On Saturday, our brand new exhibition Heroes of Adventure opened. It explores the effects of the First World War on the Greg family, the workers and the Mill. It’s been a year in the making and an emotional experience for Ally and I, as we have become very attached to the individuals we researched.
The exhibition is located in two different parts of the Mill. In the exhibition gallery we explore the story of siblings Madge, Helen, Arthur and Bobby Greg, and Marian Allen, Arthur’s fiancée.
The Greg siblings were the children of Ernest William Greg, who co-owned Quarry Bank Mill with his brother Robert Alexander Greg.
Arthur was the first to offer himself to the war effort, and joined the army in September 1914. He fought at the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915 where he was severely wounded. In 1916 he joined the Royal Flying Corps and was sadly shot down in an air fight in April 1917. He left behind his fiancée, Marian, who poured her grief into her poetry, all of which commemorated Arthur and lamented the horrors of the War.
In 1915, Madge, the eldest, was second to go to the front, after receiving training to be a VAD nurse with the British Red Cross. She served all over Northern France and Belgium, including at dressing stations at Ypres. Her practicality and no-nonsense style shines through her scrapbook entries which we have used to construct her story during the War, and she saved thousands of lives. Madge was later one of the first women to train as a doctor at the Royal Free Infirmary in London.
Helen had signed up as a VAD in 1914, and worked in hospitals in England, before being sent to the front towards the end of the War. Whilst visiting her family during a period of leave, she met the love of her life, Guy Lloyd, a soldier, and son of a friend of the family, and they married before the end of the War in 1918. Their daughter, Margaret, kindly provided us with a vast amount of letters and photographs, as well as providing an oral history interview, from which we learned so much about the siblings. You can listen to some of the interview here: https://audioboo.fm/playlists/1255500-heroes-of-adventure
Bobby was last to go to war. He was finally commissioned in September 1917, five months after Arthur’s death. In April 1918 Bobby was sent to the front as a Second Lieutenant, as part of the Cheshire Regiment, and acted as Liaison Officer between Battalion and Brigade in the trenches. He was there a mere two weeks before a shell was dropped on his trench and he was mortally wounded, dying in early May. The Greg family were never the same after the losses of Arthur and Bobby.
In the Mill Worker’s World gallery you can learn about the story of the Mill and the workers during the War. Our research brought to light two very interesting men – cousins Edward Cooper and Alfred Sprowson.
Edward was a loom overlooker when the War broke out, and his absence was felt deeply by the Mill; his looms were left silent for nearly three years. When the Armistice was signed, Quarry Bank wasted no time writing to the authorities requesting he be discharged so they could return to their work at the Mill.
His cousin Alfred, a weaver at the Mill, was not so lucky, and was mortally wounded at Gallipoli in 1915, later dying in Egypt.
Sadly not all the men of Styal who went to War returned, and they ended up scattered all over the globe as a result of the conflict. They are still remembered here in Styal thanks to the efforts of the villagers in 1920, who erected Styal War Memorial in their honour.
The name of the exhibition took inspiration from poetry that Marian wrote following Arthur’s death, in which she frequently uses the concept of adventure to describe the positive attitude Arthur tried to maintain throughout the War, which you can read in the exhibition.
Amongst the objects on display are Arthur’s belongings which were returned to his family after his death, Madge’s scrapbooks, letters written by the Greg family throughout the War, peace cups which were given to the villagers who returned from the war, and memorial scrapbooks made by Marian Allen and Arthur’s parents to commemorate Arthur’s life.
Heroes of Adventure will be open until Sunday 16 November.