School News

S2 Expedition to Quarry Bank Mill

The S2s enjoyed a great trip to Styal village to explore Quarry Bank Mill and the Apprentice House there. It was an exercise in learning to appreciate being alive in the twenty first century!

Quarry Bank Mill is a cotton mill in Cheshire, founded in 1784. The boys were able to see the most powerful working watermill in Europe and were shown the processes involved in turning raw cotton into the finished woven product and the technological advances that speeded up the process considerably from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. They also learnt what it would have been like to be indentured to the mill owner as an apprentice - sleeping on a bed of straw, sharing a chamber pot, being treated for ailments with treacle and brimstone or wriggling leaches - as well as working in the mill for 12 hours a day. The idea of mice being able to walk over a too-solid stew was pretty repulsive and the visits to the outhouses sparked off various debates about the merits of public toilets today. The boys’ scientific interest was piqued in exploring the different horrific ways in which small children and grown adults could die in the spinning and weaving sheds.

The group enjoyed seeing (and hearing) the various different machines in action. A new appreciation of the achievements of Victorian engineers was formed in both staff and students as they looked at the steam engines and water wheel and  were also were encouraged to focus on the relationship between business and ethics; the desire for a mill owner to earn as much as possible through cotton and maintain a healthy workforce in order to do so, versus ideas about universal human rights. It was encouraging to see the boys saying how unfair it was that female employees earned half as much for male employees doing the same job!

The boys behaved so well they were praised by the staff and tour guides and the staff at Quarry Bank Mill were brilliant in terms of their knowledge, friendliness and organisation. It was a wonderful day out. Many thanks indeed to Mrs Reynolds for organising the trip.


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