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Quarry Bank Mill Assignment

For our coursework on Styal mill we visited it on the 1st of April 2003 to find out if we thought it was a typical example of manufacture and production in a British textile factory during the Industrial Revolution. The mill was built by Samuel Greg in 1784 for spinning, it was developed later on to house weaving sheds and use steam power – though this was only used as a back-up to water power. When we arrived at the mill, I found that it looked different to what I had expected – it looked quite modern and still intact, then again parts of it were built later on like the weaving sheds which were built in 1855.

The first building of the mill was built in 1784 for spinning – it was made of brick unlike most of the mills at the time which were made of stone, it was 5 storeys, rectangular shape, lots of windows and long rooms which we have come to expect from mills at this time, I found a lot of expansion in the mill that took place was due to good business. The mill was mainly powered by water, which is why Samuel Greg decided to build it next to the river Bolin; he built a weir which looked as though it’s stepped – it was built to store water in the millpond.

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The mill also has a channel of water that goes behind the weir and underneath the mill powering the water wheel – the channel goes for about three quarters of a mile underneath the mill. As time went on steam power became common in most places, so the mill was extended in 1855 to house various steam engines and a chimney was also built. Maybe he found that it cost a lot more to run the mill on steam than on water and that’s why it was used only as a back up except steam would have been quicker and so the cost of running wouldn’t be a problem as the mill would produce more cloth quicker.

Samuel Greg was known as a ‘Paternalist’, which is like a father figure. He built a village for the workers, which weren’t the standard houses; they weren’t back to back and looked as though they had some sort of drainage system. He also built a school, two churches (Unitarian and Methodist) and a village shop (co-op), the conditions may have not been perfect but were good for the time in fact the village still stands today – he also built a farm and the houses had gardens so the workers could grow there own produce which may have been sold or used as food, most likely for food.

Apart from the village Greg also built an apprentice house, this meant he could basically take in children and not have to pay them until they were such an age where they could choose to stay or leave the mill – they received a small amount of money when they left – if they chose to stay they could lodge or buy a house in the village. The Apprentice house itself from the outside looked nice with a vegetable garden, the impression given to a child that may have only seen the walls of the workhouse for years would have been very welcoming and may have made them work harder to stay there.

The children who stayed there were mostly girls as they were cheaper to have than boys. The house had its own schoolroom – it was mostly boys that were taught, as it was thought that girls should be able to do other things like cook, clean and sew. The inside of the house had quite small rooms, the dormitories had box beds, a chamber pot, sheets on beds which were changed monthly and straw underneath which was changed yearly, it was two to a bed and seeing as though any person hardly ever exceeded 5ft5 as of the diet they were on. The apprentice house also had a medicine room that a doctor could see you monthly at no cost.

Samuel Greg although a paternalist still had to keep order in the mill so when children disobeyed they had to be some sort of punishment, for example in the case of Esther Price – she ran away then came back, the most sever punishment she could have had for a girl was to have her hair cut off (it was a sign of shame), but she pleaded with them and they put her in solitary confinement instead. The mill only operated on a 12 hour a day shift, so each person would work from six am until 7pm with an hour for lunch, so if you had time to work off that you had missed through punishment or illness, you would have had to work through your lunch hour.

Richard Arkwright was a considerable influence to Samuel Greg, he influenced him by the way his mill was built to how he treated his workforce. You can see the similarities from the structure and positioning (near a river) between the mill at Styal and the one in Derbyshire. Arkwright also influenced Greg in the way he treated his workers, Arkwright built houses, school, market, church and held a festival every year which even had its own song though Arkwright was a bit harder on his workers, they were fined, had long hours and low wages, you could say Greg took Arkwrights’ ideas and improved on them.

Greg maybe treated his workforce as he did, as it would encourage them to work harder and remain at the mill, this was forward thinking from Greg. Quarry bank mill is ‘typical’ of all mills at the time because most of the other mills went of the same concepts and ideas as Samuel Greg did; he used someone else’s ideas (Arkwrights) and improved on them. Most factories by 1784 were water powered and had similar working and living conditions, the other mill owners may have not treated their workers as good but operated in a similar way to Greg.

When I say Quarry Bank Mill is an a typical example of mills at the time is that it was used to describe what was happening in mills at the time and also it was a good P. R exercise and an example to what mills should be, also it made the textile industry look good whereas other mills may have not. As time went on and the industrial revolution took its hold (in the 19th Century) as better to build the mills on coalfields which meant they could produce cloth quicker (because of steam powered machines) and easier, though it also meant they didn’t have to treat there workers as well.

The houses the workers lived in were built back-to-back whereas in the 1770’s they were built with a gap; the villages in the 19th century had poor sanitation, poor water supply, they were overcrowded, the streets were dirty and unpaved and the average age of death in 1930’s Manchester was 19 – this was probably due to the amount of disease that thrived on the bad conditions, it seemed as though even though machines and the way thing worked was moving on, the way in which people were treated and worked basically until they could no more went back in time.

The mills themselves were much larger and did both spinning and weaving like at Cromford, there were no processes still done at home and the mills were no longer built in the countryside, instead they were built in the cities, most of all the whole idea of paternalism had gone, people were worked harder than before and they could be more severely punished.

In conclusion I think that Quarry Bank Mill was a typical example of manufacture and production in the British textile industry in the Industrial Revolution as the mill was a way to show what the Industrial Revolution had to offer and how it had moved on and immensely improved in some respects from working at home to Arkwrights water powered mill to the steam powered mills like the ones in Cromford.

Quarry bank mill was a good example of a ‘typical’ mill as was what the textile industry wanted us to see as it was a good mill, it treated it’s workers with respect – it gave them there own church and didn’t force them to follow the Greg’s religion, it built them nice houses, the wages were good and punishments weren’t severe (whether this was a good or a bad thing though), it was sometimes too good in the way it worked compared to other mills, there didn’t seem to be many faults where as if you compare it to Cromford which had no paternalism and corporal punishment, so therefore I think that Styal mill was used as a ‘typical example’ of a mill as it showed the industry in a good light.

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