Styal – 24th November 2019

Strenuous Leader: Carole Rankin                               Distance: 10.00 miles

Rob is unable to walk today so Carole is stepping in and following the notes below.

We head north from Styal Country Park crossing fields and Styal Golf Club towards the village of Handforth. From Handforth Station we take footpaths to walk through the farmland to the east and south of Handforth and along part of the Bollin Valley Way to Wilmslow. At Wilmslow we rejoin the Bollin Valley way to walk through The Carrs, a parkland area that follows the River Bollin. After leaving The Carrs we enter Styal Country Park heading for Quarry Bank Mill and the completion of our circuit. Ear muffs to cut out aircraft noise and traffic noise from the footpath section parallel to the A34 might be useful. Seriously though, gaiters are recommended as the paths were quite muddy in places.

Leisurely Leaders: Hazel Anderton & Joan McGlinchey
Distance: 7.00 miles

Joan and Hazel have stepped in as Dave is also unable to walk this weekend. The walk is going along the similar route as the easy as far as Morley. We then continue up to the airport perimeter fence from where we might see planes taking off. After that we do a bit of road walking as we make our way back to the Mill via Styal village. Take is needed along the riverside walk as leaves make it slippery, but generally after that it is fairly good underfoot apart from one small field where cattle have trodden. There is not much uphill.

Easy Leader: Jackie Gudgeon                                      Distance: 5.00 miles

Starting from Quarry Bank Mill, please make your way from the coach down to the Mill where we will collect together in the yard area by the toilets and cafe, we follow a path beside the River Bollin to Twinnies Bridge where we cross over the river and head through Pownall Park and on to Lindow Common and Black Lake. After a circuit of this small attractive lake where there are benches where we can have a short coffee break, or lunch if it’s not too early. We head off on decent tracks towards

Lindow Moss. Tracks take us to Morley Green and then a pleasant residential road to Morley, where we cross the A538, with care, to follow a footpath back to Quarry Bank. All fairly flat walking on fairly decent tracks, but it could be quite muddy along the river.

Notes on the area

The twin focal points of Styal Country Park are Quarry Bank Mill and the adjacent Styal village, both built by the Greg family, the mill owners. The water power provided by the River Bollin was one of the main motives for building the mill here. Apart from the mill and village, the park mainly comprises the beautiful steep sided Styal Woods that slope down to the river.

Since the Middle Ages wool has been England’s chief industry but in the early 18th century cotton became a rival, growing rapidly and later outstripping wool in production. Not only was it the fastest growing industry in England during the Industrial Revolution, it was also the industry that pioneered both new machinery and new methods of working. Previously most textile workers had worked in their own homes using simple hand-operated machines. The new methods were themselves the necessary consequences of the growth of water powered machines, such as the Water Frame and Mule by Arkwright, and Crompton. The workers could no longer work at home but had to come to work in mills or factories which were mainly situated on the banks of streams where the power of the water could be harnessed to drive the new machines.

Cotton was the most geographically concentrated industry in Britain. Over 90 percent of cotton production became located within a 20 to 30 mile radius of Manchester. One of the major reasons for this was the proximity of the port of Liverpool, through which both the raw cotton from America was imported and the finished products were exported. Other factors included the damp climate which was good for preventing the cotton thread from breaking, but mainly plenty of fast flowing

streams to provide the water power, coal supplies in the locality, when steam-powered machines later superseded those powered by water, and a workforce skilled in textile manufacturing from the earlier woollen industry.  Textile mills rapidly sprang up throughout the area. Most of them were in Lancashire, but a number

were established in north Cheshire to the south of Manchester. In 1784 Samuel Greg, a cotton manufacturer from Manchester, built Quarry Bank Mill on the banks of the swift flowing River Bollin at Styal, a small agricultural settlement near Wilmslow. From the start Quarry Bank Mill was rather different from the norm. It was a new site in a rural and thinly-populated area with only a few cottages in the vicinity. The owner needed to attract workers to his vast new mill and to do this he provided houses for them that were superior to most working class housing at the time.

Over the following years the spinning mill prospered and was extended. It expanded further in the 1830’s when Robert Greg, added weaving sheds and, in its heyday, it employed over 400 workers. The mill is a striking building and clearly illustrates that industrial structures do not have to be ugly and badly designed. One of its most attractive features is the bell tower, though this was added for purely ulterior motives to ensure good timekeeping among the workforce. The main problem in this location was that the neighbouring village was too small to provide the workforce required for the mill and therefore Greg had to recruit workers from outside the area, including pauper children. He also had to provide accommodation for both his family and his employees. He built houses for himself and his family and for the mill manager close to the mill, and a little further away the Apprentice House for the children was erected in 1790. This housed around 60 pauper apprentices sent here from various workhouses. Many children had also been living on the streets. The child apprentices not only provided the Gregs with a cheap and plentiful labour supply but relieved their local parishes from a burden on the rates. The garden around the

Apprentice House has been made into a Victorian allotment. It seems a bit cruel to make children work in the cotton mill but life was much better for them here as they were looked after, educated a little and had clean accommodation with a proper bed. Greg was enlightened and realised that if his staff were looked after they would be happier and work better. Since being given to the National Trust and ceasing commercial production, Quarry Bank Mill has become a museum with a working waterwheel, and there are practical demonstrations of textile machinery and displays on how people lived and worked here during the Industrial Revolution. It is well worth paying a visit. As well as the buildings the grounds have been recently landscaped into lovely gardens.