Today we have a multitude of options when it comes to purchasing food. Supermarkets, mini-markets, corner shops, even petrol stations offer you the chance to pick up something for lunch. But not too far off in the distant past, the way we purchased our food and thought about our food was incredibly different. These days I doubt that most of us really give thought to exactly where our food has come from (which may well have changed in light of certain scandals involving certain supermarkets).
Styal Village existed long before Quarry Bank Mill was built on the banks of the Bollin, but as Samuel Greg developed the village, building cottages for his workers, the needs of the community grew. As well as the allotments attached to the cottages and the kitchen garden tended by the apprentices at the Apprentice House, the fields in and around the village were farmed by two families of tenant farmers. Both farms – Cross Farm and Oak Farm – cultivated a whole range of fresh food, from dairy, poultry and pork to cereals and root crops.
Samuel Greg founded the village shop in the early 1800s under the ‘truck’ system – rather than paying in cash, the shopkeeper would keep a record of all purchases which would then be deducted from the mill workers’ salaries. Villagers could buy all their daily needs in the shop, including freshly churned butter and freshly-baked bread, as well as other little luxuries such as clothes and tea. In 1873 the shop became a Co-operative, run by the workers.
You can still see the exterior of the shop today, but even more excitingly, Oak Farm is still up and running and we are offering you the opportunity to tour the land with Ed Gardiner, the son of the current tenant farmer, who is the fifth generation of his family to live and work in Oak Farm. The tour will include a talk on how the Gardiners are combining environmental schemes with commercial food production.
The tour will be taking place on Thursday 25th April at 6pm. To book your place call 01625 445 845. Tickets cost £5.
Hope to see you there!