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111 days later…

February 9, 2016


This week Emma has been looking into the work on the glasshouse restoration where lots of exciting things have been happening.

The wait is finally over.  After years of fundraising and anticipation, the restoration of the derelict 1830s glasshouse is underway. Armitage Construction have been on site for 111 days, and wow have we got some interesting stories to share with you.

Putting the brakes on

In October, Dorothea, the historic metalwork restorers and engineers carefully dismantled the large cast iron frame piece by piece from the Upper Garden at Quarry Bank. All the items have been catalogued and transported 160 miles to Dorothea’s workshop in Bristol. The engineers are now carrying out painstaking work to the structure to make repairs, identify missing pieces and examine the extent of the damage.

dorethea glasshouse restoration

Dorothea engineer assessing and cataloguing pieces from the Glasshouse

Meanwhile, in Wolverhampton, Barr & Grosvenor were preparing a slightly surprising material for the restoration work. Automotive brake discs have been melted down and will be used to replace any damaged or missing parts of the structure. Odd choice, you might think. Stephen Anderson, Architect and Associate Director at Buttress Architect is ready to explain. “’Brake discs are an important safety component in automotive uses and as such, vehicle manufacturers take great care to ensure that brake discs are designed and manufactured to the highest possible quality. When they are at the end of their life on a vehicle, they can be recycled into iron for use in other applications, in this case to cast the missing components for the glasshouse.”

Buttress casting

Barr & Grosvenor casting pieces for the glasshouse

Load of old cobblers

Whilst this restoration has been taking place, archeologist have unearthed yet more of our garden’s history. A surprising discovery of leather shoes – mostly children’s – have been found in a historic rubbish pit. Along with the shoes, pottery and broken bottles stopped workmen in their tracks. A flurry of theories ensued as the mystery of the abandoned shoes gripped their imaginations.

Jamie Lund is an archeologist with the National Trust, and has shed some light on the case. We believe the pottery dates back to late Victorian or even Edwardian times which means that it’s unlikely that the boots had been worn by Apprentices as that system had finished by 1847. They could well have been used by the children keeping the garden wall stoves burning at night. However, new clues now point to a different conclusion.


One of the boots found during the glasshouse restoration

Scraps of leather also discovered suggest that the rubbish pit was filled by a cobbler – maybe he was a Quarry Bank gardener who moonlighted as one to supplement his income. The shoes might have been beyond repair and thrown away. Leather experts will conduct further research and the best pairs will be repaired by conservators at the University of London – and hopefully we’ll get them back here at Quarry Bank and on display.

As more of our stories are unearthed throughout the glasshouse restoration, there’s a lot to be excited about. With the opening of our new café in the next few months and the garden shop opening this summer, you will really start to feel the story of our Upper Garden unfold as a new chapter at Quarry Bank begins.

When the gardens reopen on 13 February, you can watch the restoration. We will have viewing portholes so visitors can watch the frame slowly take shape.  Once this is complete, visitors can watch glazers cut the glass to shape and delicately glaze the whole structure with thousands of glass panes.





Exciting times ahead at Quarry Bank…

January 15, 2016

With the Quarry Bank Project entering its second year, we are all set for a very exciting 2016.

The Glasshouse

The Glasshouse restoration is already underway and when the garden opens again on Saturday 13 February you can see for yourselves how things are coming along.  Throughout the spring and summer you will be able to see the glasshouse reappearing and even watch the glaziers at work.

The glasshouse today

The glasshouse as it was before restoration work began

We’re all looking forward to seeing this magnificent building brought back to life and there are some interesting stories coming from the restoration process, more on this in the next blog.

Unearthing a clockwork garden

We have some fantastic new exhibitions and events taking place this year.  First up in February, is the Unearthed exhibition.  The stories of Quarry Bank’s gardens are entwined with those who created and cared for them, in the Unearthed exhibition, discover how ten lives, past and present, have influenced the gardens and how over the last 200 years they have grown, evolved, declined and are now entering an exciting new phase.

The exhibition will feature original tools and documents from the archive, along with oral histories, interactive elements and garden themed installations.


Robert Hyde Greg, former owner of Quarry Bank, will feature in Unearthed

All the people in the exhibition have a special connection to the gardens and an interesting story to tell, but I think my favourites so far, from what I have been able to see a sneak preview of, are Maurice and Cyril.

Maurice and Cyril worked at Quarry Bank in the 1930’s when they were young men and Maurice is an Earlam.  Those familiar with Styal will recognise that name as the wonderful village shop is called Earlams and it’s no coincidence.  His parents opened the shop and ran it from 1914-1946, so are of course the Earlams in question.

I can’t give too much more away but suffice it to say, the archive team thoroughly enjoyed interviewing them and came back with some brilliant memories and anecdotes for the exhibition.

Unearthed will be at Quarry Bank from 13 February – 17 April.

©National Trust ImagesArnhel de Serra.jpg

The gardens will be the focus of our exhibitions in 2016

Even more excitingly, I can announce that in the spring and summer, we will be working with nationally renowned children’s arts charity The House of Fairy Tales with ‘The Clockwork Garden’.  They will be bringing their unique brand of storytelling and imagination to help you experience the Quarry Bank gardens as you never have before.  We can’t wait to see what they produce, their work is always quirky, imaginative and lots of fun for families.  We have a feeling it will be like nothing we have ever done here before.

The Clockwork Garden will be at Quarry Bank from 30 April – 11 September and you can join The House of Fairy Tales at Quarry Bank from 30 April – 2 May at our fantastic and fun launch event.

There are a host of other events and activities for you to enjoy at Quarry Bank in 2016. We’re hoping that you’ll want to come back again and again to experience something new and watch as the glasshouse reappears bit by bit.  To see our programme of events and to find our opening times and information please visit the Quarry Bank website.



Ronjul – reflecting on 2015 at Quarry Bank

December 31, 2015



I was talking to Angharad our new Archives and Collections Officer the other day and she told me about Ronjul (I should add here that she’s Welsh not Norweigian!).  The Norwegians have a name for the week between Christmas and the New Year which is Ronjul and part of the tradition surrounding this week is to spend some time reflecting on the year that has passed.

I thought I would use this blog to do just that.

2015 has been a very exciting year for us here at Quarry Bank.  Visitors have enjoyed a variety of exhibitions and events from the beautiful engravings of ‘Drawn Out of Love’ to family fun with’An Apprentice Adventure’ and the exploration of sound in ‘Aural Looms’.  We had our busiest ever year, with more of you visiting than ever before.

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Cat and Birds by Barbara Greg from the ‘Drawn Out of Love’ exhibition


Children (and grown ups) enjoyed playing in the Apprentice Adventure exhibition

We’ve conserved and restored the Clock Tower and sluice gates at Quarry Bank and continued the work on the machinery at Nether Alderley Mill.

Jerry on clock tower

Building Supervisor Jerry Veale with the restored clock face

More repairs

Repair work at Nether Alderley Mill

But the biggest event of the year for us here at Quarry Bank came back in January with the news that we had ‘won the lottery’ and been awarded a £3.9million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

This meant that the Quarry Bank Project could go ahead and we’ve already make huge progress in 2015.

Work has begun on the glasshouse restoration in the Upper Garden, the frame has been removed and while it feels odd that there is a gap up there, we’re looking forward to seeing what has been described as ‘doing a jigsaw without the picture’ as the restored and replacement pieces return and are pieced back together in 2016.  When the gardens re-open in February you will be able to watch as this happens, but more on that next week.

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The glasshouse was behind them!

We’ve also been working with our local communities in Styal, Wilmslow and Wythenshawe, local schools have been involved, including Styal Primary Allotment Club, Wythenshawe schools visiting for the Manchester Airport Attendance Day and with staff taking part in mock interviews with Year 11 pupils at Wilmslow High.

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Thumbs up from a member of Styal Primary allotment club


School pupils enjoy Manchester Airport Attendance Day

There is so much more I could mention but suffice it to say, when we look back at 2015 at Quarry Bank it was a great year.

Finally, thank you.  Every visit you make and every penny you spend at Quarry Bank helps us with the conservation of this unique site.  As part of the National Trust our aim is ‘Forever, for everyone’ and this is only possible while you visit and enjoy Quarry Bank so much.

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Thank you from the staff and volunteers at Quarry Bank

Next week I will take a look at what is coming in 2016…..(hint – there are a lot of new and exiting things to look forward to)

Happy New Year!


Behind closed doors….

November 13, 2015

Quarry Bank stays open to visitors throughout the winter from Wednesday – Sunday.  That doesn’t mean though, that on a Monday and Tuesday, nothing is happening inside the Mill.

The historic houses use this time to carefully clean and care for their collections and despite being a very different proposition, our collection of industrial machinery and other large items, also requires care and attention.  As Quarry Bank stays open all year round, the machines are in action most of the time, so we use our closed days to maintain and carry out any large scale conservation work on them.

Over the last couple of weeks our team have been working on the slub frame and the draw frame, two of the machines on our cotton processing floor, to check and clean them.

Working on the slub frame

Working on the slub frame

The slub frame needed new bearings for the grafting rollers as they were old and showing signs of wear.

On the draw frame, the parts were carefully removed and laid out to be cleaned, oiled and repaired as needed, before being carefully replaced.

Parts carefully removed from the draw frame

Parts carefully removed from the draw frame

Now the work is complete, the draw frame is back up and running.

Draw frame back together

Draw frame put back together

Work will continue on our collection of machinery, with the remaining machines on the cotton processing floor coming up next as the team work their way around the Mill.

There are a few items in the Mill that require more work owing to their size and/or complexity, which includes our spinning mule and ring frame.  These along with the Derby Doubler which needs a large repair doing, will be tackled in January on our closed weeks.

The spinning mule at Quarry Bank

The spinning mule at Quarry Bank

The only area of Quarry Bank which is closed to the public over winter is the garden and work has started there on the restoration of the glasshouse.  To find out more visit our brand new website and watch this space…..

Conservation work like this is only possible with your support, thank you.


Thank you to Rex Ashton for the pictures of the slub frame and the draw frame.

Adding to the atmosphere – behind the scenes of the Quarry Bank Project

October 16, 2015

The key to why we have embarked on the Quarry Bank Project, is that it will allow us to tell more of the incredible stories about this unique place. We can’t do this alone though and we are extremely fortunate that Hannah Barker, chair of Manchester Histories and expert in the Industrial Revolution has agreed to act as our historical advisor.

Hannah Barker, historical advisor to the Quarry Bank Project.

Hannah Barker, historical advisor to the Quarry Bank Project.

In Hannah’s words,

“I am lucky enough to be working with the National Trust at Quarry Bank…as a social historian who researches the use of domestic and work space in the north west of England in late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, this is, of course, very exciting.”

One of the first areas Hannah is looking into is the Apprentice House. One of the most popular areas of the site, the stories of the pauper children who came to Quarry Bank are amongst the most poignant we tell.  Hannah is keen to look at ways we could add even more atmosphere to the house.

“One of the things I would like to do in Apprentice House is to give visitors a clearer sense of what it was like from the point of view of the original occupants: that is, the child apprentices…In the weeks and months to come, along with the fantastic National Trust interpretation, learning and archival team at Quarry Bank, I’ll be exploring what we can do about this: how we can turn this quiet, still space into something that gives more of a sense of its earlier, noisier, smellier and more cramped past, when it was full of children.”

The Apprentice House at Quarry Bank

The Apprentice House at Quarry Bank

Hannah is currently carrying out research to find out whether the children would have had apprentices’ boxes. There is historical evidence to suggest that at this time, even the poorest in society would often have a locked box in which to keep what little possessions they had.  Although we don’t have any direct evidence of these boxes at Quarry Bank, we do know that the apprentices did earn small amounts of money and there are records within the Manchester Archives which show what they purchased.  More to come on this subject in the future…

For more details on Hannah’s research into this fascinating topic and the work she will be doing with us, we definitely recommend you read and follow her blog.

In the future, Hannah will also be working with us on Quarry Bank House and the Mill Worker’s Cottage which are scheduled to open to visitors for the first time in 2017.  With the wealth of information in our archive and the expertise which Hannah brings, over the next few years, more and more will be revealed about the rich history of Quarry Bank.

To find out more about the Quarry Bank Project and how you can help us, please visit our website.


‘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


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