on its own page on the National Trust site, there is a lot of interesting background information on the mill and its history at Spinning the Web - the story of the cotton industry. That site is a wonderful resource for anyone whose ancestors were involved in the cotton industry, especially in north west England.

I have visited the mill many times, and it is where I actually joined the National Trust many years ago. There is always something new to see, and over the years I have seen many changes as many restoration projects have been undertaken. Back in the 1980s our family visits always included putting some coins in a box for the 'wheel appeal' to bring a mill wheel to the wheel chamber and restore it to working order - somewhere in my attic there is a teddy bear wearing an appeal sweatshirt that was bought for my younger son when he was four years old! Now they have developed an ingenious means of fundraising more suited to the 21st century; you can help to raise funds by playing online games through the Quarry Bank Appeal page. You can play play free of charge too, but obviously the Trust hope you will pay - seems like a better use for your money than buying coins or gold bars or magic crystals on Facebook games.

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