I’ve mentioned a few times here about the £1.4 million appeal that we launched back in February to allow us to restore parts of Quarry Bank to its former glory. But whilst we here at the property have a shining vision of the culmination of these efforts, we understand that you might not be able to picture the results quite as clearly as us. So I thought that in this week’s post I would delve into the history of the gardens so that the pieces of the puzzle start to come together.
In 1796 Samuel began to build Quarry Bank House so that he, Hannah, and their growing brood could live closer to Samuel’s place of work, and so that Hannah could escape Manchester, which she found to be dirty, unclean, and wanting in terms of intellectual stimulation.
Following the completion of the house in 1801, Samuel and Hannah began to develop the surrounding landscape into their private gardens, following the principles of the Picturesque as envisioned by Edmund Burke in the 18th century, being a combination of the beautiful and the sublime, with the designed gardens complementing the industrial Mill.
Plants and seeds were supplied to Samuel Greg by Caldwell’s Nursery at Knutsford and their records, together with payments to other nurseries in the Greg account books, indicate that much of the ornamental planting was carried out in the 1810s and 1820s.
The basic structure of the garden today is probably much as it was on Samuel Greg’s death in 1834 although Robert Hyde Greg was responsible for some further embellishment, including the cast iron urns in the Lower garden and the addition of the parterre in the 1860s. He also introduced a huge number of different Rhododendron varieties to the estate and created an extensive woodland garden between Quarry Bank House and the park of Norcliffe Hall. Robert claimed that the land thereabout had been bare when he acquired it but, according to a contemporary writer, by his death in 1875 “the rhododendrons and azaleas and other flowering shrubs backed by conifers and choice deciduous trees … had made his gardens and woodlands famous.”
Part of Robert’s gardening activities included the creation, probably in the 1830s, of a new kitchen garden, part of the Upper garden. The greater part of this, including the curvilinear cast iron glass-houses we are desperate to restore. Being discreetly placed the glasshouses do not impinge on the wider landscape and the adjoining orchard, which was originally laid out with fruit trees trained into a tunnel, remains with Quarry Bank. The site from the Upper garden provides a truly picturesque view of the Mill, river, Quarry Bank House and the Lower gardens.
The garden team started restoring the gardens to their original appearance in 2006 and have already done an absolutely amazing job and continue to do so, but this is where you all come in, for if this post has piqued your interests and you, like us, would love the gardens to be truly restored to the height of their splendour, then please donate to our appeal and help us to continue the all important work in the Upper garden.
All that finger crossing and wishing certainly worked for once as we had glorious weather for our Victorian May Day.
The day started pretty early for some of our staff, with my poor boss, Rachel, and a couple of our Rangers, Tim and John, arriving at the property at 7:15am to help to set up the Victorian Swing Boats, supplied by Price’s Great British Fun Fair! (http://www.greatbritishfunfair.co.uk/)
The rest of us staff and volunteers arrived just before 9am and within 45 minutes the gardens and the stalls were set up and ready for the 3,101 visitors we welcomed during the day ( that’s nearly 1,000 more than last year…not that we’re boasting).
Next up on the list was for all those operating a stall to get into costume and everyone looked amazing thanks to the hard work of Jenny (see my Crafting Costumes post for more information). I was absolutely thrilled as I now have my very own custom-made costume!
Despite the sun blazing down, most of us remained relatively cool in our costumes, although myself and Morag who were attending the Swing Boats had to remove our capes or we would have been truly Victorian and fainted!
Visitors basked in the sunshine, sunbathing and eating picnics out on the Mill Meadow, or enjoying a delicious hog roast sandwich, I know I must have looked quite a sight attempting to eat mine in my huge pink skirt and bonnet…
There was always something to keep visitors entertained whether that was in the form of the Punch and Judy shows, a greeting from our Victorian Policeman, listening to Bryan the organ grinder, or watching one of the fantastic May Pole performances by Styal Primary School.
Lots of people tried their luck at the coconut shy which proved so popular that we had run out of those 200 coconuts I told you about last week by 3pm! The dressing-up stall proved to be one of the favourites, as did the mask making activity which allowed kids to let their creativity flow.
But the most popular attraction was the Swing Boats, which are very probably from 1880. Arthur, who runs Great British Funfair, informed me that they belonged to his wife’s great-grandfather, but after a lick of paint and a few repairs they are now enjoyed by an entirely new generation, including hundreds of children and parents alike on Monday.
The highlight of my day was definitely when myself and several costumed staff clambered ever so gracefully into the boats to have a go for ourselves, which was the perfect way for us to end such a brilliant day.
Our next big event will be our Scarecrow Festival, running from 25th May to 2nd June, when dozens of scarecrows will be popping up all over the estate, so make sure you come along and vote for your favourite!
Today is an absolutely glorious day here and I’ve actually managed to venture out into the garden without being shrouded in my ski jacket! It seems that spring has finally sprung here at Quarry Bank and the garden is looking absolutely stunning, and full of beautiful colour.
Come Monday the garden will be jam-packed with Victorian activities as part of our Victorian May Day celebration and we are hoping, praying and keeping our fingers and toes crossed that the weather holds out.
This year, amongst the usual favourites of dressing-up, our sweet shop and traditional Victorian toys and games, we’ll have some fantastic Victorian Swing Boats that I’ll be manning in my huge hooped skirt (yes I get to dress up again, and I think you all know that means I’m fairly excited.)
We’ll also have a couple of May Pole performances by the children of Styal Primary School who have been practising their routine for weeks . Other entertainment will be in the form of our lovely Victorian policeman who will be watching out for any troublemakers, along with some traditional barrel organ music, and a few Punch and Judy shows throughout the day.
But perhaps the stall that has provoked some of the most interesting conversations in the office is the Coconut Shy. I certainly didn’t expect when I started working here that I would be having a conversation about hay bales and the number of coconuts we would need to order for an event at a Mill! We’ve settled on 200 and if we’re left with a few after May Day, quite a few of the staff and volunteers are keen to drink Pina Coladas from them as a May Day treat (albeit not a particularly Victorian one!)
The festivities start at 11am-4pm, and make sure you bring along a picnic rug so you can munch on some delicious hog roast sandwiches that will be served in the Mill Meadow and cool off with an ice cream in the sunshine (optimistic thoughts again!)
So last Monday and Tuesday if you had popped down to Quarry Bank you would have seen a few bizarre items being carried around the Mill, including a giant pea green boat, an 8ft canoe, an exercise bike, oh, and a couple of Gnu heads (not real, don’t panic!). You may have seen several members of staff (including myself) looking slightly out of breath as we attempted to transport these unusual items into the Introductory Galley. ‘Why?’ I hear you ask, well we were busy installing our brand new exhibition ‘Beastly Machines’ by artist Johnny White.
‘Beastly Machines’ is a collection of sculptures created from recycled materials, and all have a unique working part! Johnny finds inspiration from comic artists and plays on words, as well as more serious themes about society and the environment. Johnny was originally an engineer and ceramicist before turning his skills towards kinetic sculpture in 1988, and now mainly works with metal.
Supported by a National Lottery Grant from Arts Council England, and using his love of animals and an interest in mythical creatures as a starting point, Johnny has created a series of new sculptures especially for this exhibition.
I’ve been charged with the daily condition check of the exhibition which essentially means I get to go and play with the ‘Beastly Machines’ everyday! So far I think my favourite sculpture is either ‘Canoodling Gnu’s’ or ‘Lifecycle of a Mosquito’, (probably for the childish reason that they move around the most and light up) but make sure you come over and choose your own favourite! ‘Beastly Machines’ will be on display at Quarry Bank until 22nd June.
Here’s a video of Johnny explaining the inspiration for ‘Beastly Machines’:
For this post I’m handing over to Carrie-Anne, our Learning and Interpretation Assistant and new Geocaching expert!
Go Geocaching with the National Trust
My name is Carrie-Anne and I am a Geocacher! One of my jobs at Quarry Bank is creating trails for our visitors to use. Most recently I created a geocaching trail around Styal Village, along with Katie from the VRA team and Laura, our regular blogger, which we launched over the Easter holidays.
So what is Geocaching?
Geocaching is difficult to explain, and makes more sense once you actually do it, but I will give it a go! Geocaching is a global, community treasure hunt where you try to find caches hidden outdoors. A cache will contain a notebook to log your find and some treasure to swap with some of your own (although you can get Microcaches, which are so small, they may only have a piece of paper inside!). We added some fun activities to our caches, such as old pictures of Styal village and a bug hunt!
Geocaching is open to everyone, and should be free to access. For our trail, we used www.opencaching.com and their iPhone app to register our caches. This was because they are run by Garmin, who work in partnership with the National Trust and make the GPS devices we loan out to visitors, so I am a bit biased!
Anyone can set up and register a Geocache, you just have to check them every so often to make sure that the cache is still in its right place. And anyone can go out and find them. Once you have the co-ordinates for your chosen caches, you just need a GPS device, a smart phone or even a good, old-fashioned map!
Our geocaching adventure
It was great to talk to people at Quarry Bank who were having a go at Geocaching for the first time, and I wanted to give it a go myself. But, as it isn’t as much fun when you have designed the trail yourself, I had a look at the Opencaching app and discovered there was a set of 6 caches around Royden Park, on the Wirral, designed and created by local primary school children as part of a National Trust project. I grew up on the Wirral and as I was going home for the weekend, I decided to take the opportunity to have a go with my family.
So, I set off with 2 dubious adults and 4 curious children in tow, and after 3 hours of exploring, I had a team of converts! The kids, aged 9, 8, 7 and 4, had a fantastic time and enjoyed picking which treasures to swap with. I had dug around in the toy box and found some toy cars, plastic soldiers, key rings, an eraser and even a packet of sequins to leave behind in the caches for the treasure swap. We were also able to read stories written by the children who made the caches and some even had recorded messages in them!
My top tips for Geocaching
1. If you use a smart phone, make sure it is fully charged! Having the phone on constantly for 3 hours used up a lot of battery.
2. Take something to write with you. Like socks in the washing machine, pens and pencils are always disappearing and apparently, geocaches are no exception!
3. Take plenty of treasures to swap. With 4 kids and 6 caches to find, I needed a pocket full of treasure to swap.
4. If you are going geocaching for the first time, pick an easy one to do. Tiny microcaches, or ones on top of a mountain will be much harder to get to and find!
5. Take note of where you parked the car or where the bus stop is. It is easy to lose your bearings after following the compass around for a few hours.
6. Do your research on the points before you go out. One of the points we went to find was much further out from the rest – over 1/2 a mile as the crow flies. It took nearly an hour to walk out, find it and get back to the next one, which is a long way for little legs to go. If I had looked over the points beforehand and the distances from each other, I would have left that one out.
Overall, geocaching is a lot of fun, and really easy to do. I realised that it was a great way to get kids exploring the outdoors by focussing their attention on an activity, rather than just going for a walk. So why not give it a go? And why not start your geocaching adventures right here at Quarry Bank?
Today we have a multitude of options when it comes to purchasing food. Supermarkets, mini-markets, corner shops, even petrol stations offer you the chance to pick up something for lunch. But not too far off in the distant past, the way we purchased our food and thought about our food was incredibly different. These days I doubt that most of us really give thought to exactly where our food has come from (which may well have changed in light of certain scandals involving certain supermarkets).
Styal Village existed long before Quarry Bank Mill was built on the banks of the Bollin, but as Samuel Greg developed the village, building cottages for his workers, the needs of the community grew. As well as the allotments attached to the cottages and the kitchen garden tended by the apprentices at the Apprentice House, the fields in and around the village were farmed by two families of tenant farmers. Both farms – Cross Farm and Oak Farm – cultivated a whole range of fresh food, from dairy, poultry and pork to cereals and root crops.
Samuel Greg founded the village shop in the early 1800s under the ‘truck’ system – rather than paying in cash, the shopkeeper would keep a record of all purchases which would then be deducted from the mill workers’ salaries. Villagers could buy all their daily needs in the shop, including freshly churned butter and freshly-baked bread, as well as other little luxuries such as clothes and tea. In 1873 the shop became a Co-operative, run by the workers.
You can still see the exterior of the shop today, but even more excitingly, Oak Farm is still up and running and we are offering you the opportunity to tour the land with Ed Gardiner, the son of the current tenant farmer, who is the fifth generation of his family to live and work in Oak Farm. The tour will include a talk on how the Gardiners are combining environmental schemes with commercial food production.
The tour will be taking place on Thursday 25th April at 6pm. To book your place call 01625 445 845. Tickets cost £5.
Hope to see you there!
We’ve had a fun-filled (albeit exhausting!) Easter holiday here at Quarry Bank. We kicked off with Easter weekend when over 6,500 visitors (double what we were expecting) joined us to try out our special Cadbury’s trail through the Mill to earn their chocolate egg.
Cadbury’s joined us on Easter Sunday and Monday, and provided garden games, including Nestball and a hula-hooping competition – we hear somebody managed to hula hoop 136 times! Cadbury’s also painted 100s of children’s faces and I saw everything from rabbits and chicks to spiders and butterflies. The kids got creative themselves with the Cadbury’s ‘Design your own Egghead’ competition, and the winner will see their design as one of the new wrappers for Cadbury’s easter eggs in 2014.
We were slightly worried on Easter Sunday as due to the glorious sunshine and the popularity of the trail it seemed we might well run out of eggs! Fortunately Cadbury’s managed to rustle up a couple of hundred more for us and Chirk Castle in Wales very kindly donated some of theirs to help us out. Unfortunately late on Monday afternoon we did eventually run out of eggs, and had to revert to Cadbury’s chocolate bars, but our lovely visitors were thankfully sympathetic to our predicament and the children certainly didn’t mind as long as they received some form of chocolate!
On Easter Monday I organised a few egg and spoon races and over 60 kids took part, with the winners receiving a certificate and an easter egg. The races were themed, and my favourites were ‘funny faces’ (cue 10 children pulling incredibly unusual faces) and the three-legged race where I witnessed manic shuffling and a whole lot of frantic team work!
For the rest of the holidays we’ve enjoyed the sporadic sunshine and launched our new geocache trail which allows you to explore Styal Village like never before! Our hands-on activity has been a huge hit with hundreds of nature memo-holders created in the forms of chicks, bees, caterpillars, aliens, bunnies, ladybirds, butterflies and flowers!
Next on the agenda for us is gearing up for our fabulous Victorian May Day on Monday 6th May, and installing our brand new exhibition ‘Beastly Machines’ by artist Johnny White!