Back in April, myself and other staff members, who helped out with the filming of The Mill, were invited to the studio set in Media City. Darlow Smithson Productions have been kind enough to allow me to share the photos I took of the fantastically detailed sets. I apologise in advance if the photos look a bit dark – smartphones still have their limits.
Below is the interior of Daniel and Susannah’s cottage. The exterior of the cottage was constructed on Styal Green and tricked a view visitors into believing it was truly part of the village!
This is the set that doubled as both Peter’s and Esther’s cellar. Below is as it appears when it is being used for Peter’s cellar.
This next photo was very surreal to take, being the replica of the exterior of 8 Oak Cottage; a little slice of Styal in the middle of Media City. In the series this is the home of the Howlett family, with Esther’s cellar located beneath their cottage. When I walked through the front door I felt as though I had really stepped back into 8 Oak Cottage in the 1830s. What I was most impressed with was the resourcefulness of Production Designer, Martyn John, who found the Howlett’s range on eBay (as well as the stairs which lead out of Daniel’s Engine Room in the Mill)!
We then visited Talbot Mill nearer the centre of Manchester, which housed the sets for the Mule Room and the Engine Room. The mules are the same as those used in Series 1, which were constructed using the expertise of our Premises and Engineering team here at Quarry Bank. The replica of the beam engine, I was told, is made entirely of MDF!
It was fascinating to visit the sets and see first hand the level of detail the set designers put into every part of their work. If you come and visit Quarry Bank, you can see our exhibition dedicated to series 2 of The Mill, which includes props, costumes, set designs, drawings, scripts from the show, as well as furniture used in Esther’s cellar, which Production Designer Martyn John has arranged to form Esther’s bedroom.
Of course, if you visit us you can also see the very real sets of the Mill, Apprentice House, Gardens and Styal Village! http://bit.ly/QBMVI.
In Episode 2 of The Mill we see Jack Howlett nearly reach a horrific end, when his head is almost crushed between the draw frame and the back plate of the spinning mule.
Luckily for Jack, his father John Howlett in an act of superhuman strength brings the mule to a stop by grabbing the belt that drives the machine, and chastises his son for being careless:
John Howlett (matter of fact): You could’ve been killed, son. Your skull could have been like an apple under a sledgehammer. And whose fault would that have been?
Jack: I’m sorry, Dad.
John (gentle, kind): Do you understand now why you have to concentrate? Why you can’t be careless for a second?
Harsh words from a father to a son, but sadly true – as a worker or an apprentice in a cotton factory you had to keep your wits about you every second of the day. For a handful of unfortunate souls at Quarry Bank Mill, they were not to be as lucky as Jack Howlett.
One of the earliest recorded accidents was the incident surrounding Thomas Priestley, whom you may remember from Series 1. In the series, Tommy’s arm is caught up in one of the drive belts powering the spinning mule, and his hand is crushed and later amputated by Dr Holland.
In 1806, the real Tommy Priestley recounted his accident to the Magistrates’, when he was put before them after running away, as follows:
“About 2 months before I left the place…one of the wheels caught my finger and tore it off; it was the forefinger on my left hand. I was attended by the surgeon at the factory, Mr Holland and in about 6 weeks I recovered.”
There were two accidents some years later which provided the archival material for the fictional Tommy’s accident.
Joseph Davenport was 25 years old and an assistant to one of the weaving overlookers. On 23rd June 1845, he was working on a loom when his shirt sleeve was caught on the drive belt which “snatched him up to the drum.” Joseph’s arm was completely ripped off. He was immediately taken to Manchester Infirmary (some miles away) on the back of a cart. His arm was amputated, but sadly, after lingering for a few days, Joseph died from his injuries.
A few decades later, on 1st April 1881, William Bowker, was working as a carder. The carding machine cleans the raw cotton and brushes the fibres into alignment, ready for it to be twisted into a workable thread. William had to “press down the fly”, which was usually done using a metal rod – on this occasion William pressed it with his hand which was “drawn in by the licker in” and performed a horrifying trick known as “degloving” – his skin and flesh was peeled off by the needles used to clean and align the cotton. (I abhor the carding engine for this very reason – every time I think about it, it sends shivers down my spine). William was taken to Stockport Infirmary where his arm was amputated.
“He recovered in the course of time and came back to work again; a mechanical arm being provided for him by the firm”. This is the remarkable piece of technology that we see the fictional Daniel Bate create for Tommy in The Mill. In reality, and still just as remarkable, the mechanical arm was provided by Edward Hyde Greg who was in charge of Quarry Bank Mill at the time.
The unfortunate act of degloving also happened to two lads within a few weeks in the same room. On 14th December 1888, Christopher Bower lost a thumb to the grinder in the carding room. After a miserable Christmas nursing his newly thumbless hand, lockjaw (tetanus) set in and Christopher died. Soon after Christopher’s accident, Philip Sprowson was also degloved, but he was fortunate enough to survive.
What of the fictional Jack Howlett’s almost deathly accident?
On 6th March 1865 a young boy called John Foden suffered the fate Jack escaped. We’re not entirely sure what happened; whether it was in the last hours of the working day and John was therefore exhausted and lacking that vital concentration, or if his overlooker saw another boy come up from one of the mules and mistook him for John, allowing the draw frame to move back. Either way, poor John’s head was crushed between the roller and carriages; “completely smashed, death being instantaneous…a very melancholy incident.”
On 3rd January 1889 an unnamed boy almost suffered the same fate. He was sweeping underneath the mule but left it too late to get out; “was caught between the carriage and the roller beam…the upper portion of one ear was cut off and a severe scalp wound inflicted.” He recovered after 6 weeks and went back to work.
Whilst these are some of the more well recorded incidents, there were probably far more accidents that happened on a daily basis. The shuttles on the looms were a constant hazard; moving at the speed they did, fellow weavers were constantly in danger of being smacked round the head or in the stomach by a rogue shuttle that had shot off a nearby loom.
The records of Dr Holland also point to more aches and pains incurred through working at the Mill:
“18th April 1804 – William Topping – Let the fingers be dressed each morning with the white salve”
“25th April 1804 – James Bayles – Let his hand be dressed with the white salve in three days.”
No doubt the salve was probably need to soothe blisters incurred from piecing all day.
There are plenty more prescriptions recorded of poultices for knees and ankles – probably caused by scavenging under the mules for hours on end.
What then, were the Gregs doing to protect their workers, particularly in an era when Health and Safety and First Aid was non-existent? Well, as in many other areas, the Gregs were pioneers in attempting to provide a safer work environment for their workers and apprentices. By 1833 Samuel Greg had fenced off most machines, some eleven years before this became compulsory by law under the Factory Act of 1844, which required that “every fly-wheel directly connected with the steam engine or water-wheel or other mechanical power, whether in the engine-house or not, and every part of a steam engine and water-wheel, and every hoist or teagle, near to which children or young persons are liable to pass or be employed, and all parts of the mill-gearing in a factory…” to be “securely fenced.“
The employment of Dr Holland in the late 1790s is in fact the earliest recorded instance of a factory doctor being employed anywhere in the world. He was also the Greg family’s personal physician, which indicates how highly Samuel regarded the health of his workers; ensuring they received the same level of medical care afforded to his own family – of course they weren’t working in the Mill 6 days a week, 12 hours a day. That the Gregs allowed their workers to heal and recuperate and return to their jobs also sets them above other mill owners, who immediately sought to replace injured workers – leaving them mutilated and jobless.
In comparison to other mills the accident rate at Quarry Bank Mill was extremely low; whilst some might say three deaths in the span of 100 years is three too many, other mills saw hundreds.
Even today our Machine Interpreters have to take the same level of care as the mill workers, only now their time working with the machines are limited, they are given weeks of intensive training, are provided with ear defenders (visitors are advised to only spend 15 minutes in our Weaving Shed), and every part of the machinery it is possible to fence off is guarded.
You can find out more about the working conditions at Quarry Bank Mill here: http://bit.ly/QBMconditions
Sunday night saw the introduction of another member of the Greg family in The Mill; William Greg, played by Andrew Lee Potts.
In the first episode we learn that William has taken over the running of Quarry Bank Mill, whilst his elder brother, Robert Hyde Greg, is in Manchester acting as an MP to fight against the Corn Laws. William is also a supporter of the Anti-Corn Law movement, and explains its impact on his new worker’s wages.
William Greg: Why doesn’t every man have a decent shirt on his back? Because the cost of bread is so high. Why is it so high? Because the grain grows on land owned by aristocrats who pass laws to keep it high. End the bread tax, end trade tariffs, we’ll expand our markets. Every man can afford a shirt again: they’ll be more employment, and higher wages. That’s what my brother Robert has gone to parliament to achieve…
The fictional William has a few difficulties to face; namely the presence of Daniel Bate, who is raising William’s daughter by Daniel’s wife Susannah as his own. Yet we see him undeterred to make progress in his new domain, pushing Daniel to improve his beloved beam engine to increase production in the weaving sheds (our very own looms were featured in Episode 1 in case you were interested).
Who then, was the real William Greg? Born in 1809 at Quarry Bank House, William Rathbone Greg was the youngest son of Quarry Bank Mill founder Samuel Greg and his wife Hannah. As with his elder siblings , he received a Unitarian education, and entered Edinburgh University in 1826, where he would have been a contemporary of Charles Darwin.
He followed in Robert Hyde Greg’s footsteps, taking his Grand Tour of Europe in the late 1820s, following which he joined the family business; Samuel Greg & Co in 1830. Samuel’s empire had expanded from just his founding mill at Quarry Bank, to five mills across the North West – his aim had been to build a mill for each of his sons; William was to run Hudcar Mill, in Bury. Unlike the fictional William, the real William never ran Quarry Bank Mill which remained under Robert’s control from 1834-1870, when it was passed to his son Edward Hyde Greg.
Unfortunately, unlike Robert, William was not well suited to the world of cotton manufacturing, and he wrote to his sister in 1833:
“I am bothered with every manner of calamities, boilers bursting, hands turning out, goods not selling and all the other ills that the flesh of a manufacturer is heir to. I am wearying after the country and ambition is forever extended within me. I wonder how long philosophy or indecision will induce me to continue the dog’s life I am leading here. I never open a book…rise at 5.30 go to bed at 10 and toil like a galley slave all day.” (I wonder what his workers would have said about that…)
In the early 1840s, William and his brother Samuel Jr’s mills were hit hard by the economic depression, and their elder brothers Robert and John had to bail them out of trouble. Samuel Jr had proved so inept at managing his own mill (Lowerhouse in Bollington) that he took early retirement in 1846 and left the task of salvaging the mill to his brothers.
As the youngest Greg brothers, William and Samuel Jr were very close, and spent their time together discussing poetry, philosophy, science and politics, and both enjoyed giving lectures to the workers and apprentices of Quarry Bank whilst they still lived at home – much like we see the fictional William jumping at the chance to lecture his workers on the evils of the Corn Laws.
Their closeness meant that Robert and John were able to persuade William that it was he who should take over the running of Lowerhouse Mill, despite his own difficulties at Hudcar. Whilst he was diligent, William had little business acumen, and even though he managed to get Lowerhouse back on its feet, in 1850 he had to sell Hudcar Mill at a great loss, and he retired from the family business.
William had taken after his mother, Hannah, inheriting her philosophical tendencies and literary flair, and became a leading essayist, reviewer, and political and social commentator. He wrote several essays supporting the Anti-Corn Law movement in the 1840s, and for six years after the closure of Hudcar he supported himself by writing alone, regularly submitting pieces for The Economist. William also published Creed of Christendom in 1851, which confirmed his position as a religious sceptic.
In 1856 however, he reluctantly had to accept a job offer of a post in the Board of Customs from Sir George Cornewall Lewis, and moved to Wimbledon, where he would remain for the rest of his life. In 1864 until he retired in 1877, William was comptroller of the Stationery Office.
What of his personal life? As we have already seen in the series, the fictional William Greg is the father of Susannah Bate’s eldest daughter, but in reality the father of Susannah Catterall’s child is unknown. The real William did go on to have five children.
In 1835 he had married Lucy Henry, the daughter of a Manchester physician. Together they had two sons and two daughters, but Lucy’s physical and mental health was poor, and so in 1842 in an attempt to restore her spirits the family moved to The Craig, at the foot of Wansfell in Ambleside. William spent some of the happiest years of his life in Wansfell, where he revelled in his love of the natural world, spending his time at leisure, albeit to the detriment of Hudcar Mill. Sadly Lucy’s mental health never improved and she died in 1873.
William soon remarried in 1874; his second wife was Julia Wilson, who was the daughter of one of his closest friends; James Wilson the founder of The Economist. William and Julia had been friends for decades, and in 1875 Julia gave birth to their son, who was to become Sir Walter Wilson Greg. William died at his home in Wimbledon in 1881, aged 72.
You can find out more about the characters in Series 2 of The Mill here: http://bit.ly/QBMTheMill
Series 2 of The Mill has kicked off by exploring of one of the most contentious pieces of legislation of the 19th century; The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, which saw the wide-scale introduction of the infamous workhouse, as we greet a brand new family; the Howletts.
Daniel Bate: Robert Greg’s asked the Poor Law commission to send workers from the south under this new migrant labour scheme. These men are farmers…They’ve lost land, everything, and they’re being forced up here, and they’ll be desperate, and the men I speak for they’re scared, they’rescared they’ll drive down our wages.
John Doherty: They’re not the enemy. They’re victims of the Poor Law. We have to unite with them, not fight them. Save your famous rage for those that deserve it, Dan.
The Poor Law Amendment Act was was designed to reduce the rate of tax levied on the middle and upper classes, who complained that the working classes were lazy and disruptive; the ‘un-deserving poor’. A Poor Law Commission was set up, which created Poor Law Unions across the parishes.
Whilst workhouses had existed prior to 1834, the Act made it so that all unemployed able bodied persons could only receive poor relief from their parish workhouse, where they were given accommodation, food, and clothes, in exchange for labour.
Workhouses were built in each Poor Law Union, but families were often split up from one another and sent to different workhouses. Conditions were so terrible inside that people would only seek relief as a last resort. Even before the Act was introduced, many parents begged for mill owners, like Samuel Greg, to take on their children as apprentices where they would receive a better standard of care.
The Northern mill owners saw the Poor Law Amendment Act as an opportunity to source desperately needed labourers. On 17th September 1834, Robert Hyde Greg wrote to Edwin Chadwick, secretary to the Poor Law Commission:
“But for the operation of the poor laws in binding down labourers to their respective parishes in this mode…there would have existed a free circulation of labour throughout the country, to the benefit of all alike of the northern and southern parts. Nothing but the poor laws has prevented this circulation…
At the moment our machinery in one mill has been standing for 12 months for hands. In another mill we cannot start our new machinery for the same want…
The suggestion I would make is this…the most overcharged parishes might transmit lists of their families. Manufacturers short of labourers…might look over the lists and select as they might require large families or small ones, young children or grown up, men, or widows or orphans etc…
Hard working men, or widows with families, who preferred gaining an honest living to a workhouse, would, I am confident, be in demand.”
Bledlow was one of the worst poverty affected areas following the Act. Men of the parish joined together to appeal to the Poor Law Commission in December 1834, echoing Robert’s sentiments:
“We who sign this letter are the paupers of Bledlow in Buckinghamshire…We have asked the magistrates of West Wycombe to order the overseers of the poor to give us more relief. They told us the overseers have no more money to give us and cannot find work for us…
We are all able-bodied men and willing to work, and very unwilling to live in idleness or in charity…”
The letter went on to explain that despite searching for work there were no jobs available in the South and they were unable to support their families on the meagre sum of 7 shillings (roughly £17 in today’s money) a week (made from agricultural work), for once they had bought what little food they could:
“We have nothing left. We have no money remaining for buying clothing or fuel, or to pay our rent.”
Their appeal was published in The Times and Dr Kay, assistant to the Poor Law Commission, was sent to assess the situation in Bledlow. More factory owners wrote to the Poor Law Commission requesting they be allowed to employ these men in their factories, and so a system was set up and the first of the migrants moved from Bledlow in October 1835.
These families were the Howletts and the Steevens, who moved to Styal, and were indentured to work at Quarry Bank Mill for Robert Hyde Greg.
John Howlett signed his indenture on behalf of himself and his four children; Mary-Ann, Ann, Celia, and Timothy. John was to work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, whilst the children were to work 11 1/2. John had been widowed a couple of years before moving to Styal and brought with him his new bride Mary, who was not put to work in the mill.
They were indentured for two years and in return they were given lodging in 5 Oak Cottages in Styal (their cellar would soon be lived in by Esther Price and the Holt family) and were paid “Twenty four shillings per week in the first year and twenty seven shillings for the second year”. This equates to roughly £100 in today’s money. John was illiterate, and signed his name with a cross.
John worked in the scutching room for the first two years, and then became a labourer on the estate. His children continued to work in the mill well into adulthood.
The Howletts and the Steevens remained in Styal for decades, as did their descendants. A man named Thomas Tonge, in the 1920s, a very elderley man at this point, remembered John Howlett from his youth in the 1860s:
“His wife Mary, a big, fat woman, not a bad sort, was a character. In his later days he was querulous and complaining. One night John awoke his wife saying ‘Meary, Meary, I am a dyin’.’ She had heard that sort of thing before more than once, so merely replied ‘All right John, get on wi’ thy dyin’ and I will cry for thee in the mornin’, I am going to sleep’, which she did”.
Meanwhile, back in the South, by 1837, around 6,000 people had migrated to the North, and the poor relief rates in Bledlow were thought to have fallen by half. The mass migration meant wages were able to rise and the availability of work increased.
It must have taken a lot of courage for these families, orphans and widows to leave their homes and the life they knew to uproot themselves into an entirely new village or town, and an entirely new way of life and working. As a rural labourer there was no one to tell you when you could eat or what time you had to get up, but in the mills and the factories, every last part of your life became regulated, something which we will see the characters of The Mill fight against in the coming episodes…
The Mill returns to our screens tonight on Channel 4 at 8pm. The second series includes some new locations, most prominent being Styal Village. For me, and for those of you who know the site well, it’s easy to reconcile the distances we see the workers walking in the series from their cottages to the Mill, and it’s easier for us to sympathise with the actors who had to do several retakes that meant walking up and down the Mill drive! But for those of you haven’t a clue how all the buildings sit with one another, I thought it would be a good idea to include a map of the site, so you can appreciate the community that was, and is, Quarry Bank and Styal.
The site comprises of the Mill, Quarry Bank House (home of the Gregs), the Upper and Lower Gardens, the Apprentice House and Styal Village, all of which were created or expanded to the extent seen today by founder Samuel Greg, by the 1830s, since his arrival in 1784.
I was lucky enough to take a tour of all the studio created sets back in April, and of course I took a ton of pictures to share with you all, so check back over the next couple of weeks to have a good old nosy like I did!
Here at Quarry Bank we don’t just look after historic buildings, we also care for the huge estate that comprises of the Northern and Southern Woods, donated to us along with the Mill, in 1939. The estate is managed by our dedicated team of Rangers and volunteers, who protect and restore these beautiful grounds. Part of their job is to ensure the conservation of the flora and fauna, and this week, our volunteer ranger Derek Hatton, (who also acts as a volunteer photographer for us), snapped these gorgeous shots of an Emperor Dragonfly whilst he was out and about. Derek explains why the photograph, and the dragonfly, are so important…
The Emperor Dragonfly, anax imperator family odonata,is the largest European insect . Until recent times the species was only seen in Southern England and some midland counties but has recently spread northwards . As a pioneer species it may occur at a high density at a new site for a few years before becoming less common or disappearing altogether .
The species was seen in the Upper Garden at Styal in 2012 . One of our Volunteer Rangers (Derek Hatton) observed females laying eggs (ovipositing) in the Dipping Pond. As the pond was being drained for restoration work the decision was taken to relocate the weed where egg laying took place to the pond in the Apprentice House Garden – this process was overseen by Assistant Head Gardener Ann Gaughan.
There was no evidence of the species on the estate in 2013 .
The Emperor Dragonfly takes 2 years to mature to adult form and in 2014, large nymphs were seen in the Apprentice House Pond .
Adults were seen in the Upper Garden at Styal in early July 2014 and I observed 2 females were seen egg laying in the Dipping Pond on the 10th July 2014.
A success story for nature conservation at Styal – OR just a happy coincidence ?
Due to lack of vegetation and prey species, a decision has been taken to again relocate the weed to the Apprentice House Garden.
Here’s a link to some of our walks: http://bit.ly/Styalwalks
Quarry Bank has seen its fair share of iconic moments in its 230 year history, both past and present, but did you know that Quarry Bank can also act as the setting for one of the most iconic moments of your own life – your wedding day?
Instead of me trying to convince you of what a picturesque place Quarry Bank is, or how fantastic our hospitality team are (as we all know I’m incredibly biased) I’ll share a few testimonials with you…
“All our friends and family thoroughly enjoyed the day and so many of them have also since commented on how polite, friendly and professional your team at Quarry Bank Mill are. The venue looked absolutely beautiful on the day (as we knew it would), however we know the effort you all put in, to make sure it was everything we hoped it would be! We all felt so special and welcome and really can’t thank you enough! For us, the day really couldn’t have gone any better!
The National Trust should be proud to have such a caring, helpful, passionate and devoted team at Quarry Bank Mill…We will always be so glad we found such a special place to celebrate our marriage” -Sarah and Spencer Walburn
“Our wedding day really was the best day of our lives, with delicious food and wines, accommodating and attentive staff and of course a gorgeous, historic setting. Quarry Bank Mill lived up to every one of our and our guests’ expectations and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it as a wedding venue” – Mr and Mrs Young
“Quarry Bank Mill was a beautiful venue and we are very glad we chose it for our wedding. The stunning landscapes and gardens meant that we got some really gorgeous and unique photographs – something that most other venues can’t offer.
The food was first class, original and made using fresh local produce. Also it was no problem for the chef to cater for three vegetarians, a coeliac and a little girl with a nut, dairy and egg allergy, something which we really appreciated.
Thank you to everyone at Quarry Bank Mill who helped make our big day so special – even the rain failed to dampen our spirits! We would both recommend this venue to anyone who is getting married” – Mr and Mrs Edwards
“We cannot thank you enough for making our wedding day the best day of our lives. Your relaxed and friendly approach set the tone for the whole day. All of our guests have been extremely complimentary of the food and general ambience of the day. We are so grateful for all your help and patience in the build up and on the day itself” – Lee-John and Clare Lloyd
“Thank you so much for hosting our wedding, we had an amazing day! Everything went so perfectly we just wanted to say a massive thank you to the hospitality team – you were always there in the background making sure it all ran smoothly and our drinks were topped up! All the staff were amazing, so helpful and friendly and the food was delicious – we’ve had so many compliments from friends and family. Everyone loved the beautiful venue…we couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful day and are so happy we chose to spend our day at the mill.” – Jessica and Rob Edwards
“Thank you so much for giving us the wedding day that we really wanted. You really looked after us on the day too, by helping me with my dress and finding us a quiet space when we needed a break! The team ran a slick ship and the food was absolutely delicious, (many people told us “it was the best food I’ve ever had at a wedding”). We will forever recommend you to friends and family for future weddings and events.” – Louise and Mo
If you want to find our more about hosting your wedding at Quarry Bank, including locations and catering options then head over to our website and browse the wedding brochure: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/quarry-bank/hire-this-venue/weddings/
If you want to check out more photos of past weddings you can browse our photos on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/QuarryBankMillCatering/timeline
You can get in touch with our catering team about your wedding or civil ceremony by emailing email@example.com or calling 01625 445 846.