This weekend saw the second of our fundraising village tours, this time led by Archive volunteer Ann-Marie, who I’m handing over to this week…
“The tour was called ‘The ‘Real’ Esther Price Trail’ and the idea was to separate the truth from the fiction of ‘The Mill’, and use specific sites at Quarry Bank Mill and the village to narrate the stories of some of the TV show’s best known characters.
The first stop was the Mill Manager’s door, where I explained Esther’s arrival, her age on arrival and where she had come from. The other big stop was the Apprentice House – I spoke about Esther’s time there, and included some information about Charles Crout and Thomas Priestly. I wanted to give Charles Crout back his reputation – so I spoke about what we know of him: that he was indentured in 1806, age 12 (but we don’t know where he came from or how he ended up there), that we have medical records relating to him being inoculated for small pox age 16 and for having some sort of stomach illness (he’s advised to take powder and avoid potatoes, it says!). I explained that he was an ex-apprentice who later rose to the position of over-looker.
When we reached the village, we stopped at Oak Cottages (amongst other stops) and explained that from the 1841 census, we know that Esther lived here, at 5 Oak Cottage, at that time, with her illegitimate child by shoemaker William Whittaker. By the time Esther was living at 5 Oak Cottages, she was 21, and a single mother for 1 and a half years before sadly losing the child. And still unmarried…
From the census records, I realised that Charles Crout lived three doors down from her, at 2 Oak Cottages, in the same year, so they must have known of each others lives. He lived there with his family: wife, Hannah, and young children Harriet and Hannah. He died just three years later in 1844, but his daughter Harriet, would later marry Thomas Pearson (from Styal) and settle in the village.
We ended at Farmfold, where we know Esther lived with William in 1861. He waited 12 years to marry her (they eventually married in 1851) and they were together as a family for 10 years by the time they were living at Farmfold in 1861. (Another child was born in 1843, Thomas Price, and they later had another two children whilst married; William and Abraham). The 1861 census was taken early in the year so Esther is listed as living at Farmfold then, but she passes away later that year. Apparently, her husband was by her side when she dies.
I really enjoyed designing the tour and putting together the research that has been so painstakingly undertaken by those in the archive. It was brilliant to be able to make use of it, and use it to separate the truth from the fiction after the showing of ‘The Mill’ and retell the stories of some of its characters. The weather was amazing, and really showed Styal/Quarry Bank Mill at its best (in contrast to the miserable grey of the television show).
Also a massive thanks to Dorothy and Katie at the Methodist chapel who welcomed everyone in afterwards, put on tea and cakes, and brought out some of their own archives for people to view. I had made copies of other archive pieces like Esther’s birth certificate, her indenture, Thomas Priestly’s recorded account before the magistrates, Charles Crout’s medical records – all of these pieces can be found on Spinning the Web/Manchester Archives Flickr account for people to view at home. In the group, we had a genealogist from Wilmslow who helped us decipher the doctor’s notes relating to Charles Crout, which was useful!”
We owe all our knowledge of Esther Price to Keith Robinson and his publication ‘Esther Price: The life story of an apprentice at Quarry Bank Mill”, whilst all of the census data and medical records of Quarry Bank Mill workers have been researched by archive volunteer Keith Plant (and typed up by Freya McCracken). My post https://quarrybankmill.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/the-real-esther-price/ is a condensed version of Keith Robinson’s research.