Style at Styal – our new exhibition

Happy New Year to you all! The property has been fairly quiet this week, no doubt everyone is still recovering from Christmas and the aftermath of New Year’s Eve parties.

Next week the property is closed as we carry out essential maintenance to the buildings and machinery, giving the place some TLC. During the closed week I’ll be part of the team that will install our brand new exhibition “Style at Styal” (do you see what we did there…)

Mr and Mrs Venables in their Sunday Best
Mr and Mrs Venables in their Sunday Best

The exhibition explores fashion at Styal from the 1850s to the 1950s, and what it meant for the people of Quarry Bank. The archive was searched for photographs of the Greg family, workers and villagers to provide the background to begin our research, and we found several examples of high, low, work, and military fashions.

Arthur Tylston Greg aged 2
Arthur Tylston Greg aged 2

Jenny, our Quarry Bank costumier, has beautifully recreated several of the outfits, and the skirt of Caroline Greg’s dress (picture below) has a width of 60 inches! When we found out the enormity of the dress Jennifer (our Learning and Interpretation Manager) and I had to scurry up to the exhibition gallery armed with a measuring tape to make sure that it would fit in its allotted space! Thankfully it’s a perfect fit.

The skirt of the recreated costume measures 60"!
The skirt of the recreated costume measures 60″!

The range of styles is incredibly interesting, beginning with the Caroline Greg dress in the 1850s and finishing with examples of pinafores worn by mill workers in the 1950s.

The last three weavers of Quarry Bank in the 1950s
The last three weavers of Quarry Bank in the 1950s

As today, we can learn so much about period of time, or about a historical figure through careful examination of their clothes, revealing their age, wealth, religion, political leanings, occupation and marital status.

Quarry Bank gardener William Foden in the early 1910s
Quarry Bank gardener William Foden in the early 1910s

For example, take a look at the photograph of Henry Russell and his children from the early 1890s below. Jenny’s carefully trained eye noticed that the dress of the girl seated to next to Henry does not properly fit her, suggesting it was a hand-me down. Since the slump in the British cotton market, beginning in the 1870s, the Greg family business was not  particularly profitable, and this financial difficulty was reflected in the family’s clothing.

Henry Russell and his family
Henry Russell and his family

The exhibition opens on Saturday 18 January and will be open until Sun 1 June.

Next week I’ll be taking you behind the scenes as the whole property team takes part in a ‘salvage day’ exercise at the Apprentice House.

Laura

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