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The National Trust Launches £1.4 million Appeal to Bring Britain’s Cotton Industry Heritage to Life

The Village - villagers gather outside Oak Cottages in Styal Village Britain’s cotton industry heritage is the focus of a new £1.4 million fundraising appeal to complete the restoration of an entire industrial landscape, and bring its stories to life for thousands of visitors. Cared for by the National Trust, Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire was, from the 1780s to the 1920s, at the heart of cotton production in the region and is the most complete survival of an industrial revolution community. It marks a period of British history of immense change and prosperity, but also grinding poverty – and its restoration will enable these stories to be shared with thousands of schoolchildren, families and other visitors.

Built by the Greg family on the banks of the River Bollin, the estate offered housing for adult workers and a village complete with chapels, a village school, a shop, allotments and a farm to provide food for the mill community. Today, the Mill, with its working machinery, the Apprentice House that was occupied by the pauper children who worked there, along with gardens and walks, are among the features that are already enjoyed by over 130,000 visitors a year. But many other original features of the Quarry Bank estate remain unrestored and unseen, along with fascinating archives and records of the family, workers and the pauper children which are not yet available to the public.

Uniquely, Quarry Bank today contains the complete range of buildings of a self-sufficient mill complex from the early Industrial Revolution. It is quite possibly the most important complete early textile manufacturing community still surviving in England; and because of Britain’s pioneering role in industrialisation, together with New Lanark probably one of the most important in the world. It is a place where nearly the whole range of life in an early Industrial Revolution cotton mill and community can be explored in as near to original context and completeness as is possible today.

The £1.4 million appeal has been launched to enable the full Quarry Bank estate to be restored and revealed and to ensure its long-term conservation, including:

  • restoration of a worker’s cottage and shop in the estate village, offering a vivid time capsule of life at the time;
  • repair of unique Victorian glasshouses that were at the forefront of technology at the time, and which produced exotic and out-of-season fruit for the Greg family, and bring them back into production;
  • restoration of the original woodland Pleasure Grounds and opening up of the Northern Woods with its bridges, pathways and vistas.
  • opening of the Greg family’s house to showcase the archive material, letters and documents from the 1790s to the 20th century  –  of the family, estate workers and apprentice children.

Quarry Bank’s General Manager, Eleanor Underhill, explained: “Quarry Bank Mill is an extraordinary place that captures a precious time in this country’s history. It’s no wonder this industrial era featured so heavily in the Olympics opening ceremony last year. Through this appeal we want to be able to share its deep history and personal stories with millions. As part of the project, we will be inviting volunteers and local communities to help restore key parts of Quarry Bank and develop their own restoration and conservation skills that can be passed on to future generations. Quarry Bank is both a unique site and very magical place, enjoyed by many visitors, but we have so much more to do to complete the jigsaw and enable everyone to experience the history of the whole estate. We can’t do this without funds so we hope that the public will be able to help us realise this dream and play their own part in Quarry Bank’s story.”

Jane Speller, Archive and Collections Officer at Quarry Bank, said: “We don’t yet know fully what objects and archive material we have in the collection. Some work has been done – but being able to digitise material will really help in discovering the full extent of what we have here, as well as allowing wider public access to this amazing collection.”

The total cost of the project is £6million and is expected to take five years to complete. The National Trust is appealing to the public and to various funding bodies and organisations.

To make a donation to the Quarry Bank appeal, for special online fundraising games and for the Mill’s opening times visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/quarrybankappeal or call 01625 527468.

Photos:

1. The workers: a group of workmen including mill ‘overlookers’ sitting in the Mill Yard, 1890s.
Quarry Bank’s General Manager, Eleanor Underhill (front row right), with staff and volunteers in the Mill Yard.
2. The Pleasure Grounds: Two gentlemen on Chapel Bridge in the Northern Woods at Styal, 1930s.
Two of Quarry Bank’s rangers on Chapel Bridge.
3. Farming at Styal: John Hope of Cross Farm, Styal working in the fields.
Alan Gardiner, Tenant farmer at Oak Farm, Styal on his tractor.
4. Upper Garden: An unknown lady gathering flowers in the Upper Garden, 1900s.
Ann Gaughan, Deputy Head Gardener at Quarry Bank in the Upper (kitchen) garden which is currently being restored.
5. In Quarry Bank Garden: Three gardeners working in the garden with a view of Quarry Bank House in the background, c.1903.
Three garden volunteers working in Quarry Bank Garden today.
6. Quarry Bank House: Edward Hyde Greg coming out of Quarry Bank House to his carriage (dog in foreground).
Archive and volunteer buggy driver at Quarry Bank House which will be transformed into an archive facility as part of the project.
7. Henry Hope taken in 1903 in front of the Head Gardener’s cottage in the Upper (Kitchen) garden. He was a bricksetter in Styal.
Ian Wilkins, Garden Volunteer who laid many of the paths in during the Upper (kitchen) Garden restoration project.
All photos courtesy of The National Trust