On Saturday 24th September, about 50 Unitarians from congregations around the Midlands made their various ways up to Quarry Bank Mill, in Cheshire. The traffic on the way up was atrocious, which meant the whole party did not meet up until later on.
My husband and I arrived about quarter to twelve, and found a few hardy souls waiting for us. Having heard that the coach containing most of the other visitors was going to be delayed, we decided to go ahead with the tour of the Mill.
It was fascinating – we were able to see how every stage of the cloth making process had worked, from the arrival of the bales of raw cotton, to the production of the finished, machine-woven cloth. Also, the changes that mechanisation had brought. The National Trust guides who were doing the demonstrations were very knowledgeable, and Michaela Heppingstall from Banbury, who has much experience of the textile industry, was able to tell us many interesting things about the current situation, all over the world.
Loom & mechanised spinning (images by David Heppingstall)
After a very hasty refreshment break, we met up with the rest of the party at the beautiful little chapel which Unitarian Samuel Greg had built for his workers in Styal village in 1823. We were not surprised to hear that it is a very popular venue for weddings – they have about forty a year.
(stock image: geograph.org.uk)
We were warmly welcomed by Rev. Alex Bradley, and several of the Styal congregation, who had all kindly given up their Saturday afternoons to be our hosts. Alex led a short worship service about building community and helping each other out, which was very well received. Then we adjourned to the church hall, to enjoy the warm hospitality of the Styal congregation. Not only was there tea and coffee, but also a delicious array of home-baked cakes – Styal member Beryl had been busy all week.
The visit concluded with a short tour of Styal village, which had been built for the workers by the Greg family. This was led by Ruth Taylor, another member of the congregation, who is also one of the official Mill guides. MUA Treasurer Sandy Ellis was thrilled to see a row of cottages, one of which had been the birthplace of his grandmother, Fanny Henshall.
Fortunately, the journey home was rather less arduous, and we were able to reflect on a most interesting & enjoyable day. SW