We arrived early at Quarry Bank and looked round before anything was open. This old cotton mill was run by the Greg family in the Bollin valley in Cheshire – just one their mills. The River Bollin turned the huge water wheel that drove the first machines on this site before they converted to steam. That wheel is still working.
At 11am we got our tickets and crossed a bridge into the factory. The first floor was fairly empty – undergoing a revamp. Part of it was being prepared for the children’s activities.
We could hear the thump of the machines down below. First we saw examples of carding, and spinning machines. Then a lady showed us the same process on earlier wooden machines: from carding through spinning to weaving – first with a hand moved shuttle, then a faster flying shuttle.
After that we came into the largest machine room (showed above) where a volunteer had four weaving machines going together.
There was then a lot of history displays, but we had to dash to get to the apprentice’s house for a booked tour at 12:15 to learn how these children lived.
Children worked 12 hour days in the mill, 13 as punishment if they were a minute late. They had an hours schooling from 8-9pm. Mr Greg’s wife was a Unitarian and made sure the girls also learned to read and write, and not just the boys.
The government were gradually tightening up on the hours of child labour, and eventually the apprentice house was closed down. The guide gave a very interesting, animated talk – accentuating some of the horrible history for the children in our audience. The children’s lives in those days was very hard. They were picked for being fit and given a medical before starting. Many came from the workhouse. After a trial period, to make sure they were good workers, they could sign up for anything from 2 to 10 years. In return for work they got the board and lodging.
There are also some beautiful gardens at Quarry Bank, with recently restored glass houses, and waterside walks, and some houses to view in the workers village .
The National Trust were also restoring the Greg family home, to be re-opened in September, and building a new visitor centre.
We passed a 500 year old Oak Tree on the path from the Carpark to the grounds and Manor House of Dunham Massey in Cheshire. That tree had seen a lot of changes.
Inside we were given a tour and shown some of the former owners of houses on this site. The earliest picture was of old Sir George Booth who rebuilt the house in the late 16th century, and then his grandson, young George Booth (above), who fought first on the side of Oliver Cromwell, and then deciding the new regime had got things wrong, on the royalist side. He got sent to the Tower of London until the restoration of the Monarchy under Charles II.
The present house was mostly built in 1770s, and then abandoned by the 7th Earl of Stamford in Victorian times, and that was the story the national Trust are telling this season – as a family attraction.
The Earl took for his second wife a circus performer called Catherine. The Cheshire set were against this marriage, as was Queen Victoria. Feeling rejected, the Earl and Catherine abandoned their house in Cheshire, taking some treasures with them, to their other 2 houses.
The 9th Earl of Stamford moved the family back to Dunham Massey and set about trying to create a grand house with a new elaborate front entrance. He was not altogether pleased with the result and fired the architect. Perhaps he wanted it grander.
On his death in 1910 the house was given to his son Roger, the 10th Earl of Stamford, who tried to recover some of the former possessions of the house, including a Grinling Gibbons wood carved crucifixion seen in the library. He left it all to the National Trust.
Their volunteers helped to bring back the old times. In the downstairs servants area, there was a cook, milk maid, and wash maid all showing what work they might have done.
We walked round Little Moreton Hall, a tudor timbered building, for the first hour, and then joined in one of the guided tours.
The building, situated in Cheshire, just south of Congleton, was clearly amazing, and the guide added to that with his enthusiasm and knowledge, taking us from the first building of the great hall in tudor times by Thomas Moreton, and how it got enlarged by his son and grandson, great entrepreneurs in the area. The family were royalists and lost a lot of their land during the English Civil war, and the hall was rented out to tenant farmers until Victorian times, when Sister Elizabeth Moreton took possession and set about restoring it.
There are recent discoveries such as the wall painting showing the story of Susanna and the Elders from the apocrypha.This is a unique collection of pictures like a medieval comic strip with the top missing.