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“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 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.


New home for Newts

May 31, 2015


We are all about conservation at Quarry Bank and it is not just history and heritage that we are looking to preserve. Working at such a unique and interesting site brings up all sorts of new challenges and one of the big issues for us is to ensure the wildlife at Quarry Bank – and particularly that living in the Upper Gardens – is not disturbed when the work to restore the Glasshouse begins.  So, the discovery of a great crested newt in the area, and lots of common newts for that matter, has meant our team has created a new habitat just for them.

I chatted to Lead Ranger Simon Hiley this week who told me a search of the derelict glasshouses had uncovered newts whilst others have been spotted in the dipping pond. Great crested newts are a European protected species, which means its eggs, breeding sites and resting places are protected by law.

View of the alpine house and dipping pond as they are today.

The Upper Garden dipping pond where newts have been spotted

The way the environment has developed in Cheshire means there are lots of newt habitats as we have created many ponds in the county, which is generally quite damp as well.

We would have done our absolute best to protect the Quarry Bank newts anyway and that’s why Simon, in conjunction with licenced ecologists set about trapping the little amphibians to find out exactly what species we have.

Newts found at Quarry Bank

Newts spotted at Quarry Bank

There is a new test that looks for eDNA (environmental DNA) of greater crested newts in water bodies on a proposed site. The testing makes it possible to detect newts simply by taking water samples.

However, we are not quite that technically advanced yet so Simon resorted to some tried and tested methods.

Using an old pop bottle with the top cut off, inverted the top, and then placed the ‘traps’ strategically around the edges of the two ponds. Placed at an angle, the newts can wander in but can’t get back out. Although no newts were trapped in the two ponds in question, we do know that newts are in the vicinity of the proposed works.

Rangers check the newt traps at Quarry Bank

Picking up a trap to check for newts

Simon explained how the newts breed in water, but come out of the ponds to rest in damp log piles and under brickwork where they will often hunker down for the winter. They also like old log piles and anywhere else where there is a little dampness and they feel safe and secure.

So before we go ahead with major aspects of the project we have to remove the newts and put them in the newly-built pond near the gardens where we hope they will live happily ever after!  Special newt fencing will then be put up to stop them returning to the building site.

An area has been cleared behind the Glasshouse and a number of Lime trees taken out.  These had been inappropriately planted in this area in the 1960s and their removal also helped to open up Little Town field and restored the historic views across to Styal Village.

Clearing space for the new newt pond

Clearing space for the new newt pond

Once their new home is ready, moving them will be a delicate process and a licenced newt ecologist will be called in to move the newts and make sure they are safe.

From Quarry Bank’s point of view the newts are an important part of the ecosystem. They eat a lot of insects, but are also food for others including birds like herons and a lot of fish.

They are as much a part of the gardens as the 1830s glasshouses themselves so it is vital that we treat them with respect and do what we can to continue giving them a home.

If you visit the gardens this summer you may well spot the newt conservation work going on and, if you are lucky, you may even see one of the little creatures yourself.


Pictures by Derek Hatton, Simon Hiley and Simon Herdson.

Putting some sparkle back into the glasshouse

May 8, 2015


This week Emma takes over the blog to give an update about the Quarry Bank Project and the plans to restore the Upper Garden glasshouse.  Over to Emma….

One of the most fantastic things about being the project coordinator for the Quarry Bank Project, is the fact that it covers so many things, restoration, event planning, reporting and communication, to name but a few. One minute I find myself in a finance meeting then the next I am talking about the outdoors and Simon, our Lead Ranger, is teaching me the art of den building and how to make a fire. (I have caught the outdoor bug and want to go camping immediately).

Ally our Collections and Archive Officer tries out the den

Ally our Collections and Archive Officer tries out the den

As there are so many things that I could tell you about I have to be selective. In this post I would like to talk about the Upper Garden and how we plan to put the sparkle back into the glasshouse. This will be the first area that we will work on during the project in 2015-16.

It is amazing to think that the National Trust only acquired the Upper Garden in 2010 and already it has changed dramatically. The Victorian dipping pond and small glasshouse have been restored and the fantastic views down to the mill have been uncovered.

View of the alpine house and pond when the Upper Garden was acquired.

The Upper Garden when it was acquired

View of the alpine house and dipping pond as they are today.

The Upper Garden today

The jewel in the crown is the derelict curvilinear glasshouse built in the 1830s. Here the Gregs displayed exotic plants, and grew grapes and soft fruits. Its modern design, materials and the huge amount of glass sent a clear message to guests about their success and position in society.

Unfortunately, the Glasshouse was severely damaged by neglect before the National Trust was able to acquire it. Since this time we have cleared it out and made it secure for the time being.

The glasshouse when it was acquired

The glasshouse when it was acquired

The glasshouse today

The glasshouse today

How will we put the sparkle back?

We have safely stored whatever we can so that, where possible, we can use original materials in the rebuilding process, or at least use them to replicate elements as closely as we can. For example, new cast iron glazing bars will each be individually re-cast using a mould made from a surviving bar.

Our plan is to fully restore the Glasshouse to its former glory including re-building the demolished section of the west vinery. We do not have the original architectural plans but have been able to piece together a clear understanding of how the building was created and used from architectural and archaeological surveys and the advice of National Trust experts.

We also have information in our archives including photographs, letters, diaries, maps and garden plant orders mean that we can restore the structure and present it with a high degree of authenticity.

Of course we need funds to achieve this and this is where your support alongside the Heritage Lottery Fund is so important

One of the main reasons that I have chosen to tell you all about the glasshouse is because it seems that you all can’t wait to see it returned to its former glory either. In July 2014, Sally, our fundraising lead and I, launched the ‘Our Glasshouse Needs You’ campaign which invites you to sponsor a pane of glass for the glasshouse. In the last ten months you have raised over £20,000 and sponsored over 400 panes.

People from far and wide have shown their support and I would like to say a big thank you.  I am taken aback by your enthusiasm and support and very grateful as it will be wonderful to see it back to how it once was.

I would also like to say a special thank you to the Year 7 Humanities class at Wilmslow High School for coming up with a fun way to raise £250 for our cause. Each pupil was sponsored to fill a match box with as many items as possible, one child managed 50 items!

To say thank you, the pupils came to visit Quarry Bank to have a look at the glasshouse and to see what their money will do. I have since heard from their teacher that they keep pestering their parents to bring them back to Quarry Bank.

Pupils from Wilmslow High standing outside the glasshouse

Fundraising pupils from Wilmslow High

How does this fit in with our other garden plans throughout 2015-2016?

The Upper Garden has been transformed in recent years thanks to the hard work of our garden staff, Sarah, Ann, Stefan, and Tom, and our new addition Jonathan and the 67 members of our volunteer team. However, there is still much to be done. With the Quarry Bank Project we will…

  • restore the 1830s curvilinear glasshouse and back sheds
  • create new interpretation spaces in the back sheds to tell you all about the story of the garden and the people who worked here. These spaces will be flexible so they can be used for special events, talks and school activities
  • open a garden shop specifically for gardening and plant sales. This will be located in the back sheds behind the glasshouse
  • open a catering outlet so you can enjoy a lovely cup of tea and homemade cake
  • build a gardeners’ compound for vehicles, machinery and staff recreation to make it easier to care for this wonderful garden
  • plant up the glasshouse and garden with historic varieties and beautiful bloom
Upper Garden plans

Upper Garden plans

All of this work will begin in October 2015. Please come and visit and watch as we transform the garden throughout 2016. Luckily for us, 2016 is the national ‘Year of the English Garden’ so we will have a year of exciting and new events which will focus on the garden theme.

If you would like more information about the Quarry Bank Project and how to sponsor a glass pane, please visit our website:

Thank you,




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