The Industrial Revolution brought along extensive changes to the way goods were manufactured and the word ‘industry’ was given a new meaning. The reasons for these changes are simple yet complicated because of the factors of interpretation and then explanation of the evidence to prove certain facts.
This essay will describe the changes that occurred during the Industrial Revolution and how these changes coincided with the development of Quarry Bank Mill and its counterparts elsewhere. The actual aim of the essay is to discuss how far Quarry Bank Mill demonstrates the features of the Industrial Revolution during the early and later stages.
Before the Industrial Revolution there were no factories or similar systems where people sold their labour to work in large structures as a team. These were all a result of the initiation of greater minds that received new ideas about what the world should actually be like. These ideas created the basis for mass production in factories as opposed to the slow workings of the Domestic System where each individual family manufactured all goods in the home. Also, during the time of the Domestic System all produce was either kept for home use or it was sold at markets as an extra income. It was never the main source of income as this slot was occupied by the agricultural sector.
The main reasons for all these fresh ideas emerging were all the new inventions that suddenly came to be mass produced by all sorts of individuals pushing for a better world, or alternatively, to become rich and famous.
This essay will also be describing Quarry Bank Mill in detail and comparing it to other noticeable mills around the country at the time and also later. It will include information gathered at an earlier date from an on-site visit and research conducted in class and in own time.
In 1784, Quarry Bank Mill was a lot smaller than it now is. The building had a rectangular structure, which was 90 feet long and 27 feet wide, and there was no clock tower on this section yet. At the time, the mill was powered by just one water wheel located at the front of the mill. This wheel got its power from the headrace, which then passed underneath the building and then to rejoin the River Bollin on the other side.
This part of the mill is a perfect example of mill in the early days of the Industrial Revolution. It can be compared to Richard Arkwright’s Cromford mill which was actually the first ever factory.
Mills similar to Quarry Bank Mill also had only one, possibly two, water wheels that powered the whole mill. Mills at the time were usually built next to fast flowing rivers such as the Bollin because no other power source was available which would provide sufficient power of the whole a mill and class this method as economically viable.
As the industrial sector progressed, so did the power and technology at Quarry Bank Mill. The building got larger and a new form of power source was implemented. The prospects of steam were sky high so therefore Samuel Greg decided to purchase the mill’s first steam engine in approximately 1799. This engine was replaced in 1810 by a Boulton & Watt beam engine. Of course, all the way through its life, the main powers source of Quarry Bank Mill was the River Bollin. This is the reason to why Quarry Bank Mill is only an excellent example of an early rural mill and a significantly worse example of a later urban mill as they were not of the same form and usually only made use of steam power.
Later developments to Quarry Bank Mill include changing and adding certain features such as steam engines and machinery and also adding a larger 100 horsepower water wheel. The wheel, which was built between 1818 and 1820, is the one that still powers the mill at demonstrations today.
These developments at Quarry Bank Mill are very similar to what would have happened to most other early, rural mills around the United Kingdom which adds to the fact that Quarry Bank Mill is a very good, if not the best, surviving example of one of these early, rural mills.
When Samuel Greg decided that he was going to build Quarry Bank Mill in the countryside he was taking a risk that others would not have dared to approach. The problem with the location of Quarry Bank Mill was that the nearest settlement was Wilmslow, which was quite far away in those days. That meant that Samuel Greg would have to attract people to the mill and he would also have to develop a prospering community that the skilled workers who lived in the towns and cities would find interesting.
Other problems with the location of Quarry Bank Mill was the fact that the farming land was not very good so this had to be rectified and also the possibilities of schooling were really quite slim. This meant that Samuel Greg had prepare fertile land for people to grow their own crops and also a functioning village with schools and shops so that people would agree that Styal Village was a lot better than living in the city or wherever else they might have been living.
Evidence suggests, from looking at similar mills, that the Gregs were not typical employers of the time. There are a lot of differences from other mills but in some cases many similarities.
Richard Arkwright, for example, had similar methods of dealing with his work force at Cromford. Although the punishments were a lot harsher, Arkwright still provided a village for the work force to live in and he also provided schools and entertainment for his work force.
It seems that the Gregs were, in comparison to other mill owners, very mild in their way of punishing their workers for making mistakes. This is mainly regarding the apprentices, as these were usually the ones who were quite badly punished as they were tied to the mill and could not quit if they were too severely taken care of in the event of a mistake being made. Even at Cromford were the apprentices beaten if they made mistakes. This never happened at Quarry Bank Mill, or so the records say, so the Gregs must have been very nice to their work force at the time.
Looking at this part of Quarry Bank Mill, it probably demonstrates a lot of what mills should have been like but many were not. Therefore the work force sector of Quarry Bank Mill most likely does not demonstrate a typical mill situation during the Industrial Revolution as far as other mills would.
Quarry Bank Mill has to be seen as a factor resulting from, and not a reason for, the initiation of the Industrial Revolution to explain how important Quarry Bank Mill is in developing an understanding of the key features and of the methods of factory production in the 18th and 19th centuries. Quarry Bank Mill is, to say the least, an important source of information when trying to establish an understanding of our industrial past and showing what the ways and methods that were used by the people at the time were actually like. The mill and the Greg family might mot be the best examples of what most other mills were like at the time but they are certainly great examples of how mills should have been and how people should be treated. The Greg family and Quarry Bank Mill are objects on display that show how much progress has been made not just in the industrial sector but also in the area of human rights over the last three hundred years. It is people like the Greg family that began to realise that their workers should be treated better and that one cannot work under such circumstances that were evident in other mills.
To conclude, Quarry Bank Mill is a very helpful source in trying to unveil the methods of factory production in modern times but, to be fair, is actually more a question of what it should have been like than what it was like in the industrial sector at the time of the Industrial Revolution.