What to do at the Weekend:
Ben’s visit to Quarry Bank Mill
Tucked between the Cheshire town of Alderley Edge and Manchester, is the small village of Styal and Quarry Bank Mill.
Flying Solo This Weekend
The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice the I’m writing in the first person and that’s because this is Ben blog post (sorry).
If you want to read what Tanith got up to instead (I won’t take it personally) – check out her Hoar Cross Hall post here.
So, while Tanith was away with her family at Hoar Cross Hall Spa, I was left to fend for myself.
For this Saturday, I decided to stay relatively locally and I headed off to one of my go-to places – Quarry Bank Mill near the quaint village of Styal in Cheshire.
Now, I’ve been coming to Quarry Bank Mill for many years, actually ever since I visited on a school trip back in Primary School.
Plus, it was where I actually signed up to be a National Trust member – ah memories.
What is there to do at Quarry Bank Mill?
There is loads to do here.
Whether you are a family, a couple, or just a Billy-no-mates like me who wants a quiet day out, you’ll get it here.
There is something for everyone to enjoy in my opinion.
So, starting at the beginning.
Arrival and Parking
The site has a large free car park that would amply accommodate large numbers of visitors even on the busiest of days.
There are also numerous parking locations that surround the grounds of Quarry Bank Mill and the nearby locality of Styal, if it gets too busy.
And it definitely does get busy.
Although I haven’t been to them all, I would imagine that Quarry Bank Mill is one of the busiest and most popular National Trust sites in the country.
From the carpark it’s a short walk to the entrance.
To get in, you’ll need to present your National Trust membership card or pay for a day ticket at the reception area (you should expect there to be a queue, especially on warm and sunny weekends).
You’ll be given a little pass card, which will be checked by volunteers throughout the grounds whenever you want to visit various locations – the mill, the gardens etc.
While you’re at reception, ask about the Apprentice House tour (I’ll cover this later).
Exploring the Mill
Obviously, if you’re interested in the industrial revolution part of English history, this place is going to be right up your alley.
The imposing mill might perhaps once looked like an industrial eye sore amongst the lush green Cheshire countryside.
Now however, it’s quite beautiful in the bright summer sun set amongst the lush greenery of its meticulously cared for gardens, bright flowers, and surrounding forestry.
If you choose to go inside the mill itself (which I recommend you do) you’ll be greeted by a volunteer checkpoint.
As I mentioned before, make sure you have your little card to hand here or they won’t let you in and you might have to walk up the bloody big hill back towards reception to get one.
After that, you’ll head into the main exhibit and step back in time with a real immersive and informative experience.
In the first proper exhibit chamber, you’ll be presented with some information and artefacts from the mill’s storied past (examples below), and exhibits that really give you a feeling for the history of the time.
I actually had a ghostly experience in this room, you’ll have to read on for more details though!
Self Guided Mill Tour
At Quarry Bank, the mill is a self guided tour, so take as much time as you like.
There are five floors in total that are accessed by quite narrow stairs, however each floor is also wheelchair accessible by lift.
You can either follow the suggested route through the mill as signposted or go your own way.
There are numerous operational exhibits to see and live demonstrations of the amazing machines that powered the UK cotton industry of the time.
Throughout the mill, there are lots of cool things to see – moving parts, pully systems overhead, and noisy things that look like they could be dangerous.
Speaks to the little nerdy kid in me.
Live Machine Demonstrations
The live machine demonstrations are conducted by volunteers in the mill and are definitely worth a watch – each are very capably led and presented, giving a real flavour of the mill’s history.
As you expect from a National Trust location, all volunteers are clearly very knowledgeable, engaging, and passionate about this period of history.
The volunteers also encourage questions, which is perfect for any inquisitive young children that may have accompanied you.
I would recommend that you head right down the stairs to the lower part of the mill and see the massive water wheel that used to power the Quarry Bank Mill.
It’s a definite must-see.
Also, I’m reliably informed by one of the volunteers that the wheel actually still generates one third of the electrical power running the Quarry Bank Mill site too.
Is Quarry Bank Mill Haunted?
…..I’m sure I saw a ghost
Before we get too much further, I’m going to interject with my little ghost sighting story.
Look, I know I’m into this stuff so people are going to be skeptical and yeah, maybe everyone who reads this is going to call me crazy… but I’m 90% sure I saw a ghost on my visit to Quarry Bank Mill.
Inside the mill itself.
Before I go into detail, I’d like to point out that at the time, I had no idea that there had been previous ghostly sightings there, so I wasn’t ‘looking’ for it.
So, after going into the first section, showing my membership entry card to the volunteer, I headed up to the first exhibit room.
I try to generally read most of the information cards on the exhibits that are available and so I was making my way through the collection of items.
At the far end of the room, is a bench – it is actually located next to the exit door that leads to the stairs.
Out of the corner of my eye (but definitely present) I clocked a middle-aged looking woman dressed in black, hooded Victorian dress sitting on the bench, looking into the room.
She looked very authentic, no makeup, with a lined and quite tired looking face.
I didn’t find this odd, as there are many people walking around the site in period costume.
People that know me well, know that I often talk to these people (much to Tanith’s annoyance I suspect) and so, I resolved that after I was done reading the exhibits, I would talk to her.
However, when I looked over in her direction again, she had vanished without a trace.
I was in close proximity (at that end of the room) and would have heard the door if it had been opened.
They have latch style handles that require you to lift and physically open the door and close it behind you.
Did I imagine it?
It was a bloody vivid and random thing to imagine if I did!
Anyway, I’m chalking this one up to a ghost sighting.
Quarry Bank Mill Apprentice House
One of the major attractions at Quarry Bank Mill is the Apprentice House tour.
If you are thinking of a swanky London Townhouse and Lord Alan Sugar, you’re a little way off the mark.
This is a fascinating glimpse into what life was like as a child Apprentice in the Industrial Revolution whilst working at Quarry Bank Mill.
Child workers at Quarry Bank Mill lived in the Apprentice House, where they were given food, shelter, clothing, and potential career development in exchange for their labour.
It might not sound it, but this was a good deal at the time, with many families living in abject poverty with very few prospects for their children.
From the age of eight, children were eligible to become an apprentice at Quarry Bank Mill and up to 90 children lived and worked in the mill at any given time.
The Apprentice House tour gives guests the chance to discover where Apprentices lived, ate and slept.
If you’re interested in visiting, entry tickets to the Apprentice House are allocated a specific time slot and can be collected from the Visitor Reception when you first go in.
So make sure you ask about it, the Apprentice House is very cool.
What’s On Styal Mill
From time-to-time Styal Mill / Quarry Bank Mill host special events and exhibitions. All details of these events can be found by checking out the National Trust Website events page here.
In August Quarry Bank Mill are hosting the Gathering Downstream Exhibition, which explores the legacy of the industrial revolution and Styal Mill’s part in it.
The exhibition is created by artist Jen Southern and is in partnership with FutureEverything – an arts organisation.
According to the National Trust website, the artwork for the Gathering Downstream Exhibition is created with the help of machine learning technology.
The exhibition takes the form of five films, that are embedded in a river-like installation inside Styal Mill / Quarry Bank Mill on the higher floors.
Quarry Bank Mill Entry Fees
So, how much does Quarry Bank Mill cost?
Well, with gift aid, the prices at Quarry Bank Mill are £20.90 per adult, £10.50 per child, and a family ticket costs £52.30 .
All tickets prices for Quarry Bank Mill can be found by clicking here.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I really like this place. But, I personally think that price point is very high and I would absolutely advise you to sign up for a National Trust Membership instead.
At those prices, you would only have to visit four times in the year to more than return your money as a card carrying member.
I would say that (nearly) 21 quid per person, represents quite poor value for money and maybe it is priced in such a way to encourage membership sign ups.
Entirely your call though!
Maybe worth paying 21 quid for a ghost sighting 😉
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