Quarry Bank Mill, Styal, Cheshire
I must have driven past this place every morning on the way to work for 3 years and I never knew Quarry Bank Mill existed.
As my wife was flicking through the pages of the National Trust Handbook, she enquired “where´s this?” A quick look at the A-Z of Cheshire and I suddenly realise where Quarry Bank Mill is located.
For those less enlightened about the Manchester area, the Mill and Styal estate is located within a few minutes of Manchester airport. Basically you go down to the airport, turn off the M56, but carry on past the airport instead of entering. Once you reach the end of this road, at the traffic lights turn right. The entrance is about 1.2 miles down the road. Its well sign posted once you get near. The road is a called Hollin Lane (B5166).
On arrival at Quarry Bank Mill you might become confused as the mill is not visible from the car park and it is only as you walk down the path into the valley that the mill can be seen.
The Mill was built in 1784 by Samuel Greg on the river Bollin which was dammed up allowing the water to be used to power the mill. It has the most powerful water wheel of its kind in Europe producing around 100hp and capable of powering 130 looms.
Used to spin cotton originally, the mill contains several working exhibitions and several working models of the machines & water wheels which will keep kids and adults amused for hours. The water wheel models kept me and my wife amused for at least 15 minutes.. and the soap bubble exhibit, even longer!!!
Lots of the exhibits in the mill tell of days of old and how the mill was built, updated and eventually became a National Trust property as well as giving an insight into how it would have been to have lived and worked at the mill.
Some of the more interesting demonstrations are the machinery inside the mill such as the Spinning Jenny and the Looms, which can be felt as well as seen and heard. The staff that run these machines are also willing to provide information about the job, the machinery and the mill. Some of the staff are ex-employees and know quite a bit about the mill and its machinery. “Any questions?”
The mill also has two steam engines and both of these work, one being a beam engine and the other a horizontal engine. If your interested in the steam engines then a visit at the weekend might be more prudent as the first time we visited was during the week and there was nobody there to tell us about them. The old guy who looks after the engines has a full wealth of knowledge which he is eager to share with those willing to listen.
Also at the mill is the Apprentice House which is about 10 minutes walk away from the mill and portrays life as an apprentice child working at the mill would have seen. The children where employed to do the tasks where an adult would be too large, like crawling under the machines to fix or retrieve items. This was usually done whilst the machines were still running. The apprentice house is charged as an extra to the mill admission price and tours can only be taken at set times throughout the day. Its well worth taking a look even if it´s just to scare the kids! Oh! Don´t eat the porridge!
If you plan to visit Quarry Bank mill then I would set aside at least half a day to tour around the mill as my wife and I spent about 4 hours just for the mill each time we have visited, which is four times now. The apprentice house tour takes 45 minutes and then there is Styal park to walk round if your still feeling energetic after the mill and apprentice house. There are area´s around the mill, within the park to sit and have a picnic if you want, however the mill restaurant is quite good, as is the ice cream from the Mill shop.
There is disabled access to most areas of the mill but not the apprentice house. If you are disabled then the mill has a vehicle which will deposit and collect you from the car park to the entrance and vice versa.
Other things to do on the site are the Snack shop which sells superb ice cream, the restaurant, and the obligatory National Trust shop.
The mill also has special event days through out the year which they advertise on there own web site, address below, from flower arranging to cotton spinning.
This is a superb day out for all ages and the noises and sights will keep even the biggest kids amused for hours.
Parking is £2.50 which is partly refunded on entry to the mill.
On a recent visit to the mill I have found out that the powers that be have banned photography inside the mill. How disappointing! So only 8/10 on the mykp´ometer.
This was one of the main reasons I have visited the mill 5 times in the past year as it gives me a chance to practice my photography in low light conditions shooting a subject I enjoy. Plus there is always something different to see.
Apparently a picture of the inside of the mill was edited and then passed off as somewhere else. Fair enough but how about granting licenses to certain people, hint hint! as trying to get a license from the National Trust to take photographs in their properties is virtually impossible.
It appears that you can take pictures in the mill for Personal or Study purposes but you must purchase a Permit from reception before hand at the princly sum of £1. Hurray! Back up to 9 out of 10 then!