No, wait . . . there's more . . .
It was so much more fascinating than we expected . . .
Quarry Bank Mill is a cotton mill founded in 1784 by Samuel Greg to spin cotton thread, it is now one of Britain's most important industrial heritage sites.
Next to the mill is the house built by Samuel Greg for himself and his wife Hannah. She commissioned some fashionable landscape gardeners to create a terraced garden along the river gorge (I think she deserved a nice garden, after all it was her family contacts who lent Samuel the money to build his mill). Samuel and Hannah's son Robert took over the business and introduced weaving as well as spinning to the mill. The workers lived in a nearby village and many of them were unpaid child 'apprentices'; Robert Greg employed a doctor to look after the children's health – Dr Peter Holland, Elizabeth Gaskell's uncle. Elizabeth knew Mrs Greg and visited her at Quarry Bank – imagine Mrs Gaskell and Mrs Greg taking a walk in the terraced garden and discussing the day to day gossip of life at the mill . . . what an inspiration for a novelist!
'Don't you find such close neighbourhood to the mill
rather unpleasant at times?'
She drew herself up:
'Never. I am not become so fine as to desire to forget the
source of my son's wealth and power. Besides, there is
not such another factory in Milton. One room alone
is two hundred and twenty square yards.'
'I meant that the smoke and the noise--the constant going out
and coming in of the work-people, might be annoying!'
'I agree with you, Mr. Hale!' said Fanny. 'There is a
continual smell of steam, and oily machinery – and the noise
is perfectly deafening.'
From 'North and South', Chapter XX 'Men and Gentlemen' by Elizabeth Gaskell
So, what can you see inside the mill? – basically it's the whole process of spinning and weaving cotton, from a bale of cotton fibres to cloth. There were some fascinating demonstrations of handloom weaving, but the highlight was seeing and hearing the machines at work. The first part of the process was a carding machine which turned a big bale of cotton fibres into a soft fat rope which could then be spun into finer and finer and finer thread. The power behind all of the machines was the massive water wheel – look at the film and you'll see people walking across behind the the wheel. Today the 200 year old water wheel still provides the power for the looms; the noise on the weaving floor was deafening (and not all the looms were in use!) with the rhythmic clatter of shuttles flying back and forth – no wonder mill girls were good at lip-reading!
Oh yes, and the looms are weaving those tea towels.