Alright, so maybe we’re not saving the world or managing to outrun death by avoiding a boulder of doom, but we’ve had an expert team of archaeologists in from Matrix Archaeology in Manchester, who are making some really interesting and important finds in the gardens.
The Gregs may have found Quarry Bank House and Norcliffe Hall draughty during the winter, but their exotic plants were warm and toasty thanks to the luxury of central heating
These exotic plants included peaches and palms, although the once elegant glasshouses in the Upper gardens were originally designed for use as a vinery. Such plant-houses were a status symbol as well as a hobby for families of the Greg’s standing, and those on the dig knew there must have been a sophisticated heating system for the lush plants to thrive.
The work was potentially hazardous (so a little bit like Indiana…alright, alright, I’ll give up the metaphor) because some of the glasshouses are in a precarious state. However the team were delighted when they uncovered evidence of a hot-air system dating from around 1830 and a hot-water system from the late 1880s.
“It has been very rewarding and produced rather more than I had dared hope for”, said Jamie Lund, our Regional Archaeologist, who is overseeing the project. “These are important finds.”
A series of flues and boiler pits have been unearthed. These show that to begin with a hot-air system powered by huge amounts of coal and coke was used. Fast-forward more than 50 years and the glasshouses were in the shared tenancy of the Gregs and a tenant of Norcliffe Hall (which had been rented out by Edward Hyde Greg), who was less than impressed by this system and suggested that a hot-water system, the new technology of the time, should replace it, which it did.
“The glasshouses would have been a costly if enjoyable past-time for the Gregs. There would have been a high initial financial outlay, as you can tell from the quality of what we’ve found” says Jamie.
As part of the Quarry Bank Project we’re hoping to restore some of the system so that visitors can see how it worked.
Find out how you can help us achieve this here:
Laura, with thanks to Ross Mackintosh and Jamie Lund
(Admit is, as soon as you read the title you started singing the theme tune in your head…)
Back in October you may remember that the cataloguing volunteers unearthed a letter which shed new light on the Greg family’s home life. The letter was from Mary Philips, wife of Robert Hyde Greg, to her son Robert, and explained the plans for their annual winter play.
The team have uncovered yet more of Mary’s letters at Christmas, three years later in 1843 at Norcliffe Hall.
Mary’s letter is once more to her boys at boarding school, Robert and Edward, now 17 and 16 respectively. Mary missed her boys and begins by apologising for writing to them on Christmas day, rather than them receiving her letter on the 25th. She wrote “How I long you 2 could be with us today on such a family day”.
Mary’s description of how the Greg’s spent their Christmas day brings images of opulence and merriment. They began the day by attending the chapel to hear a Mr Smith of Macclesfield preach, followed by a dinner with 17 people, the party composed of family and friends back at Norcliffe Hall at 5 o’clock.
“As soon as dinner is ended, we are to adjourn to the library, when we shall find ‘the Tree’, & upwards, Caroline says [her daughter], of 200 presents – the tree lighted with tapers. After the Tree – tea – then games till bed time.”
I can picture them all, aglow from the light of the tree, the women in their best dresses made from silk shimmering softly, lost in a sea of expensive wrapping paper and ribbons, with the smell of pine from the tree permeating the air. Hopefully Robert Hyde Greg stopped being his grumpy self for once…
The festivities continued beyond Christmas, and the family performed “Henri Quatre” once more, this time without Robert and Edward, which was “followed by ‘Alfred’… in the Dining Room”.
Ally and I shrieked with laughter at the conclusion of Mary’s letter to her boys, who were also performing in a play at school;
“Please behave discreetly at your play and like gentleman – & don’t be too familiar with the young ladies, even in fun – no good comes of it, & a little Dignity and Restraint will be needed in such occupation…spend your Vacation well, honourably and as Your Parents would like to see and know.
I bet any of you that these words were read with an accompanying eye-roll from her sons and did nothing to stop these two teenage boys flirting with young ladies!
Mary further exhorted her sons to “Read your Bibles a little everyday and look within your own hearts and reflect” – reminding us that religion was still very much a part of everyday life for Victorians even during times of feasting, plays and games.
I’ll be continuing the wintry theme on the blog next week with an object from the collection that used to belong to a villager…
Remember you can still come along to our Victorian Christmas event this weekend and find out more about Christmas at Quarry Bank.
We’ve been gearing up for Christmas since about August here at Quarry Bank, and what a Christmas it’s shaping up to be.
Once again we are hosting our Victorian Christmas, but with a few added extras this year.
In the Mill Yard you can meet costumed interpreters, buy some traditional sweets and warm yourself up with some mulled wine from the pantry. Make sure you pick up a hog roast roll as they’ll go quickly (I’ve had one at every event they’ve come to this year and can promise you won’t be disappointed!). On Sundays we will be visited by a Victorian Roast Chestnut Cart, and whilst we have no open fire, we do have a brazier for you to warm your hands by.
Up at the Apprentice House there are plenty of Victorian traditions to learn about. In the schoolrooms you’ll meet Miss Greg and learn all about what Christmas meant for the apprentices, whilst up in the dormitory you can play with Victorian toys. In the treatment room you’ll meet Doctor Holland who will be prescribing some traditional treatments for winter sniffles. Head to the parlour for some Victorian storytelling before sampling some delicious currant loaf and fruit punch in the kitchen.
Inside the Mill you can dress up like a Victorian and have your photograph taken in Grandmother’s parlour. Then the kids can try their hand at making some Christmas crafts. On Sunday 8th the Gallery Choir will be adding some extra ambience.
Father Christmas is visiting us again, and you can write your letter to him and pop it in the post box. Then you can meet Father Christmas and receive a traditional gift. Finally, and most excitingly, on Sunday 15th Father Christmas will let you meet his reindeer out on the Mill Meadow!
Our Victorian Christmas is on Saturday and Sunday the 7th, 8th, 14th and 15th and runs from 11am-3pm. You’ll need to buy yourself a ticket to get into the Mill and the Apprentice House (NT members go free as usual), but if you’re just coming to see Father Christmas then you only need to pay £3, and everything else is free to see!
We hope you can join us for this special event guaranteed to get you into the festive spirit!
I’ve had a brilliant summer delving into the archives and following the progress of the cataloguing team. You’ve hopefully enjoyed the glimpses I’ve offered you here on the blog at some of the more unusual finds. This week I hand over to Archives and Collection Officer, Jane Speller to tell you all about a national campaign…
Saturday 16 November saw the launch of the Explore Your Archive, a national campaign which is being run by The National Archives at Kew. This is the biggest public awareness campaign ever undertaken by the archives sector with hundreds of archives from all over the UK and Ireland taking part.
‘A world without archives is a world without memory’. EYA will encourage everyone to celebrate, explore and take pride in their archives, through a great programme of different events and activities.
Here at Quarry Bank we’re doing our bit for the EYA campaign by running special behind-the-scenes tours for our staff and volunteers. Myself and our Collection and Archives Officer Ally, are running the tours hope to give people a glimpse of some of the archive’s most interesting items. With material dating from 1690 onwards there were plenty of wonderful items to see and handle.
Ally explains what the visitors to the archive were able to see on the tour;
Visitors were able to view the newly found manuscript of Hannah Greg on her thoughts about the American War of Independence and her feelings about slavery. She wrote this in 1785 aged about 18 so we wanted to show how intellectual she was even as a young woman.
We also showed plans of the mill from 1844 to show them how things have changed and how it helps us in interpretation. There were photographs on display of the estate, houses and gardens to contrast them with how they look now, and we explained how they help other departments, like the garden team, to restore these areas.
There was also Robert Hyde Greg’s travel letters and sketches, the pattern book from Robert and Nathan Hyde’s textile merchant company.
We also displayed the ‘census’ book of the village, which lists the people living in the cottages and farms, their date of birth, occupation and wage. The book provides an insight into the different jobs in the mill, differences in wages between men, women and children, and social hierarchies in the mill itself.
The visitors all really enjoyed the tour and had several positive things to say about the experience:
“The extent of the material is amazing, and still being added to, so return visits are a must!”
“I knew there was a substantial archive but to see it really brought the history alive.”
“I could have lost myself in there for the day.”
“I did not expect to see so many fascinating items.”
“The degree of details and quality of presentation is remarkable. There are so many different strands to the story.”
“Being able to see historic material in its original place really brings the history of the site to life.”
For more information about the campaign and to see what’s going on in an archive near you, please visit the brand new EYA website:
Next week I’ll be exploring what the Gregs and the Apprentices got up to at Christmas time, including another archive find that continues from a previous post…
Photographs by Nick King.
You may not be aware that here at Quarry Bank, we also look after a sister property, Nether Alderley Mill. It is a corn mill, and from 2008-2012 it underwent a huge restoration project, when the roof and the mill machinery were completely restored.
Before Nether Alderley Mill was reopened to visitors back in March of this year, with a brand new tour, several millwrights needed to be trained up in the ancient skills, to be able to run the mill machinery.
This week I hand over to Vince Chadwick, one of the Nether Alderley millwrights, to tell us all about a recent visit by the Norfolk Millwrights who completed the machinery restoration…
We have closed the mill for the season now and will re-open in the spring. The National Trust has taken the opportunity to invite the Norfolk Millwrights, who did the recent restoration work on the mill machinery, to return to Nether Alderley to check on the condition of the mill after our first season milling grain, and to repair a couple of minor faults which have developed.
Finally, the bearing having been re-greased and the stones’ faces cleaned, the runner stone was lowered back onto the mace.
To find out more about Nether Alderley Mill, browse the website to learn about the history and the restoration project. The Mill is currently closed until spring 2014.
It was around this time last year that I first learned of Arthur Tylston Greg and his younger brother Robert Philips Greg and the sacrifices they made in the First World War.
Next year marks the centenary of the First World War and many National Trust properties are organising commemorative exhibitions, Quarry Bank included.
Myself, Ally and Jennifer have spent the last few months researching Quarry Bank in the First World War to create our exhibition; ‘Heroes of Adventure’. It has been an emotional experience for us, delving into the experiences of not just Arthur and Robert, but of Arthur’s fiancée Marian Allen, and their elder sister Margaret, a V.A.D nurse who served in dressing stations and hospitals across France throughout the War.
Our research has also led us through Styal Village to the War Memorial, and into the weaving sheds of the Mill, to Edward Cooper and Fred Burgess. Edward and Fred overlookers who were called up early on in the War, and their Northrop looms were left in silence for five years.
Two weeks after the armistice in 1918 Quarry Bank was writing to various government departments, begging for Edward and Fred to be discharged from service so they could return to their looms.
This is all we know so far of Edward and Fred’s story, and the experiences of the men remembered by Styal War Memorial in the First World War. We need your help to bring these men and their memories back to life for the exhibition.
If any of your ancestors lived in Styal, or worked in the Mill during the First World War, or were one of the men whose names sadly adorn the memorial, we would like to hear from you.
Please get in touch if you have stories, photographs or even objects that you would consider loaning to us for the purpose of the exhibition. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the heading ‘Heroes of Adventure’ if you can help us.
Back in the summer I wrote a post about the Greg family and their travels around the globe. Robert Hyde Greg was one such Greg, and his Grand Tour of Europe provides us with a lot of interesting detail about tourism and different cultures in the early 19th century.
Yesterday, one of our cataloguing volunteers, Roy Pownall, was reading one of Robert’s letters home addressed to his younger sister Agnes, and came across a particularly interesting passage relating to Mount Vesuvius.
Robert had been travelling through Italy from January 1817. In the days before his trip to Pompeii, he had visited the Sistine Chapel and met the pope, before travelling to Naples.
In his journal he recorded that on April 8th he set out to Pompeii, and had passed through Torre del Greco, a town which was “half-buried in the eruption of 1794.” He further recorded seeing various excavation teams, who were still in the process of uncovering the lost city.
The next evening Robert and his companions set to climb Vesuvius. In his letter home he wrote:
“The flames which constantly issue from the crater interrupted only by the repeated eruptions of burning stones kept our eyes upon it and we forgot the length of our ascent”
Goodness knows how Hannah Greg felt hearing that her son had been climbing up a somewhat active volcano at night…
Once they had reached the top, Robert recorded in his journal that
“When day broke we found ourselves wrapt in clouds, We visited the stream of Lava and saw it oozing out of the side of the mountain”
Ally brought out Robert’s sketches for the volunteers to see and all agreed that it really brought to life what they had been poring over that morning.
The job they have is quite a difficult one, for as Roy explained, many of the letter were written in a criss-cross grid style to save on paper, which was quite expensive at the time, making it that much more difficult to transcribe the letters. Usually Roy reads through a letter once to get the gist and then goes through again transcribing and summarising.
The sketches then, provided a bit of relief from the great concentration and definitely made it feel worthwhile for the volunteers.