Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The Mill

This weekend we hired a car in order to attend a Ruby Anniversary celebration near Oswestry.  After picking up the car we went for a drive and gravitated towards Quarry Bank Mill at Styall. 
This water-powered cotton spinning mill is owned by The National Trust.  The demonstration of hand-spinning and weaving are a superb introduction to understanding how mechanical assistance such as Hargreave's Spinning Jenny and John Kay's Flying Shuttle changed the  dynamics of the cotton industry. 
There is currently an exhibition relating to a Channel 4 drama - The Mill - which is based on the Gregg family who owned Quarry Bank amongst other mills. We do not have a TV so this exhibition was only of passing interest. However on Sunday night (of which, more later) we stayed in a hotel and on the TV was that very programme. Then the significance of the exhibition became evident.  Part of the exhibition attempted to put the record straight by highlighting where the drama diverged from historical fact. Here is what I remember of that:
1)  In the drama the children of the Apprentice House received poor treatment whilst harsh punishments are given to those working in the mill.  In reality the Mill had a very disciplined workforce but the Greggs refused to use corporal punishment. Instead they fined the  children for bad behaviour or, in the case of girls, cropped their hair. For more serious offences, such as running away, they were put in solitary confinement for a few days with only porridge to eat, as in the case of Ester Price.
2)  The drama shows the workers of Quarry Bank involved in violent activity in support of the 10 Hour Bill and attending a radical meeting at Wisbey Moor. There is no evidence of the workers of Quarry Bank being involved in such activity, or any rebellion against the Gregg family.
3)  In the drama Tommy Pristley is shown losing an arm in an accident.  In fact Thomas Priestley lost a finger in 1806.  During his treatment by the doctor he ran away to London to find his family.
4)  The drama shows the relationship between the father and sons as one of tension as the patriach struggles to reliquish control of the business.  In fact both sons were taken into the business and took control of mills within the Gregg empire.
Is this what they call artistic license?

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