Our brand new exhibition Style at Styal has been open for a couple of weeks now and has already attracted a great many visitors who have been delighted with the fabulous costumes on display. Watch the video below, starring yours truly and Jenny our wonderful costumier to find out about the story behind the exhibition. I have to ask your forgiveness too as I made the tiniest mistake whilst I was trying not to laugh at camera man Andrew; when I say “19thC” I actually mean “20thC”! Enjoy…
In November 2012, we were informed by a researcher, who was looking into Quarry Bank and slavery, that there was a remarkable book being sold by James Cummins Bookseller, New York. The book in question was actually not a book at all, but the “Family Album (Mrs S. Greg’s) 1800-1815, Quarry Bank and Ireland”.
Ally immediately searched for it and found it to be on sale for $4,000. The description didn’t give too much away about the contents of the album, merely that it contained watercolours and poems by the Greg family. As we didn’t have the funds to acquire the album, we had to put it to the back of our minds.
Then, in 2013, Andrew Greg, the great-grandson of William Rathbone Greg, Samuel and Hannah’s youngest child, came across the album and contacted us about it, to see if we were planning to acquire it. He got in touch with James Cummins and thanks to his lineage was able to negotiate the price down to $3,200. He very kindly offered to allow us to have first refusal of the album, as he felt that it belonged in our archive, in its original home at Quarry Bank.
This is when Ally sprang back into action. She got in touch with our Regional Curator, Caroline, who contacted the Registrar (Collection & Grants), explaining the potential importance and the significance of the album to Quarry Bank, asking for their help to acquire the album. In January it began its transatlantic journey home to Quarry Bank, for us to determine whether or not we thought it was worth dishing out $3,200. Within seconds of opening its gilded pages we knew we had to have it.
Thanks to two generous National Trust bequests, along with a contribution from us here at Quarry Bank, which was funded from Gift Aid donations from visitors, we were finally able to purchase the album, which is now part of our treasured collection.
The album, as you may have guessed, is not a photo album. Rather, it was a kind of visitor book, kept by Hannah Greg at Quarry Bank House. Whenever family members or friends came to stay, they would enter a poem, a watercolour, a sketch, a piece of music and or even pressed flowers. There are entries from several of Hannah’s children, including her eldest son Thomas Tylston Greg, Samuel Greg Junior, her eldest daughter Elizabeth Greg (later Elizabeth Rathbone), Agnes Greg, and her youngest son William Rathbone Greg. There are also entries from different branches of the Greg and Lightbody family , including the Needhams, the Parres, the Lyles and the Batts.
The poem shown above was written by Thomas Tylston Greg and highlights the importance of friendship; “The noblest gift that heavenly grace, to heal affliction’s wounds can send ; to be the partner of our race, is a sincere and faithful friend”. Thomas has many entries throughout the album and seems to have been a regular visitor from London, to his parent’s home.
His younger brother, Robert Hyde Greg, as we have previously explored, also possessed poetic flair, and at the age of 17 wrote a poem about the beauty of Quarry Bank House and the surrounding valley; “O fairest and sweetest of Albion’s vales, perfumed by the flowers and refreshed by the gales…To thee I will fly for retirement and rest, When pleasure has sated, or troubles oprest”.
Mary Lyle, a niece of Hannah and Sam, left a piece of music as her contribution and we have been searching all over the property for someone musical to hum it for us! We’d love to hear from you if you’ve tried out the tune. Her contribution was also written in Ireland, suggesting, along with the title of the album, that it travelled between Quarry Bank and the Greg home in Belfast, where Samuel was from.
What becomes clear from the album, much more than the incredible artistic talents of the family , is the closeness of the family; with so many visits from not just Samuel and Hannah’s children but from their siblings, their nieces and nephews and in-laws, as well as their friends, demonstrates the family based community that emanated from Quarry Bank House.It’s such a wonderful concept, and I can imagine each contributor leafing through the pages excited to see the latest addition since their last visit.
The album will prove invaluable to us whilst working on the Quarry Bank Project, and how we choose to interpret Quarry Bank House. It is rapidly becoming clear that Hannah saw her home as an intellectual retreat for her family and friends to explore their creative pursuits. The hope is that when we open the House in the next couple of years that the album can be displayed in the drawing-room, an area Hannah specifically used as an intellectual space, where her children held debates, gave speeches and recited poetry, and perhaps even the original home of the album.
Quarry Bank is gearing up to once more open our doors 7 days a week when the National trust begins its ‘summer season’ this Saturday. Here at Quarry Bank, this first week of the new season will see us welcome lots of families to our half-term activities.
From Mon 17- Fri 21, 12-4pm, kids can drop into our family activity area and have a go at our “Become a ‘Styalist’” activity, were they can make their own cut-out doll inspired by our Style at Styal exhibition. There will be four different outfits to choose from; Greg girl or Greg boy, or working girl and working boy. I’ve had a go myself at making them this morning (all in the name of quality control of course…) and they really are very sweet. Children can get creative and add their own designs and patterns to the clothes. The event is free but you’ll need to pay admission to the Mill (free if you’re a member).
On Wednesday 19 kids can learn how to finger knit at one of our workshops which will be running at 12.30pm, 1.30pm, and 2.30pm. The workshops are being led by Judy who is part of our Hand Spinning and Weaving team, and will be teaching children how to knit their own scarf, perfect to keep them warm during this cold snap! To book onto the workshop (£3 per child) head to our website and book your space online: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/quarry-bank/things-to-see-and-do/events/
Don’t forget that if by some miracle we are hit with sunny weather there are lots of beautiful walks around Styal estate!
Today I’m handing over to our gardener Ann, to tell you all about this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch at Quarry Bank.
The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch was started in 1979 as an activity for children to encourage their interest and understanding of the birds they saw most regularly in their gardens, and to establish the top 10 birds in the country. By carrying out a simple count at the same time every year the data collected can be compared. It takes place the last weekend in January and has helped the RSPB to realise the changes in the population of different bird species in Britain.
On Saturday the 25th January we held the second Quarry Bank Big Garden Birdwatch. We had a group of garden staff and volunteers from several departments on what promised to be a wet and windy day. The gardens at Quarry Bank include the formal Lower gardens, the Mill Meadow, and woodland walks; we thought this range of habitat would give us plenty of scope to spot some birds.
We have 3 feeding stations in the upper garden which are monitored by Derek Hatton of the Rangers volunteer team. Altogether there were 10 of us to cover the 13 acre site. We were really lucky and had a bright morning as we carried out the count.
We also had two talented photographers with us to record some of our feathered visitors.
We separated into pairs and monitored the feeding stations with a couple of teams moving between them. We saw 23 different species including Goldcrests – the smallest British birds. This was an increase on last year but some of the numbers were lower and there were three species from last year we didn’t see such as the Treecreeper.
We saw : -
Coal tit 2
Long tail tit 10
Great tit 3
Blue tit 7
Mistle Thrush 2
Pigeon 40 +
Great Spotted Woodpecker 2
Goosander 1 Female
Grey Wagtail 1
Mallard 1 Female
Field fare 2
Thanks to all for their help and to Derek for the photo’s.
Last week our Deputy Catering Manager, Chris, set off to the archives in search of a few historic recipes, in the hope that our chefs in the Mill Café might be able to recreate the dishes in the future.
What he was not expecting to find were recipes which included ingredients “pounded teeth” and “powdered hearts”. Chris was left feeling a mixture of horrified and befuddled at the eccentricity of Victorian taste. After voicing his concerns to the archive team, Ally and Jane ventured in to take a look at this unusual recipe… a few seconds later and it was clear that it was Chris’ reading skills which were of concern, rather than the ingredients.
In all fairness though, we’ll let Chris off as it is difficult to read the scrawling handwriting of the past if you’re not used to it! As he put it, correcting “take some of the teeth of the rabbit & pound it in a mortar” into “take some of the flesh of the rabbit & pound it in a mortar” sounds far tastier. As does “powdered herbs” when corrected from “powdered hearts”.
I went and had a nosy myself at the recipes and Chris showed me a few of his favourites, which included instructions on how to cook spinach (very carefully if you were wondering), and “French beans the French way”. Another recipe included a sketch of the finished product.
Chris has transcribed four of the recipe’s so far; Fillets of Rabbit, a recipe for Kedgeree, and a treacle pudding, with an accompanying American butter & sugar sauce.
Chris is will be returning to the archives to finish transcribing the rest of the bundle of recipes, and hopefully if the chefs recreate the dishes they will taste as delicious to the modern palette over a hundred years after they were first popular. Who knows, you may see some of these dishes in the Mill Café and be able to have a little taste of the past yourself…
Now that the cataloguing volunteers have worked their way through the vast amount of Greg letters, they have shifted their focus towards documents relating to the business. One such document was written by Robert Hyde Greg titled “List of apprentices and their value as compared with other workers”, dated December 1837.
As the title suggests, Robert had listed the names of all the apprentices working in the Mill and how much they would have earned per week had they been a Mill worker. Robert listed which room they worked in and what their job was. The prospective wage was proportionate to the apprentices’ age and experience; a ‘learner’ could have earned as little as 1 shilling and five pence, whilst a more experienced spinner could earn as much as 7 shillings and thruppence.
Two such experienced spinners you all know quite well now; Esther Price and Lucy Garner, who were among the few apprentices deemed good enough to have potentially earned 7s ans 3d per week, (or approximately £15.99 in today’s money) Robert noted in the document how many machines each apprentice was operating; Esther and Lucy were operating “4 sides” or 4 machines, whilst Learners were only able to operate 1 or 2, hence their lower prospective wage.
What I found interesting about this document is that there are no boys’ names to be found, and at the end of the document Robert calculates the “average wage per hand per week” for 82 girls. It seems that at the end of 1837 the Apprentice House was entirely occupied by girls, and this must have changed the dynamics of the house considerably, and I would imagine that the boys’ dormitory was given over to girls too, leaving them all with much more room than having all of them crammed into the girls’ dormitory!
Robert calculated that if the apprentice girls were paid it would cost him £18, 9s and 6d per week (roughly £814 in today’s money), averaging out at 4s and 6d “per hand, per week”. When compared to the cost of the workers, Robert proved the value of having apprentices, for an adult worker in a mule room could earn up to £1 per week depending on their level of experience, whilst an overlooker or a mechanic earned £1, 2s per week. The average wage per hand per week from October 1837-February 1838 was 6s and 6 1/2 d, making the average worker 2s and 1/2d more expensive than the average apprentice (or roughly £4 in today’s money…every penny counts!).
As those of you who watched ‘The Mill’ will know, Robert was all about efficiency and profits when it came to running Quarry Bank. He fought against the ’10 Hour Bill’, which sought to limit the number of hours in the working day; sadly for him (but fortunately for the workers!), the Bill was passed in 1844. Worse for him still, in 1847 due to new legislation, the apprentice system at Quarry Bank was closed down and the Apprentice House was turned into a laundry, and accommodation for members of the Greg family and the workers.
Intriguingly, many mills across the country had been discarding the apprentice system since the mid-1820s stating it was more expensive to keep them than to pay adult mill workers, it seems strange therefore that with everything we know about Robert, he was fighting to keep a system in place that his competitors had deemed unprofitable. I think some more investigation on mine and Ally’s part is required. Looks like I’m headed back to the archives (well if I must…)
Next week you can find out what happened when our Deputy Catering Manager, Chris, ventured into the archive in search of recipes…
I’m just about to head off into to the archive to take a look at this Robert Hyde Greg document I promised you earlier on in the week, but for now I thought I’d give you a gentle reminder about our appeal, and why we still need your help…