We have been lucky enough to visit two National Trust properties this week; Quarry Bank Mill and Dunham Massey. They are both in Cheshire and less than an hours’ drive from Manchester. We were blessed with good English summer weather with just a few light showers of rain.
At Quarry Bank Mill, we learned about how cotton production moved from a domestic setting to an industrial one. We also learned the origins of several common English words and phrases; ‘spinster’ – an unmarried woman would spin cotton into thread in order to make a living; ‘spinning a yarn’ – the practice of gossiping while spinning cotton; ‘ heirloom’ – a manual loom for weaving cotton (and the knowledge of how to use it), which would passed down from generation to generation, thereby guaranteeing an income in lean times.
Quarry Bank Mill was built by Samuel Greg, a Unitarian, who along with his wife, Hannah, believed in providing a better standard of living for their indentured workers. Conditions at Quarry Bank were tough by today’s standards, although vastly better than in some of Manchester’s inner city mills.
A short walk from the mill is the Apprentice House (above). In this three storey building, sixty indentured children would live while working at the mill – yes sixty. They would come to Quarry Bank from workhouses (mainly in Liverpool) at the age of nine and sign up to spend the next nine years of their lives working six days a week in the mill.
This picture (above) is of the girls’ dormitory, forty girls would be locked in here at night, two to a bed. The children would rise at 5:30am and have a quick breakfast of porridge before beginning work at 6am. A thirteen hour working day would follow, with a 30 minute break for lunch (porridge again, with added vegetables). A great guide took us around the house, beginning with the school room, where children would learn the basics of reading and writing and on to the treatment room, where a doctor would use leeches and other delightful remedies to keep the workers healthy and productive.
Quarry Bank Mill is a beautiful and fascinating place to visit, I would highly recommend it.
As I mentioned before, we also visited Dunham Massey. The property is a finalist in the Museum of the Year 2015 for it’s recreation of a World War One military hospital. The Stamford Military Hospital is re-enacted inside the main house with actors, the property also has beautiful gardens. We, however just took advantage of the beautiful estate parkland to give the children a chance to ‘run wild’ for a bit. In more than thirty years of visiting the park at Dunham, I can never remember being so up close and personal with the resident fallow deer. They are beautiful creatures and seemed incredibly tame this time.