Skip to content

Quarry Bank has won the Lottery

March 27, 2015

Hello everyone, my name is Emma and I am the project coordinator for the Quarry Bank Project. Over the next few years I will be joining the blogging team to relay all the wonderful things happening with the Quarry Bank Project.

As you may be aware, back in January, Quarry Bank was awarded a £3.9million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Of course we were ecstatic and it has taken some time to bring us down from cloud 9.


Members of the project team with the Heritage Lottery Fund bid back in October 2014

Members of the project team with the Heritage Lottery Fund bid back in October 2014

I expect that you are all thinking why has Quarry Bank been given such a generous amount of money?

In 2006, the National Trust acquired Quarry Bank House, home to Samuel Greg and his family. Again, in 2010, we were able to bring the Upper Garden, glasshouse and Gardener’s Cottage back into the fold.

By acquiring these missing parts of the estate, we now have the opportunity to bring the whole site to life and tell the complete story of the Industrial Revolution. We will be providing access, to parts of the estate never before seen by the public, including Quarry Bank House and a Worker’s Cottage.

Opportunities to visit Quarry Bank House

Opportunities to visit Quarry Bank House

We will be restoring long lost historic pathways through the Northern Woods, restoring the 1830s derelict glasshouse and creating better orientation and access across the site with new footpaths and a new welcome building. That’s not all; we will be refreshing the mill and inserting an external lift that will provide access for all to all five levels of the mill. Don’t worry Quarry Bank will be open throughout this work and you be able to watch as we transform the site.


The 1830s derelict glasshouse will be restored

The 1830s derelict glasshouse will be restored

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.

We will research, catalogue, digitise and properly store the archive and use the stories to create new exhibitions both here and online, for you to enjoy. We will create exciting and innovative exhibitions and events that will make you want to return again and again.

The project also aims to engage with the community in ways that we never have before. We will be working with Primary schools to support their curriculum and getting young children to engage with their local heritage.

We will be working with training bodies and higher education to provide opportunities for people to learn new skills in catering, hospitality and cultural heritage. We will also be attending local events to keep you up-to-date with all the goings on at Quarry Bank.

Wilmslow Show

Setting up for the Wilmslow Show 2014

With the expansion of things to see and do at Quarry Bank, we will need more of your fantastic support. We have hundreds of volunteers who are very excited and enthusiastic about our ambitious plans, why not join them?

Over the course of the project, we will be developing 21 new roles in addition to the current volunteering offer. So there will be something for everyone to get involved with.

Are you excited yet? Like us, we want everything to happen now so you can experience all these fascinating benefits; however, this project will take four years to complete, so bear with us as we begin the work. Don’t worry though; I will be here to provide updates on our progress.

In my next post, I will reveal what will be happening over the next 12 months and beyond.

One more thing, the Heritage Lottery Fund gave us a generous £3.9million but the overall cost of the project is £9.45million. For our dreams to be realised we need to raise £1.9million through a public appeal. We are half way to reaching this total, please help us with the final push. Do visit the website to see how you can help us.

Thank you!

HLF Logo


Printing block collection and a 70 piece puzzle

March 20, 2015


Museums are like icebergs, what you see is only a fraction of what is really there.  Quarry Bank is no exception and in the unassuming rooms at the back of the Mill, which house the collection and archive, are many intriguing items.

The Drawn Out of Love exhibition has taught me a lot about artistic printing so when Ally our Collections and Archive Officer told me about our collection of over 1,500 textile printing blocks, I couldn’t wait to have a look.

Dapple Deer, wood engraving by Barbara Greg

Dapple Deer, wood engraving by Barbara Greg from the ‘Drawn Out of Love’ exhibition

Beautifully designed, our collection of wooden printing blocks were used for a very different purpose to those in the exhibition.  These textile printing blocks were used to print patterns onto cotton fabric, which was then exported around the world.

Most of the blocks in the collection date to the late 19th century and the influence of trade, particularly throughout what was then the British Empire, can be seen.

Printing block inscribed 'Abdull  Sattar Mohamed Bros.Rangoon'

Inscribed on this block is ‘Abdull Sattar Mohamed Bros. Rangoon’

Wooden printing block which reads 'Calcutta'


As you can see the blocks are designed in reverse so when dye is added and the block pressed onto the fabric, the design will appear the right way round.

The Greg family used them to identify cloth which came from Quarry Bank.  This block, probably 20th century, reads R.G (for Greg) & co. Quarry Bank Mills and has the Greg family crest in the centre.

Printing block used on cloth sent around the world from Quarry Bank Mill

Printing block used on cloth sent around the world from Quarry Bank Mill

Some have elaborate designs.

Wooden printing block reading 'Celebrated Shirting known all over the world'

‘Celebrated Shirting known all over the world’

Others are more practical, giving the type of cloth.

Wooden printing block which reads 'bleached'


Wooden printing block which reads 'Algadon'.  This means cotton in Spanish

‘Algodon’ means cotton in Spanish

Others are carved with patterns, each block coming together with the others to build up a design.

One particularly complicated pattern is made up of 70 individual blocks, each of which states the colour to be used when printing.

While we therefore know what colour the overall pattern would have been, unfortunately they are not numbered, so we don’t know what order they should go in!

Trying to piece them together would be like doing a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces look very similar and without any idea of what the final picture should look like.


Wooden printing block with a flower pattern

This beautiful flower printing block is one of 70 blocks which make a single pattern.

Over 70 wooden printing blocks on shelves in the Quarry Bank Archive

The 70 blocks numbered 8301.

I can only imagine how painstaking this kind of pattern would have been to hand print.  They certainly must have had steady hands.

Blocks like this would have been used to print textiles for upholstery and the finished results may have looked something like this.

Patterned fabric

Patterned fabric

Most of the blocks were produced locally and are an important part of the textile history of the North West.

Makers mark on a printing block which reads 'Ellinger & Co. Manchester

Mark which shows this printing block was made in Manchester

Caring for objects like these, part of our extensive archive and collection, is a very important aspect of the work the National Trust do here at Quarry Bank.  I very much look forward to bringing you more behind the scenes stories.

If you feel inspired to have a go at printing why not try our printing workshop for adult beginners with artist Lily Cheetham, this Sunday 2-4pm 


Dr Holland’s Herbal Remedies

March 13, 2015

Dr Peter Holland, not only mixed with the gentry, but also showed concern for the poor. Developing a large practice in the Knutsford area, as well as working for the Leicesters at Tabley, the Stanleys at Alderly and the Egertons at Tatton, he was the family medical practioner for the Greg family and took responsibility for the medical care of the Greg’s apprentice children. 


Apprentice House Medical Room

Dr Holland requested that certain products were always kept in stock in the Apprentice House Medical cupboard and in this week’s post, Philip Charnley, Garden and Archive volunteer, tells you about his research into the medicinal uses of plants within the Apprentice House. So lets hand over to Phillip:

 As well as looking into the recorded treatment of the apprentices, I have also been helping Ann Gaughaun (Deputy Head Gardener) with the medical uses of herbs and plants grown in the Apprentice House garden. Plants have always been, and still are, important for their medical properties and many of the plant items on Dr Holland’s list would have been available in the garden adjoining the house or in the local hedgerows.


Rhubarb and camomile are the most used items. Rhubarb was and is in fact still used in stomach mixtures and camomile was used to soothe and calm. It is still widely used today, most popularly as Camomile Tea and in sleeping aids to help the person relax . Camomile eye wash was used on Hannah Riley, an apprentice, on 14th Aug 1819. Camomile tea was given to John Robinson, apprentice, 4th Nov 1812 and a camomile poultice was applied to Ann Davies, apprentice, on New Year’s day 1815.


 There are many references to Laudanum and Poppy Heads were kept in the store cupboard. I doubt if they made their own Laudanum from these but the use of this morphine based product on young children was not uncommon. Digitalis (from the foxglove plant) was also used and William Wyatt, apprentice, was given this on 2nd Oct 1823. He had been very ill for some time and sadly died 2 weeks later.

Poppy seed heads

Other plants that were regularly used include Ginger, Sage, Peppermint and Spearmint, Juniper and Horehound. Ann hopes to do a lot of replanting in the Apprentice House garden in 2015 and more stories of the plants, children and their treatments will be incorporated into displays and information boards.

Look out for displays on the plants in the Apprentice Garden soon. If you have any questions on your visit, the gardening team, including volunteers, are very friendly, so please do ask.


Countryfile and The Clock Tower

March 6, 2015


Rather excitingly, at the end of last month, Ellie Harrison, Countryfile presenter, visited Quarry Bank to film for an episode of the programme, which will air this Sunday (8 March).

As it is National Apprentice Week from 9-13 March, she chatted to Quarry Bank’s Clare Brown (Machine Interpretation Supervisor) and discovered what life was like for apprentices working at the Mill. Clare tells me she even had Ellie scavenging on the floor looking for cotton, like an apprentice.

Ellie also took time to speak to Tony Williamson, a former Quarry Bank Building and Estate Apprentice, who has been working on the recent repairs to the Bell and Clock Tower. If you have visited Quarry Bank since October you will probably have noticed that the Tower has been clad in scaffolding, whilst our Estate Buildings Team assessed the state of the timbers supporting the Tower dome, the structure of the bell, and the clock face and set about making repairs.

The Tower has now been brought back to life by Tony and Jerry Veale, Quarry Bank’s Buildings Supervisor, with the help of a team of contractors. The ivy-covered Mill in the picture below shows what the Tower would have looked in 1901.

Greg's Mill Styal (low res) (2)

I spoke to Tim Marshall, Regional Buildings Surveyor, who filled me in on the progress of the Tower. Tim explained that the lower bell (the one that would have been rung to call the apprentices to work), was taken by himself to John Taylor & Co., The Loughborough Bell Foundry, pictured below, to be repaired.

Bell foundry 4 (2)

It was also discovered that the top bell is a John Taylor bell, dating back to 1895. It was commissioned for a Church in Newport, South Wales, but was returned after it was found too small, before being sent to a company call Joyce’s, who sold it to the Gregs. The bell was installed in 1900 in memory of Arthur Greg (below), who sadly died of pneumonia and pleurisy in 1899. He was the son of Robert Hyde Greg and managed the mill in Eagley, Bolton.

STQBM.1417 - Arthur Greg

On a visit to Quarry Bank you might well have noticed that the Tower is in fact wonky. Look out for this in the episode on Sunday if you haven’t noticed it before. Tim emphasised the importance of maintaining, rather than correcting, the Tower’s unique slant, so as to keep the character of the property. That said, it was vital that the structure be stabilised and so the stone work round the clock face was replaced by Stone Mason, Neil Andrews and Jerry and Tony took care of the joinery. You can see the transformation their craft has made in pictures below.


clock tower before restoration 3

During…Bell Tower - Dec 2014 - 1

After…clock tower during restoration

Now it was time for the finishing touches. In the picture below, Jerry stands beside the brand new clock face. The face was replaced, as the existing face would have suffered damage if the paint had been stripped. Contractors painted the clock and no detail was spared, as they even used gold leaf for the numerals and clock hands.

Jerry on clock tower

Of course, during restoration projects like this, it’s never a case of out with the old, in with the new. Ally Tsilika, Quarry Bank’s Archives and Collections Officer, talks to me about the new acquisitions in the Quarry Bank collection since the restoration, explaining:

We have acquired the clock face, which may be the original. It was in very poor condition so it was decided to remove the original and keep it in the stores for preservation. The same was decided for the finial, which was rotten and large chunks missing. It was more appropriate to replace them and have new ones created rather than try to conserve the old ones, which can be used as references for future work too. We also acquired the clapper for the bell.

Old clock face

 You can see the stark contrast between the old clock face and the new, but it is a wonderful thought that we still have the original safely preserved. The ball finial is pictured below and it is clear how badly it needed attention. Back in January, Josh, Collections and Archives Intern, was having fun adding such an unusual object to the collection.


Watch Clare and Tony in this Sunday’s (8 March) episode of Countryfile, at 7pm on BBC1. The scaffolding that you will see in the episode has now been taken down, so remember to look up to the newly refreshed Clock Tower on your next visit to Quarry Bank and listen out for the chime on the hour once more.





New Life in Quarry Bank Gardens

February 27, 2015

A few weeks ago I had a lovely morning wandering around Quarry Bank’s gardens on a tour for staff and volunteers, by Sarah Witts (below), the Head Gardener here at Quarry Bank. There certainly have been a lot of changes and huge effort has been put in, by both the garden staff and volunteers, to get the garden ready for our visitors this February. I was lucky enough to get a preview. Sarah On the tour, Sarah updated us on what’s been happening over the winter period.  Sarah explained that the first task was the mammoth job of clearing all the leaves, cutting back, mulching and general tidying. Garden kiosk staff were very pleased to see that the Holly trees in the Lower Garden have been cleared. In a happy coincidence, they have let more light into the kiosk, as well as restoring the view across the meadow and helping to link the garden, the Greg house and the Mill together into one landscape, as it would have been when the Greg’s lived at Quarry Bank. The rockery, below a small hollow in the rock, known as the cave, has been meticulously dismantled (I’m told rock by rock) and reconstructed by volunteers, ready for fresh alpine planting very soon. In this area a stone bench is also being built, which, come Easter time, will offer a fantastic view over the garden, across the meadow and towards the Mill. IMG_2425

Of course, we were all bursting to know about the next restoration steps, now that Quarry Bank has received a huge boost from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards our fundraising target for the project. As the exciting prospect of opening the Greg house will be realised over the next few years, Sarah explained that the grass above the rockery, leading to the house, will be made into a path, once more giving access to the garden. I had a lovely image in my head of the lucky Greg children rushing out to play in their sprawling garden, when Sarah told us this.
QB House view from top garden 2010

As we climbed up the path, I got my first glimpse of the Upper Garden. Thanks to the Oglesby Charitable Trust, the Heritage Lottery Fund, and other generous supporters this area will gradually be reclaimed as the kitchen garden, a plot which once fed the Greg family. As we looked back towards the Mill, admiring the 350 Hypericum plants (Rose of Sharon), which have been planted on the cliff top, amongst a coir membrane to stabilise the bank, a group of volunteers told me that what they found most satisfying was knowing that, thanks to the generous support we have received, all of the speculative plans for the garden will be happening, in the not so distant future. The next big task is to raise the remaining money we need to restore Quarry Bank’s neglected cast-iron glasshouse, in the right of the picture below, to its former glory. Every little helps, so if you’d like to donate to the glasshouse appeal click the link below:

IMG_2512 In the Upper Garden, there are also plans to remove the apple trees, as they no longer bear fruit and replant a row of heritage apple trees along the walls of the plot. The mulberry tree will be kept and more planted alongside it, the idea being to encourage people to enjoy eating mulberries once more. Now out of fashion, mulberries were once very popular and used as a remedy to cure all sorts of ills. Dr Holland (the Mill’s Doctor) may well have used mulberries to treat the apprentice children.  Look out for the ‘humble mulberry’, as Shakespeare described it, at Quarry Bank soon. Beyond the kitchen garden, in an area, which was known as the West wall slips (a space for growing extra vegetables for the Greg’s, which didn’t need the shelter of the three walls enclosing the plot), the gardeners have planted a nuttery, containing 23 Filbert Nut trees. Looking at the plans of the garden it is assumed that the Greg’s would have had a very similar nuttery, which you can see in the 1872 map below. The nuttery is located to the left of the glasshouse (the building coloured red). 1872 OS detail  Underneath the nut trees the gardeners have sown wild flower seeds and 5000 Daffodils, which will look absolutley stunning come Spring. Sarah also pointed out a new shrub border, which features: Viburnum tinus (Garrya elliptica), Cornus alba (Westonbirt), Myrtus communis and Ribes sanguineum (White Icicle). Stefan Roberts, one of Quarry Bank’s gardeners, shares his knowledge on what to look out for in the garden this Spring: Spring bulbs are emerging in the lawns, as well as the borders. First to arrive and open now are the native Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) and Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemali), which is a little yellow flower above a ring of leaves. There are also Snowflakes (Leucojum verum), similar to a Snowdrop, but the petals have a spot of green at the tip and the flower shape looks like a lampshade, Winter Iris  (Reticulata), in blue and purple varieties and finally Crocus, which are beginning to emerge around the Tennis Lawn. Winter and early spring flowering shrubs include spicy scented Witch Hazel and the show stopper, our pink Camelia, growing along the riverside, which is always the first to flower. P1030779 Other plants to look out for include, hardy Ferns, flowering Hellebores and Cyclamen. Pansies and Bellis (daisy), in the formal Ladies’ Garden, will also soon begin to bulk up and flower.      There has also been progress up at the Apprentice House Garden, which is managed as a working allotment, once tended by apprentice children, so don’t forget to take a look before or after an Apprentice House tour. Ann Gaughan, Assistant Head Gardener, explains that the focus has been on tidying and clearing beds ready for Spring and making sure that the repairs to the drains have settled in.  New edging boards have been put in around the vegetable beds and this year some of the beds will be given time to dry out after the particularly wet winter. Don’t forget to check out the Snowdrops in the orchard, which Ann tells me are looking lovely at the moment. Here’s a sneak-peek from Ann below. 20150120_083825-1 Why not come along to visit Quarry Bank gardens, open right the way through until Autumn. For children there is a tracker pack, including binoculars and magnyfying glasses, which can be picked up from the Garden kiosk.  Sophie x

Meet the Learning Interns

February 20, 2015

In my earlier blog post I introduced myself (Visitor Experience Intern) and the Archives/Collections Interns, Josh and Helen. But there are more friendly, new faces at Quarry Bank, as Learning Interns, Sarah, Suzanne and Laura, are working hard to give school groups and children fantastic, and of course educational, days out.

I now hand over to Sarah, who tells you a little more about what the girls get up to on a daily basis…

Generally, as I come in on a closed day and an open day, I spend one day doing admin things in the office, answering the phones, sending emails, booking in schools and coming up with timetables for their day and doing invoices. On the days when we have schools in I’ve been shadowing guided tours but I’m about to start guiding them myself – ahh! However there’s no such thing as an average day in the Learning Office and you never can predict what’s going to happen or what you’re going to get up to, which is why I love it!

I love being super busy and enjoy admin work, as I’m naturally very organised haha. I like the fact I get to talk to lots of different people too and I love working with children. I think my favourite day so far was actually the day I got thrown in at the deep end when Julie (Quarry Bank’s Learning & Interpretation Assistant) wasn’t in and I had to take responsibility for the Learning Office. It was a little stressful at first and I felt a bit like a headless chicken but everything went well in the end and it actually gave me confidence, making me realise that I do know what I’m doing (after people reassured me I didn’t look like a headless chicken!).

Suzanne told me she is loving working in a busy heritage Learning Office and experiencing the similarities and differences to her previous job of primary school teaching.


This week, being half-term, Quarry Bank is without the usual chaotic cheer that the schoolchildren bring. However, the learning team have enjoyed seeing children make the most of Quarry Bank with their families.  Throughout the week the interns have been helping to put on half-term craft activities, including making Shaun the Sheep wild art and origami animal trackers. I caught up with Becky, a volunteer in the learning department, who was helping today in the family activity room.

P1010977Becky tells me:

I can honestly say volunteering at Quarry Bank has been a really enlightening and rewarding experience. I’m able to get hands on experience and share my passion for all things heritage with hundreds of children on some days. What I really enjoy is being part of such a varied learning program, which allows children to learn about industrial heritage in an interactive way.

I also enjoy getting parents and teachers directly involved with demonstrating life at Quarry Bank Mill through role playing and acting as if the children are apprentices working in the Mill.  We assign the children jobs, such as carrying the can or doffing the mule and then pay the apprentices’ wages in the Mill Manager’s Office (imaginary of course).

Working with children is never predicatble. Here are the Learning Interns funniest moments with the school children so far:

1) When walking up the hill to the Apprentice House, one little girl who found it all a bit too exhausting exclaimed, “It must have been so hard being a Victorian, they had to walk up and down and left and right all the time!”.

2) Becky was surprised that when she asked a group of schoolchildren, “Do you think you would you like to work in the Mill?”, they all screamed yes.

3) And my favourite, a not so flattering question the Learning Interns often get asked, when giving tours around the Mill is, “Did you used to work in the mill?”.

If you’re interested in intern or volunteer opportunities for the National Trust check out the links below.



More Progress at Nether Alderley Mill

February 12, 2015

For this weeks post I hand over to Bruce Williams, one of our power volunteers, who gives us a further update on what’s been going on behind the scenes during the closed season at Nether Alderley Mill, a corn mill built in the 1500s and Quarry Bank’s rustic sister property.

T Mitchell

As we shared with you in an earlier post, the stone block supporting the main vertical shaft and one side of the lower water wheel has shifted, such that the bearing at the bottom of the vertical shaft is wearing unevenly. In time this would do irreparable damage, so the Norfolk Millwright Alliance are setting to work remedying the faults. In order to do this, the weight has to be lifted from the stone block, which means lifting the vertical shaft, and the shaft of the lower waterwheel.

First, the lower great spur wheel (consisting of cast iron teeth mounted on an oak wheel and supported on cross shafts, which pass through the vertical shaft – bolted together with handmade bolts and angled brace struts) was dismantled and removed from the vertical shaft. Everything came apart easily, and the parts (see below) have been removed to the workshop to be renovated. The cross shafts, in poor repair, will be replaced and the oaken sections of the wheel will be inspected very carefully to ensure that they are suitable to be refitted, if not, they will be replaced. Cleaning and inspection of the cast iron gear is also planned; the bolts will be renovated, as some were bent and one or two showed signs of earlier repair.

 NAM 1

Once the Structural Engineer had been to inspect the support stone to determine what needed to be done to stabilise it, the vertical shaft was lifted out of its lower bearing using a chain hoist, attached to one of the main beams in the Mill. The upper bearing proved to be a simple wooden block, which will be replaced with a metal bearing when the machinery is reassembled. The lower bearing was then removed from the support plate, and can be seen to be slightly oval rather than round, so has been taken to the workshop for renovation.



The main beam which held the upper bearing of the vertical shaft and stretched across the lower wheel pit was not replaced during the restoration of the Mill a couple of years ago, but was in poor condition and not fit to be used for any lifting. As this is the only possible support for lifting the lower wheel shaft, it had to be replaced, so the Millwrights made a new oak beam, and having removed the old beam, carefully lifted it into place.


NAM 12

Now it was possible to rig chain hoists to lift the lower water wheel axle out of its bearing, though because of the weight of the cast iron pit wheel and the water wheel the new beam was also supported with an acro prop from the wall of the lower wheel pit. In order to get the shaft horizontal, the end of the shaft had to be lifted 75mm, which is some indication of the amount that the support stone had sunk. Once the shaft was lifted, the bearing could be removed. Both the gudgeon pin on the shaft and the bearing proved to be in very good condition and will need no reconditioning.

NAM 14

The support plate for both bearings was then removed from the support stone, so that once the Structural Engineer has defined what needs to be done to stabilise the stone, the work can be carried out in preparation for rebuilding the mechanism.

More later . . .


If Bruce’s update has inspired you to visit Nether Alderley you can check out the web page here:


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 189 other followers