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‘The Eiffel Tower much better + safer than I expected’

October 2, 2015

Are your summer holidays a distant memory?  Relive them here, as this week I am handing over to interpreter Emma Baldwin who has been looking at the travels of Bessie Greg. We recently encountered Elizabeth Mary Greg (Bessie) and her sweet-toothed recipes in a previous blog about ice cream.  Over to Emma to find out more about her travels.

I first came across this intriguing member of the Greg family whilst searching the vast shelves in Quarry Bank’s archives. I was astonished by the stacks of sources nestled safely away, which contain details of this vibrant woman’s adventures.

As well as being a diligent diarist and letter writer, Bessie also recorded her visits in stunning paintings and photographs.

Sketch by Bessie of her travels

Watercolour by Bessie of her travels

A trip with a friend to Italy via France in May 1889 is recorded in a well-thumbed diary and offers an entertaining insight to her thoughts and expectations of her holiday.

‘The Eiffel Tower much better + safer than I expected’.

Taking just 2 years, 2 months and 5 days to build, the Eiffel Tower was a marvel of its time.  As the Tower didn’t open until 31st March 1889, Bessie could count herself as being amongst the first wave of tourists to visit the iconic attraction.

Isola Bella, Italy, also inspired pleasant reflections, ‘the prettiest part of it was the view of the lake’.

Bessie's sketch of Isola Bella

Bessie’s picture of Isola Bella

She mingled with some English tourists whilst visiting Santa Caterina, and paused to capture it in her watercolour scrap-book.

Sketch of Santa Caterina

Santa Caterina

In Pallanza, Bessie was prevented from taking a drive in the countryside by a bad thunder storm. ‘We stayed sketching about the market place’.

Watercolour of Pallanza


The travelling friends were not impressed with everything that Italy had to offer, however,

‘We could hardly find lunch there [San Michele], it was so primitive’. The locals obviously didn’t cater for tourists!

Her return journey took her through Switzerland, where the city of Lucerne left a lasting impression.

‘Most superb journey and delightful air. It was certainly the finest part we saw in Switzerland’.

Watercolour of Bessie's return journey through Switzerland

Watercolour of Bessie’s return journey through Switzerland

Despite occasional difficulties finding a suitable lunch, Bessie must have enjoyed her travels, as a few years later she was to follow in the footsteps of the great female Victorian explorers and journey much further afield.  More to come on this in a future post…

The Quarry Bank archives host a wealth of information about the Greg family and as part of the Quarry Bank Project, we plan to open up Quarry Bank House, the home of Samuel and Hannah Greg, to visitors in 2017.  Find out more about the Quarry Bank Project


Reassembly is the opposite of disassembly

September 15, 2015

Nether Alderley Mill, is a water powered corn mill, which some members of the team at Quarry Bank also help to look after. Our ongoing conservation work at Nether Alderley Mill has taken a new ‘turn’ lately. Over to volunteer Bruce Williams for more details.

At Nether Alderley once the waterwheels are in action, they turn the Great Spur Wheel which drives the mill stones.

To turn the mill stones, the Stone Nut has to be lowered to engage with the Great Spur Wheel.  The Stone Nut sits on a collet, which is a conical shaped lump of cast iron firmly attached to the shaft which turns the runner stone.

The runner stone being lifted from the base stone.

Mill stones at Nether Alderley, the runner stone being lifted during previous restoration work.

Earlier this year it was evident that the Stone Nut was lower than it should be, implying that the collet had somehow slipped down the shaft. The collet is attached to the shaft by means of an iron key wedged into a keyway on the inside of the collet. On inspection, it was discovered that there were two cracks in the collet either side of the keyway.

Crack on the collet at Nether Alderley Mill

Crack visible on the collet

Subsequently these cracks evidently widened, as one of our millers discovered that the Stone Nut was turning without turning the shaft – in other words, the collet was no longer firmly attached. This required fixing so we could continue to run the machinery.

Our friends from the Norfolk Millwright Alliance came to remove the damaged part for repair. This involved removing all the “furniture” – the Hopper, Shoe, Horse, Damsel and Vat – from the stones, then lifting the runner stone to one side in order to be able to remove the upper bearing of the shaft from the middle of the bed stone.

The 'furniture' under which the millstones sit at Nether Alderley Mill

The ‘furniture’ under which the millstones sit at Nether Alderley Mill

The large runner stone has been moved to one side

Runner stone moved to one side

Once this was done, the shaft could be lifted using a chain hoist so that the collet could be removed from the bottom of the shaft.

Shaft suspended on a chain hoist

Shaft suspended on a chain hoist

Bottom of shaft free of its bearing

Bottom of shaft free of its bearing

Collet removed from shaft

Collet removed from shaft

The shaft and collet were then taken away for repair, and the mill made safe by securing the Stone Nut with a chain hoist and straps to ensure that it could not move.

Stone Nut secured while shaft and collet are missing

Stone Nut secured while shaft and collet are missing

When the millwrights returned to refit the parts, it was seen that the cracks in the collet had been expertly welded together.

Welded repair on collet

Welded repair on collet

Also a new internal keyway had been milled in the collet, some distance from the original, in order to avoid any strain on the welded repair, and a matching keyway milled in the shaft so that in future the collet would not be able to turn without the shaft.

Keyway in shaft

Keyway in shaft

As it says in all the best workshop manuals, reassembly is the opposite of disassembly. Thus the shaft was lifted up into position, and the collet slid on from the bottom. The shaft was then fitted into its bottom bearing, and the upper bearing was refitted into the bed stone.

Upper bearing refitted in bed stone

Upper bearing refitted in bed stone

Then the runner stone was lifted back onto the shaft, and the tentering mechanism used to lower the runner stone until it was nearly touching the bed stone. The Stone Nut was then engaged with the Great Spur Wheel, so that the collet could be positioned correctly on the shaft before the key was hammered into the matching keyways to attach the collet firmly to the shaft once again.

Stone Nut engaged with Great spur Wheel to position collet

Stone Nut engaged with Great spur Wheel to position collet

The furniture was then replaced round the stones, and the mill was ready for action again.

Furniture being reassembled

Furniture being reassembled

Thank you, our ability to conserve Nether Alderley Mill and to keep it running, is down to the support of our visitors.  Nether Alderley Mill is open every Thursday, Saturday and Sunday until Sunday 4 October, please check the website before visiting.

Thank you to Bruce for this blog, all images ©Bruce Williams

“The greatest social curse in this country”

August 28, 2015


The team at Quarry Bank made a great discovery after spending weeks gathering information for a new book called Life in Styal which details the history of the workers’ village.

Styal Villagers

Styal Villagers

Henry Greg (Quarry Bank founder Samuel Greg’s great grandson) made a stirring comment about what he believed to be ‘the greatest social curse’ in a speech he gave in 1900 to the people gathered at Styal Village Hall.  The villagers had come together for what they may have presumed would be a fun occasion, the official opening of the Hall, which housed a club where men could meet and enjoy billiards or play cards.

Henry used this opportunity to impose on them his views on the products of another village landmark, The Ship Inn.  Still in business today, at the time The Ship was part of the village owned and managed by the Greg family and Henry Greg had some strong opinions on the consumption of alcohol.

“As long as I can remember, I have regarded drunkenness as the greatest social curse in this country,” Henry told those gathered at the village hall.  “I have come to the conclusion the only cure is education. A well-educated man shuns drink as a healthy man shuns smallpox.”

Black and white photograph of Henry Greg

Henry Greg

It’s a wonderful comparison and gives a real insight into how much life – and attitudes – have changed. While it is clear that he disapproved of the consumption of alcohol, he was also a very logical man.

“On inheriting it (The Ship Inn), I was urged by several of my teetotal friends to close it, but I decided against it. I recognised that if I did, another public house would probably be erected off my land and I would prefer to have control of it.”

Henry kept this control by paying his landlord a bonus based on the number of soft drinks he could sell each year and he also issued the following notice.

A notice detailing alcohol consumption, issued by Henry P Greg

A notice detailing alcohol consumption, issued by Henry P Greg

We do not know how the villagers felt about this restriction, if they welcomed and agreed with Henry or felt they should have the right to choose how many drinks they had in the pub.  The Ship did continue trading however, whether through sales of alcohol or through Henry’s support and a healthy abundance of soft drinks.

The Ship Inn in Styal

The Ship Inn in Styal

Drinks list from the Ship Inn in 1900

Drinks list from the Ship Inn in 1900

This anecdote is taken from our extensive archive and many other anecdotes and features of life in the village can be found in ‘Life at Styal’ which is on sale in the shop at Quarry Bank.  Next time you are here, pop into the shop and take a look at the book before taking a walk to Styal Village to see where it all took place.  While there, why not visit The Ship for either an alcoholic beverage or soft drink of your choice.



Uncertain liabilities – testing times at Quarry Bank

August 7, 2015


As always the archive team here at Quarry Bank, headed by Ally Tsilika, have been working very hard as they continue to catalogue our fantastic collection of the Greg’s personal and business papers.

A few months ago the content of a letter, on loan to us, caught the eye of archive volunteer Danika Lloyd; the letter was written by Ernest Greg to his daughter Helen on 29 April 1934, just four months before Ernest’s death.

Original handwritten letter on headed notepaper

Letter from Ernest Greg to his daughter

In the letter he expresses his worries about the future of the Mill, which had just lost one of its best customers; he writes “this is very serious for me, as the mill can’t continue without orders”, he goes on to consider the finances and costs surrounding the business.

“This looks as if it would be better to face up a certain loss of £50 or £60 a year or more rather than uncertain liabilities in preventing the manager and others from starving, there is no work for them if we stop… It is a worrying problem and I don’t know what to do about it.”

The letter continues

The letter continues

The Wall Street Crash of 1929 had sparked a global recession and by 1933, unemployment in Britain had reached 2.5 million, which represented 25 percent of the workforce.  The Industrial North was hit hard by the depression and there was increasing competition from cotton producers in other countries.  In this context, Ernest’s worry for the fate of his workforce should the Mill have to close, is very understandable.

Ernest was able to keep the mill open, thanks in no small part to Samuel Henshall, who managed the mill during this difficult period.  Henshall modified the looms in so that by the late 1930s laundry bags could be produced and Quarry Bank remained operational on a small scale until 1959.

Ernest’s son Alexander Carlton Greg donated Quarry Bank Mill, Styal Village and the surrounding estate and woodland to the National Trust in 1939, a few years after Ernest’s death.

black and white picture of Alexander Carlton Greg in later life

Alexander Carlton Greg

The discovery of the contents of Ernest’s letter delighted Quarry Bank’s former Oral History Intern Sarah Hollingdale, who said she had heard rumours that Ernest Greg had wanted to carry on business at a loss, out of concern for his employees, but that the letter was very exciting because she had never before seen any documentary proof of this.

It certainly seems the ethos of fairness and care for the employees of Quarry Bank extended far beyond Ernest’s Great-Grandfather Samuel Greg, who founded the Mill in 1784.

Discoveries like these letters come from the work to catalogue the archive, which is all part of the Quarry Bank Project.   By clicking the link you can find out more about the project and how the stories we continue to discover in the archive, will shape the future of Quarry Bank.


It’s all about you…

July 24, 2015

This week Emma brings us another update on the Quarry Bank Project. 

I love working on the Quarry Bank Project; the project is so multi-faceted and it will have an impact in so many ways. In previous blog posts I have talked about the capital works, our plans for the upper garden and the glasshouse. I think that it is high time that I told you about all the activities that have been happening over the past couple of months, thanks to the project.

“This project is more than restoring the physical landscape, it is about people…the people who once lived and worked here and the people who enjoy Quarry Bank today…you”

Supporting the local community

Rachel, our Volunteering and Community Involvement Manager along with the learning team, has been working hard to develop programmes, partnerships and a range of activities to support the local community, as I write this our team are packing kite making kits and other bits and bobs to take to the Wythenshawe Games for a weekend of family fun.

Rachel and Adam Thomas

Rachel and Adam at Wythenshawe Garden City 2014

Over the last 3-4 months we have completed our first pilot working intensively with a primary school in Wythenshawe, Crossacres Primary. This pilot has involved both outreach sessions at the school and we have hosted workshops at Quarry Bank. Every child in the school, that’s 360 of them, has been involved in one session, and many in several. Our workshops have covered a whole range of subjects including plants, rivers, land use, forces, as well as the history of this important place.

As a little extra, all pupils were given free passes to bring their family for a visit to Quarry Bank so we hope to see lots of them here to enjoy the summer holidays. I am happy to report that feedback has been glowing from both pupils and staff and we will now replicate this model of working with several other schools, as well as developing and expanding our existing learning programme.

 Discovery Day

In June we held our first Discovery Day at Quarry Bank – a free entry day designed to give everyone an opportunity to enjoy this special place. Our team put on new activities and events on the day to show what you can expect when you visit Quarry Bank. We even put on some free buses from Wythenshawe to Quarry Bank to make it trouble-free to get here. In total 822 people visited, if you were one of them, we hope that you enjoyed your day with us.


Ashley Deane, our Academy Ranger making mud pies during the Discovery Day

There will be two such free days delivered in each year of the project. Quarry Bank will be hosting a free Heritage Open Day on Saturday 12th September, why don’t you come and join us.

Manchester Airport Attendance Scheme Day

The Manchester Airport Attendance Scheme is a fantastic program that works with schools in Wythenshawe to encourage high attendance.  Children who go the whole term without an absence receive a certificate, and those with 100% attendance for the year receive a day out. This year, their day out was at Quarry Bank. The children had lots of fun playing games on the meadow and participating in craft activities in the mill.


Children enjoying their day trip to Quarry Bank on the Manchester Airport Attendance Scheme Day

We can’t wait to have them all back in 2016.


Quarry Bank is very fortunate to have almost 400 volunteers who love this special place and want to join in, whether it is working in the archive, helping out in the power gallery or welcoming you as you enter the mill. With the Quarry Bank Project, we will develop even more ways for you to get involved with the creation of 21 new roles over the next four years and the addition of options for corporate volunteering, drop-in volunteering and family volunteering. For more information on volunteering with us, take a look at

There are many other ways that the project will enhance your experience of Quarry Bank. I look forward to revealing more in my next post.



A Taste of History

July 9, 2015


Would you like to try some hundred year old ice-cream?

If your first thought was, surely it would have melted by now…you are right.  The ice cream in question is based on a recipe dating to the late 1800s or early 1900s.

Elizabeth Mary Greg, better known as Bessie was an interesting woman.  The great granddaughter of Quarry Bank founder, Samuel Greg, she traveled the world (more to come on this in a future blog) and was a keen amateur photographer.  In addition to this, she kept a collection of recipes which are part of the Quarry Bank Archive today.

Picture of Elizabeth Mary (Bessie) Greg

Elizabeth Mary (Bessie) Greg

We do not know whether the recipes were passed down through the family, if she copied them off other cooks or came up with them herself.  While wealthy enough to have a cook, we believe that, whether created by her or not, Bessie probably would have been in the kitchen when these dishes were tried out.

When our Catering Manager Matt Ferguson was seeking inspiration, he found Bessie’s collection and in particular was taken with some of the pudding recipes.

Original handwritten recipe

Burnt cream recipe

Whilst ‘burnt cream’ might not sound like the most appealing flavour, on closer inspection, Bessie’s recipe which includes milk, cinnamon, brown sugar, a pinch of flour and eggs, begins to sound more promising.  The final flourish, sprinkling with brown sugar and burning it with a red hot salamander (a flat piece of heavy wrought-iron melted on a handle), would have deliciously caramalised the top.

Modern tastes however, may need something more, so Matt turned to another recipe, which featured an orange flavour.

original hand written orange pudding recipe

Orange pudding recipe

With breadcrumbs, sugar, oranges, gelatine and milk, this pudding was first steamed and then set in a mould, creating a soft, sweet dish.

Cheshire based ice cream experts Snugburys, were excited about the challenge to create a flavour which honored this recipe.  Cleo Sadler, who formulated the new ice cream, said she found it a nice change to switch from the latest trends and instead go back in time for inspiration.

So here it is, our delicious new option, an orange, chocolate and toasted crumb ice cream, which will be available while stocks last this summer at Quarry Bank.  I have tried some and can personally recommend it.  Soft and creamy, the orange flavouring is delicate and the toasted crumb adds a lovely texture.  Perfect refreshment on a hot sunny day or a good pick me up for a rainy one.

Quarry Bank staff enjoy tasting the new ice cream

Enjoying the new ice cream

Get some before the staff and volunteers eat it all!


Colourful clothing the Georgian way

June 25, 2015


How do you dye your clothes like a Georgian?  A group from Styal Primary School found out as part of their regular allotment club here at Quarry Bank.

One of the plants grown here in the Apprentice House garden is woad, which can be used to dye fabric blue.  Miriam who usually works in the Mill, demonstrating the machines, took some time out to show the children from Styal Primary allotment club how a plant can be used to colour fabric.

Woad, a tall plant with small yellow flowers, growing outside the Apprentice House

Woad growing in the Apprentice House garden

Miriam stripped the leaves from the plant and steeped them in boiling water, before straining the liquid (dye liquor) from the leaves and showing the children how to activate the colour.  This involves using a chemical process and agitating the liquor.


Woad leaves being strained.

Straining the leaves after boiling them.

Agitating the liquor by pouring in between the basins

Agitating the liquor by pouring between the basins

School children pour liquid from one bucket to another

The children from Styal Primary found this part of the process a lot of fun.

Once it was ready, the pupils needed something to dye.  As the school wouldn’t have thanked us for changing the colour of their school uniforms, they were given some small bags instead.

Dipping the bags in the dye

Dipping the bags in the dye

Once they had been dipped into the dye liquid, they were hung on the line to dry.

Miriam helps two pupils to peg the bags to a washing line

Hanging the bags on the line to dry.

The pupils seemed pleased with the results.

Thumbs up from a member of the allotment club

Thumbs up from a member of the allotment club

As well as drying the bags, hanging them on a line also exposes the bags to oxygen, which helps to develop the colour from the pale green seen here, into a beautiful blue.

The pupils had to leave before the final colour appeared, but here is some blue wool Miriam also dyed using woad, alongside some green wool, which she created by over-dying the blue wool in a dye liquor produced using onion skins.

Blue strands of wool from the woad next to green which have been over-dyed using onion skins

Wool dyed using woad.

Although perhaps not quite as eye catching as the main gardens, with many interesting plants, including vegetables and herbs used in dishes served at the cafe, the Apprentice House garden is well worth visiting when you spend time at Quarry Bank. There will also be an opportunity to see some examples of natural dying at the Autumn Fair in September.

Thank you to Miriam and Styal Primary school for the pictures used in this blog.



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