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.
Yesterday, Channel 4 released their press pack for Series 2 of The Mill.
It’s absolutely jam packed full of information about the second series, as well as loads of information about the fact behind the fiction that we here at Quarry Bank supplied them with, and even the article first featured here on the blog about ‘The Real Esther Price‘, which was researched and written by one of our volunteers – Keith Robinson.
You can check it out here: http://bit.ly/C4presspackTheMill but be warned – there are a few spoilers!
Who’s looking forward to Series 2? Don’t forget to follow the blog, Twitter and our Facebook page for behind the scenes information and photos as well as articles about the history that inspired the show.
We may be gearing up for the beginning of summer but 99 years ago Arthur Greg had just survived the Second Battle Of Ypres, and had been recovering from a facial wound inflicted by a German sniper. Arthur spent much of his recovery with his fiancée Marian Allen, and with her help he recorded his experience of Ypres, leaving us with an invaluable insight into trench warfare in the First World War. (Please be aware that some of the excerpts below are graphic and distressing).
Arthur’s account begins with his typical dry wit:
“Eighteen days in the trench with heavy engagements only a few hundred yards to our right and more critical fighting a mile or so on our left was not calculated to act as a nerve tonic.“
At this point Arthur was twenty-one years old and a Second Lieutenant with the Cheshire Regiment. After being stationed in the trenches for three weeks, Arthur and his fellow soldiers were sent to the ramparts of ruined Ypres. When dawn broke after their first night, Arthur and his second in command decided to explore the town, so recently devastated by the First Battle of Ypres.
“We knew that we were the first body of men to visit Ypres after the precipitate retreat of the majority of the inhabitants. The town was however never entirely deserted. We went into various houses whose chimneys were showing signs of life and in most we found several aged Belgians with long beards & curious little peaked caps. They were generally sitting in a more or less dazed condition in front of their stoves. The windows were generally smashed and often the doors – But they preferred to stay in their old homes rather than flee to the unknown.“
Arthur and his regiment did not have long to attempt to get comfy in the casements of Ypres before they were called up to the Front on May 5th 1915.
“It was after coming in from a particularly hard night’s digging just behind the firing line that we were suddenly roused with the alarming news that the Germans had made a gas attack on Hill 60 and had broken through. B & C companies had to go up immediately to support the D-shire regiment.
We only had a few minutes to get ready. We had no time to divide the rations which we had drawn in bulk the night before. We were to go up light so we left out coats and heavy things in the casements. It was not long before the C.O. [Commanding Officer] appeared. B Coy [company] had to go first with ten minutes interval between each platoon. My platoon was the first to go.“
After arriving at the Front, it was only a short while before Arthur was charged with leading his platoon to help with a counter-attack further down the line in the most horrific conditions.
“We had to keep very low as shots came from behind from the flank & from the front. It was an unhealthy sport and I didn’t like the carpet of Bavarian bodies; their limbs were so horribly arranged and their shoulders didn’t make a firm footing.”
They eventually reached their destination and immediately began hurling grenades, there was only a brief lull in the attack when the Germans renewed the fighting with vigour:
“About 8.30 the whole hill was brilliantly lit up by thousands of star shells that were all starting from one point and their sort of Crystal Palace show was accompanied by a most extraordinary crackle. Seldom have I seen such fireworks. Our rifle fire or shell fire must have set light to a large store of German star shells. The effect was wonderful and weirdly strange considering the surroundings. During the whole of that memorable night there were not many moments of complete darkness.”
The Allied forces were soon ready to counter-attack, and Arthur’s platoon was joined by a Scottish Company who were to be sent over the top at 10pm.
“At the allotted time they climbed over the parapet. The order was to go half right. They were met with a storm of rifle & machine gun fire from the hill – Our artillery had not yet stopped & soon theirs started. The poor Scots were simply blown back with lead. They started again & went half left. The wounded were pouring in to my trench. The sounds were terrible – men shrieking, the fierce crackle of machine gun fire, and the cruel shriek of the shrapnel. This was battle.“
The hours that followed were confused as the wounded poured in and the artillery fire carried on.
“It was as anxious night and everybody prayed for dawn as they had never prayed before. In daylight we could at least see what was coming and there is something very comforting about daylight after the strange artificial lights of the night.“
When morning arrived and the fighting subsided, Arthur and his men set about clearing the trenches of the dead. It was whilst superintending the removal of bodies that:
“I was conscious of a terrific blow. I went down like a log & was next aware of a horrid loose and disconnected feeling about the lower part of my face. I was bleeding like a fountain and my mouth seemed full of obstacles. I tried to spit them out. They were teeth.”
Arthur had been shot straight through the jaw by a German sniper.
“I remember distinctly some fellow saying in an agonized whisper – He’s had his false teeth knocked out. This annoyed me horribly as I had always been rather proud of my teeth. My servant then more kind heartedly than wisely poured the remains of his water bottle into my mouth. The water it afterwards transpired had been drawn from the moat round Ypres…
…My servant then applied all the bandages & field dressings he could find. I watched his horrified face with interest. I noticed that everybody that saw me looked strangely at me. I stumbled then down the trench. I heard the shout everywhere, ‘Make way it’s an officer’…
I was at this time in my shirt sleeves with no hat & covered in blood. Some of the Jocks recognized me and said it’s that Cheshire officer that’s got hit. I heard everything; I noticed everything, especially the looks on people’s faces.”
Arthur’s servant managed to get him to the dressing station in the largest dug out.
“Even the doctor looked horrified when he took off the bandages. He quickly bandaged me up again and gave me some morphia…
At last I began to feel easier and happy. At one time I thought I should not live as I was bleeding so profusely. I thought it a pity that one more so young should have to go. I then thought that if I did recover I would be so disfigured that no lady would ever look at me again. This depressed me horribly…“
Arthur was sent to the closest hospital, but first he had to walk a mile, supported by two other soldiers to a farmhouse where he could be collected by an ambulance, which would transport him to the hospital. It was there that he was visited by his elder sister Madge, who was serving as VAD nurse at a dressing station in Abbeville. Madge recorded Arthur’s injury in her scrapbook:
“Arthur is wounded & at No. 7 St. HP…got BOULOGNE 4p.m. & was with Arthur from 4:45 to 5:30p.m. He could not speak being hit in jaw but wrote, he has had a bad time on Hill 60 & no sleep the last 3 weeks.”
Shortly after, Arthur was sent home to England where he was given leave for three months to recover. He spent much of his time with Marian and her family in North Wales. He had had a narrow escape, but his face was permanently disfigured; the bullet had travelled straight through one side of his jaw and out of the other. Arthur spent the rest of his time in the Army as a training officer at Bidston Camp in Birkenhead.
You can read Arthur’s full account at our exhibition Heroes of Adventure, which is open until Sunday 16 November. I’ll also be sharing more stories from the exhibition here on the blog.