Hannah Barker, University of Manchester (2017)


The Apprentice system at Quarry Bank

The Apprentice House was built to house the Mill’s indentured child workers, known as apprentices. It opened around 1784 (as a two-bay three storey house, before being extended in 1790 to add two new bays). Housing these children in the purpose-built Apprentice House was much cheaper than paying to build cottages to accommodate adult workers. There would have been up to 100 children living here at any one time during the late 1700s and early 1800s, aged between 8 and 17 years old (with some as young as 5, though possibly not working in the Mill until older). In the early decades of the Mill’s operation, Samuel Greg was reliant on child labour, which constituted more than half of the Mill’s workforce until the 1840s. Many of these children were supplied by parish poor law authorities (local authorities responsible for overseeing the Poor Law and looking after the destitute). Some of the children came from as far afield as the south of England, though others had living parents who must have seen working at the Mill as preferable to other forms of employment.

The first apprentices at Quarry Bank came from local parishes such as Wilmslow and Macclesfield. Later Samuel Greg took boys and girls from poor law authorities in Hackney, Liverpool and Newcastle-under-Lyme. Newcastle-under Lyme parish authorities supplied children to Samuel Greg for nearly twenty years in the early 1800s, whilst around 100 children were sent to Quarry Bank from Liverpool. In November 1836 eight orphaned girls came from Newbury in Berkshire to work at Quarry Bank and others followed on later. From 1838 until the end of the scheme in 1847 only girls were apprenticed at Quarry Bank.

The early 1800s witnessed the decline of the apprentice system on which the Mill had previously relied. Following the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act (1802), as well as subsequent Acts regulating the employment of poorhouse children in cotton mills, the use of apprentices became less profitable. Millowners such as the Gregs increasingly turned to an alternative workforce of adults and ‘free children’ (who were not indentured, apprenticed workers). By 1833 apprentices made up only 20% of workforce at Styal, and in 1847 the apprentice system was completely abandoned.

Apprentices’ living and working conditions

Between 1785 and 1847 almost 900 children were apprenticed at Quarry Bank Mill: approximately 255 boys and 605 girls. We can imagine what it was like for these children, who would have often travelled for days by cart to arrive alone in a strange place that they had not chosen to live as an indentured worker who was bound for many years to their employer. Girls were often preferred to boys in mill work (and women were preferred to men) because they were seen as being easier to control, more suited to mundane tasks and better fitted for jobs that required fine motor skills because of their smaller hands. Female workers were typically also paid less than their male counterparts, and thus were a cheaper source of labour.

Children were apprenticed to the Gregs for varying lengths of time, depending on how old they were when they arrived. The contract of employment was formalised by an indenture – signed either by the children themselves, or by members of parish poor law authorities, or by the children’s parents if they were living. Surviving indentures at Quarry Bank show that some apprentices were provided with clothing by the Mill owners, whilst others were paid higher wages (9d [9 pence] a week instead of 1d between 1786 and 1796, the period for which records survive in the Quarry Bank Archives), but that these higher paid apprentices appeared to have to buy their own clothes. Poor law authorities commonly sent children with two sets of clothing as part of the agreement for the Mill taking them.

Using apprenticed children was not the cheapest option for the Gregs, and other millowners who extensively used child labour tended to employ ‘free’ or pauper children (although these appear to have been less steady and constant workers, which could create costly turnover problems for employers). But the location of the Mill at Styal, and the shortage of local children available for mill work, meant that bringing children from further afield via the apprentice system was the simplest solution. For poor law authorities who had problems placing rising numbers of children in traditional apprenticeships with tradesmen – especially those in large cities – the factory parish apprenticeship system offered a solution to possible poor relief crises in some parishes.


Apprenticeship Indenture, Quarry Bank Archive, QBA.765/5

Work in a cotton mill was hard, but children did learn real skills and soon became independent machine minders who could also perform intermittent remedial tasks. The youngest children, apprenticed at seven or eight, began their factory working life picking cotton, scavenging, cleaning, and doffing bobbins, before progressing to become machine minders and piecers. When the Quarry Bank Mill apprentices Thomas Priestley and Joseph Sefton were brought before the magistrates in 1806 for running away, Priestley described his mill work attending two cotton spinning machines, which including supplying the thread, guiding the threads and twisting them when they snapped, as well as oiling the machinery: ‘a matter that required some care’. Sefton reported that he was ‘first employed to doff bobbins … I then secured straps and put lists round the binders … I used to oil the machinery every morning in fact I was employed in the mill work I did not spin’. Such early experiences of work prepared children for an adult working life so that many child workers at Quarry Bank many became adult workers there, a few even rising to become overlookers.

Katrina Honeyman’s comparative study of child workers in northern cotton mills suggests that those at Quarry Bank were treated ‘better than average’, but that the Gregs were not amongst the best employers in the country. Though they received decent medical care, training and some education, at Quarry Bank Mill, the hours they worked were longer than elsewhere, whilst leisure facilities and the numbers of runaways indicated that conditions were ‘merely adequate’. Indeed, no northern mills made it into the ‘least negligent’ group in Honeyman’s study. At Quarry Bank Mill children were regularly fined for misdemeanours such as stealing apples, breaking windows and were docked pay for missing work due to illness. In 1835, Esther Price, then 15 years old, committed a violent assault with another girl on one of the other female apprentices. As a result they were sent before the local magistrates. The following year she ran away with her friend, Lucy Garner. Price was threatened with having her hair cut off as a punishment, but instead was put into solitary confinement in a room in the Apprentice House with the windows boarded up to prevent escape and communication.


Engraving of William Darton’s cotton spinning mill, Holborn Hill, London, 1820.

The apprentices worked long hours doing hard work in dangerous conditions. Joseph Sefton described the working day in 1806 as being ‘from 6 o’clk morning summer and winter, till 7 in the evening. There were no night workers. We had only 10 minutes allowed us for our Breakfasts, which were always br[ough]t. to the Mill to us and we worked that up at night again 2 days in the week we had an hour allowed us for dinner, while the machines were oiled, for doing this I was paid a halfpenny a time, on other days we were allowed a half an hour for dinner, when the Boys worked overtime they were paid d1 [one penny] an hour’. The only time that the children had free to play was on Sunday afternoons, after they had attended church and Sunday school.

Like Priestley and Sefton, a number of children ran away from Quarry Bank over the years that the Apprentice House operated, most of whom were returned. There are entries in the cash books and stoppage ledgers for the costs associated with 46 apprentices running away between 1792 and 1837. Some children ran away repeatedly, such as William Tittensor absconded six times between 1802 and 1809. The expenses listed in the cash books and stoppage ledgers covered time (and in consequence) money lost, expenses for warrants and hiring agents to search for the children. In 1806, 13 year old Thomas Priestley was brought before Magistrates in Middlesex charged with absconding. He described catching his finger in the wheel of a cotton spinning machine which tore it off. As a result he was treated by the physician, Peter Holland, for about 6 weeks. He told the magistrates that ‘With respect to my elopement, I had no reason to be dissatisfied with my situation but during my illness I thot. of my mother, and wanted to see her. She sent me a Crown, so I set out with Joseph Sefton [another runaway apprentice], we enquired the road, and walked nearly all the way to Town. We slept in Barns, & did not spend more than d3 a piece, a day, I have been in Town 5 weeks, in Hackney workhouse [where presumably he found his mother], and am very willing to go back again’.  


The Apprentices’ diet appears to have been a relatively good one. Joseph Sefton described ‘the daily bill of fare’ in 1806 ‘which consisted of the following articles, viz, Beef (occasionally on Sundays) boiled pork, bacon, potatoes, peas, beans and other vegetables in their season, bread, milk, milk porridge, thick porridge. Tea when ill’. He also mentioned having lobscouse on a Friday. This account of their diet is supported by the account books for the Apprentice House, which describe these sorts of foods being purchased for the Apprentices to eat. It is a similar diet to the other workers in the Mill, with a heavy dependence on potatoes.

The evidence given to the Factory Commission by the Apprentice House keepers, or superintendents, George and Elizabeth Shawcross in 1833 suggests that the children came out of the Mill and up to the Apprentice House for their meals, including breakfast, with 30 minutes allowed for breakfast and 1 hour for lunch. In 1811, when the Shawcrosses first started work at the Apprentice House, the children had only 10 minutes for breakfast (which they had in the Mill) and 40 minutes for lunch. It is likely that the apprentices also had to work additional hours, after their labours in the Mill, to tend the Apprentice House garden that produced some of the food that they ate. The kitchen in the Apprentice House was producing several meals a day for up to 100 children: it was therefore a busy institutional kitchen, with huge cooking pots and a multitude of plates and utensils suitable for mass catering.


Unusually for the period, the Gregs engaged a physician, Peter Holland, to look after the apprentice children at Quarry Bank. Between 1804-1845 he kept prescription books that are some of the oldest surviving industrial medical records in the world. Though the Gregs were no doubt paternalistic in their attitude towards the Apprentices, a healthy workforce was also a more productive one. In addition to treating the ailments of the child workers already employed at the Mill – many of whom suffered with complaints likely to have been caused by their work – Peter Holland also carried out medical examinations of apprentices before they were employed by Quarry Bank Mill. He rejected those who were deemed unhealthy or had any kind of disability.

The main forms of treatment offered by Holland were herbal remedies in addition to James’s Powders (a branded form of medicine commonly advertised in newspapers and dating from the first half of the eighteenth century, whose properties are unknown) and other ‘medicinal white powders’, poultices, ‘plaisters’, blisters and leeches. In some cases Peter Holland also prescribed bed rest, or fresh air, and occasionally recommended that children should be given different work at the Mill. Although the treatments given to the children are recorded, the diagnoses of their ailments are not. However, in several cases it is possible to work out the complaint from which they were suffering by studying the treatments given. Common disorders such as eye infections and coughs were likely to have been industrial illnesses, caused by working the Mill.

Children’s dormitories

Girls slept on one side of the house, boys on the other. Children slept two to a bed, in rooms that may well have been unheated. Today the rooms are laid out with simple beds and bedding in a style likely to have been used around the late eighteenth century – complete with uncomfortable straw-filled mattresses. In the larger girls’ dormitory, marks and indentations on the walls have been used to help decide how many beds were in the room and where they were positioned, though the need for modern-day visitors to move around the space means that it is not nearly as rammed full of beds as it must have been when it housed around 60 girls, two to a bed. We can try to imagine this quiet, still space in terms of its earlier, noisier, smellier and more cramped past, when it was full of children. The walls are whitewashed and the floorboards bare, again, as would likely have been the case when the building was in use originally, and there are some chamber pots placed under the beds, containing straw and a non-specified liquid to evoke the sights – and smells – of the original toilet arrangements. The cloaks and hats which hang on the wooden hooks on one wall show the types of outer garments that the apprentices would wear.

Reproduction apprentices’ boxes have been placed under the beds in order to tell the stories of individual children. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, even the most lowly workers, such as servants and other mobile employees, would have portable locking boxes to keep their personal possessions safe. We are not certain that these were present at the Apprentice House, but we know that children would have had some belongings, including clothing, and they would have needed to store these somewhere. For travelling to Quarry Bank, they may have carried their belongings in a box or wrapped in a large handkerchief or piece of cloth.

Apprentice clothing

We know that it was likely that apprentices had at least two sets of clothes each, with girls likely to have had only one set of stays – a relatively expensive undergarment which was the precursor of the corset and was worn even by young girls over their shifts. A letter from a mill manager to parish authorities in 1817 concerning the supply of 12 ‘young girls’ of 10 to 12 years of age from the workhouse specified that they should be sent to the Mill with ‘clothing sufficient to keep the children … say 2 shifts, 2 pairs stockings, 2 frocks or bedgowns, 2 brats or aprons and two guineas to provide them other necessaries’. When recreating these clothes for the apprentices’ boxes, we have assumed that the apprentices of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century were significantly smaller than children of the same age today: the result of poorer diet and generally poorer health.

The shift was the basic form of undergarment for all women, and was a simple linen or cotton garment with sleeves. This would have been worn under clothes during the day and for sleeping in at night. Frocks were dresses worn over the shift and stays, whilst bedgowns were also day wear, and covered the top of the body, like a tunic, whilst a petticoat (skirt) would be worn to cover the lower body. Both gowns and bedgowns would have been worn with an apron.

One boy housed at the Apprentice House, Joseph Sefton, gave evidence to Middlesex magistrates in 1806 in which he described getting ‘clean shirts every Sunday’ and ‘new clothes for Sunday once in two years, we had working jackets new when these were worn out and when our working trousers were dirty we had them washed, some had not new jackets last summer but they were making new ones when I came away’.

For boys, shirts were their main undergarment, worn under clothes and at night, hence the need to wash them regularly, as was the case with girls’ shifts. It seems likely then that at any one time, one set of clothing would either be being laundered (most likely in the case of shifts for the girls, and shirts for the boys), or be in the box. Laundry day at the Apprentice House was likely to have been once a week, with clothes washed in large coppers either in an external washhouse or in the kitchen and then hung outside to dry (or perhaps inside if the weather was damp).

Neither boys nor girls would have worn anything approaching modern undergarments or drawers, though boys’ breeches may have been lined. It was common practice for poorer people not to wear drawers until at least the mid nineteenth century. It is possible that girls used either cloth pessaries or cloth pads during menstruation, but they may also have simply bled into their clothing. Apprentice girls almost certainly started their periods later than girls do today due to poorer nutrition, perhaps not until 16 or 17.

The account books for the Apprentice House between 1787 and 1819 which survive in the archives show spending on woollen cloth, waistcoating, broad cloth, calico and dyed calico and striped cotton to make clothes, cloth to make girls’ aprons and girls’ caps, fabric for girls’ gowns and thread and buttons for boys’ jackets, as well as cloth for boys’ waistcoats and coats. Many of these fabrics would have been made into clothing by the female apprentices who were taught to sew in the Apprentice House and employed in making clothing for themselves and for the male apprentices in the evenings.

In addition, payments in the Apprentice House accounts show that expenditure was laid out for ready made breeches (or short trousers), shoes and the mending of shoes (almost certainly clogs with wooden soles and leather uppers), girls’ stockings (opaque and made of cotton or wool), hose (like stockings, worn by males and females), boys’ and girls’ hats, ‘Silk & linings for girls hats’ (which suggests that the girls had a form of ‘chip’ hat, made of either straw or chip straw), girls’ caps, girls’ capes, stays, and handkerchiefs (which might have been worn instead of caps or hats, and in the north were often described as being red in colour).

We have used contemporary images of clothing, and especially that of workers, to see what these clothes might have looked like. One thing worth noticing is how colourful some of this clothing was, with blues, greens, yellows and reds often in evidence. Red cloaks were worn by all classes of women, especially in rural areas including Cheshire, and they were often noted by foreign visitors as being traditional to England. Wool was dyed red using madder root (Rubia tinctorum), which was cultivated in England from the mid eighteenth century. Dyes for blues, greens and yellows were extracted from indigo sourced from either domestically grown woad (satis tinctoria) or imported indigo from India (Indigofera tinctoria) and from the either the domestically grown weld plant (Reseda luteola) or from from the American mulberry tree (Maclura tinctoria).

We should therefore not assume that workers at Quarry Bank wore only shades of brown or grey. Though we might imagine the clothing of the poor as being particularly drab, this was unlikely to have been the case, even for those clothes supplied by their employers. Moreover, we know that individual female apprentices sometimes borrowed money as an advance on their wages to buy less utilitarian items of clothing, such as a new gown or slippers (slippers being dainty flat shoes, rather than the usual clogs that were worn). Both slippers and gowns were likely to have been brightly coloured, with bold printed floral patterns being commonly worn by poorer women and in evidence in some of our apprentices’ boxes.


George Walker, Costume of Yorkshire (1814)

This image of a woman spinning wool shows a girl behind her, stirring the cooking pot. Both are wearing aprons, rather than pinafores over their gowns, and the young woman is wearing a cap and a pink and white squared neckerchief. Walker consistently depicts younger labouring girls with short haircuts, whilst older girls and women are shown wearing caps over longer hair. For teenage girls, wearing longer skirts and wearing one’s long hair ‘up’ might have been the first public step towards womanhood.


George Walker, Costume of Yorkshire (1814)

Walker’s book also provides us with an image of a boy working in another branch of the Yorkshire textile industry, ‘The preemer boy’. Such boys were described as ‘the drudges of the [cloth] dressing shops’. He is depicted here wearing what appears to be a felt hat, shirt, waistcoat and jacket, with clogs in his feet – and while his legs are partly obscured, his adult co-workers are shown more clearly wearing breeches and blue stockings or hose.

The author of a local Wilmslow history, published in 1886, stated that:

‘Seventy years ago or more a group of neatly and soberly dressed girls could be seen every Sunday morning, when the weather permitted, filing quietly to their places in the Booth chapel in order to take their part in the morning service. Though all dressed alike, they could scarcely be said to wear a peculiar garb. Their plain, light straw bonnets were bound over the head by a green ribbon. The neat drab dresses were of a stout cotton material – a sort of thinnish fustian, – and the bust was concealed by cross-over buff kerchiefs. Woollen stockings and substantial shoes protected their feet. Cloaks shielded them from wet or cold. A few lads came with them, but they sat apart. These wore dark corded breeches, woolen stockings, and stout shoes. Their jackets were of strong fustian, and their high crowned hats were doffed on entering the church’.

Though detailed, this author’s account might not be entirely reliable, since he was eager to heap praises on the Gregs for their ‘tenderness’ towards the apprentices, claiming that ‘there was little to complain of in the lot of the Prentices save the long hours’ and that ‘there appear to have been no cases of running away’, which we know to be untrue.


The children who lived at Apprentice House received a small amount of formal education. A teacher was employed from as early as 1788 to provide a basic education to the apprentices, though this seems to have been only for the boys. When the Apprentice House superintendents were quizzed by the Factory Commission in 1833, Elizabeth Shawcross claimed that ‘the [Greg] ladies teach the girls [on Sunday afternoons], and the schoolmaster the boys, 3 nights a week from eight to nine o’clock generally’. Additionally, Mrs Shawcross described teaching sewing to the girls in the evenings, whilst the girls not only made all of their own clothes but the boys’ shirts as well.

When Joseph Sefton was interviewed by Middlesex magistrates in 1806 he complained that ‘I was obliged to work overtime every night but I did not like this as I wanted to learn my book’. He suggested that the boys only had one lesson a week from the schoolmaster, and noted that though ‘we had a school every night’, individual boys ‘used to attend about once a week (besides Sundays when we all attended) … 8 at a time I wanted to go oftener to school than twice a week including Sundays but Richard Bamford [the mill manager] would not let me go’. He also noted that ‘on Sundays we went to church in the morning and school [by which he almost certainly meant Sunday school] in the afternoon, after which we had time to play’. Because of the terms of the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act of 1802, the church that the Apprentices attended would have been the Anglican Church at Wilmslow. This is where they were also likely to have received at least some of their Sunday school lessons, since the Act also stipulated that Apprentices received teaching on Christianity from an Anglican minister.

Though we do not know what the boys were taught, it was likely to have taken the form of reading, writing and arithmetic, and may have included other subjects such as geography, though since time was short – with Joseph Sefton’s account suggesting just an hour a week – the education was likely to have been very basic. Books such as Joseph Collyer’s The Parent’s and Guardian’s Directory, and the Youth’s Guide, in the Choice of Profession or Trade (London, 1760), described the necessary education for apprentices in terms of teaching deference, obedience and a love of God, along with a ‘common education’ that focused on practical learning and the skills needed in trade, and specifically the ‘three Rs’. There is no evidence that the Apprentice children attended the school in Styal village which was built in 1823.

Unitarians such as the Gregs tended to favour education for all social classes, and they were active in promoting schooling for working-class children throughout Britain. Unitarian women were particularly involved in Sunday schooling, where the focus was firmly on religious education. Both boys and girls at Apprentice House would have attended Sunday school, and at least in the early years of the nineteenth century their religious education was supplemented by the efforts of Hannah Greg, the Mill owner’s wife, with her daughters joining in later years, as described in Elizabeth Shawcross’s account above.


Portrait of Hannah Greg

Two manuscripts survive amongst the Quarry Bank Archive that were written by Hannah, and at least one of these was explicitly directed at the children at Apprentice House, entitled ‘Sermons for the Apprentices’. These sermons appear to have been delivered during 1819, with some repeated the following year. Based on stories and psalms from the Bible, they were intended to impart important life lessons to the children. Proverbs 22, ‘A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches’ was said to teach the children that whilst ‘we may work hard all our lives and never become rich’, everyone could aspire to have a good name and could secure this ‘by diligently performing every duty which belongs to the situation in which God has placed them’.

This lesson was echoed in another sermon on Psalm 9, which reminded the children that the best use of one’s time was to ‘cheerfully and diligently [follow] our several employments in life’, whilst warning them that the ‘slothful and unprofitable servant’ was liable to be ‘cast into outer darkness where was weeping and gnashing of teeth’.

The virtue of humility was mentioned in more than one of Hannah Greg’s sermons, and though Unitarians were a sect that encouraged children to think and to reason for themselves, it is hard to escape the conclusion that one of the purposes of her teaching was to promote docile and obedient workers. Hannah’s sermons on the wonders of God’s creations as evidenced by the human body, and the edicts to ‘love one another’ and to please God by acting with ‘love, wisdom and goodness’, may seem fairly benign. But the children were also reminded that God was ‘ever present with you in every moment of your lives’, and that bad conduct could result in being dispatched into Hell Fire.

The Shawcrosses ‘parlour’ or ‘houseplace’

One room in the Apprentice House is presented as a parlour or houseplace. George and Elizabeth Shawcross were employed as managers of the Apprentice House between 1811 and George’s death in 1834 (after which, Elizabeth carried on alone for a year). George was paid an annual salary of £40 for his and his wife’s labours, and he received an additional £10 a year for his work in the village shop. This rate of pay means that the Shawcrosses were by no means rich, but it places them in the same income bracket as many small tradesmen and women in this period, so that it is not surprising that their son, William, was a butcher and their daughter, Hannah, married a hat maker.

Though we have no inventories (a list of household possessions which often accompanied a will) or other guides to tell us how this room was furnished (indeed, we are not even sure that this was the exact room that the Shawcrosses used), we have used surviving inventories from comparable individuals from the same period to refurnish the room as it might have looked. Main living rooms such as this were usually not described as a parlour in the north of England, but rather as a ‘house place’, ‘house part’ or simply ‘house’. These older names were still used by tradesmen and women into the nineteenth century in the north of England. As their contents make clear: the Apprentice House keepers enjoyed far greater levels of comfort than their charges, the apprenticed children.

Stories of the children represented in the apprentices’ boxes


Reproduction apprentices’ boxes at the Apprentice House

  1. Ann Morris

Ann was the sister of Elizabeth Morris. She was born around 1794 in Kingsland, Middlesex and was placed in the Hackney workhouse on 5 January 1802, aged 7, orphaned and illegitimate. She was bound apprentice at Quarry Bank Mill on 28 February 1803, aged 8. She appeared in Peter Holland’s treatment book, aged 10, with what seems to have been a sore neck. Nothing else is known of her life.

  1. Elizabeth Morris

Elizabeth arrived at Quarry Bank with her sister Ann and was apprenticed in 1803 aged only 5. She had also been in the Hackney workhouse since 1802. Nothing else is known of her life.

  1. Mary Coups

It is not known when Mary was born, where she was from or when she arrived at Quarry Bank. In 1821 she was fined a shilling for breaking a window, and again in 1823. In July 1824 she ran away and was brought back by the Constable of Wilmslow. The following year, 1825, she borrowed 9 shillings as an advance on her wages to buy a gown. Nothing else is known of her life.

  1. Hannah Morrall or Morrell

Hannah was born around 1805. Her parents were William and Mary Morrall. They may have been living when she was apprenticed at Quarry Bank on 21 January 1819, aged 14, although her indenture was signed by the Overseers of the Poor at Pownall Fee in Cheshire so the family had clearly hit hard times, and one or both of her parents may have been dead. In 1819 she had an advance on her wages to buy new slippers for 6 shillings and 10 pence. She had another advance in 1820 to buy more slippers. In 1820 she was fined for breaking a window. She also appears in Peter Holland’s treatment book between 1818 and 1820 being treated with emetics and laxatives for an unknown illness, and being given treatment for what appears to have been sores on her legs.

  1. Elizabeth McGinn

Elizabeth was born around 1802 in Chelsea, London. Her parents were Private John McGinn and Ann McGinn. John McGinn was a Private of the Highland Light Infantry – 71st & 74th Foot. She was admitted to the Royal Military Asylum on 14 August 1805, as her parents (or at least her father) were presumably dead. She was apprenticed at Quarry Bank on 18 September 1815, when she was around 13 or 14. In July 1819 she appeared in the stoppage ledgers having borrowed money as an advance on her wages to buy slippers for 6 shillings – this was the same date that her apprenticeship appears to have ended, when she would have been 17 or 18 years old. Between 1816 and 1818 she appears in Peter Holland’s treatment books being treated for what appear to have been headaches and sore eyes. Unlike many of the other apprentices, we know what happened to her after she left the Apprentice House. On 23 May 1825 she married William Garside, a cotton spinner. She had 7 children baptized: James (14 May 1826), Harriet (26 October 1828), Edwin, (6 March 1831, died 19 July 1889, buried in Prestbury), Hannah (c.1831), Elizabeth (c.1834), Sarah (c.1837), George (c.1840).

  1. Elizabeth Sullivan

Elizabeth was born around 1801 to Private David Sullivan and Mary Sullivan. By the time she was admitted to the Royal Military Asylum, Chelsea, on 18 June 1805, aged 4 years 8 months, her father had died. She left Chelsea in April 1815, at which point she travelled to Quarry Bank. The stoppage ledger records money being ‘forfeited’ in 1821, for an unspecified offence, and that her apprenticeship ended that same year. She appears in Peter Holland’s treatment book many times during 1817 (as ‘Betty’) and clearly suffered from foot or ankle problems. She was prescribed specially adapted shoes, ‘raised on the inside’.

  1. Mary Taylor

Like the majority of the child workers at Quarry Bank mill, we know almost nothing about the life of Mary Taylor. She is therefore a good example of a life that left almost no mark on the historical record. She appears only in the stoppage ledger: for breaking a lamp glass in 1821 and for borrowing 6 shillings 6 pence for new shoes in 1825.

  1. Catherine Sullivan

Catherine was born around 1817 and was apprenticed at Quarry Bank in 1828 for 7 years, aged 11. She was placed here by the overseers of the poor in Liverpool. A note on her indenture explains that she had ended up in the Liverpool workshouse having left her parents in Bradford. After 3 years at Quarry Bank her parents came to claim her and she was allowed to leave on 21 January 1832. Whilst at Quarry Bank she was treated with laxatives and emetics by Peter Holland and was also prescribed an ‘itch lotion’.

  1. George Hodgkinson (or Hopkinson)

George was born around 1806. He died whilst an apprentice in January 1817, aged 11. For the two years before his death he was treated by Peter Holland with emetics and laxatives, and was also prescribed a flannel waistcoat to wear next to his skin. By December 1816 he was being given laudanum, a powerful painkiller. He was buried on 22 January 1817 in Wilmslow. Between 1815 and 1817 he had accrued £1 3s 4d in overtime wages. Almost all of this was claimed by his employers for his funeral expenses.

  1. Joseph Stockton

Joseph’s date of birth is unknown, though we know that his mother, Martha, lived in Newcastle-under-Lyme. She bound him apprentice at Quarry Bank for 8 years on 10 March 1796, when he was likely to have been around 10 years old. He ran away three times from Quarry Bank: in May, June and July 1799. It is not clear that he returned after the third time. Each time he appears to have returned to Newcastle, presumably to see his mother.

  1. Samuel Scott
    Samuel was born on 2 August 1810. His parents were Evan and Ann Scott, victuallers (inn keepers). It is not clear when he entered Quarry Bank Mill, though it may have been around 1823. In August 1827 he was fined 5 shillings (or 60 hours work) for stealing apples with William Davies from Thomas Dale’s orchard. The following year he was fined for damaging a slide rule. That same year (1828) he appears to have purchased a flute for 7 shillings with an advance on his wages. In 1829, aged 18, his apprenticeship ended. He might have stayed at the Mill, and may have been listed in a wage book from 1834 as a mechanic.


Secondary published sources (including online secondary sources)

Hannah Barker, ‘Hard work and hellfire: educating the children at Apprentice House’ (2015 blog): https://hannahbarker.net

Hannah Barker, ‘Furnishing the Shawcross’s parlour’ (2015 blog): https://hannahbarker.net

Hannah Barker, ‘Clothing the child workers: what did the Quarry Bank apprentices wear?’ (2016 blog): https://hannahbarker.net

Patricia Crawford, ‘Attitudes to Menstruation in Seventeenth-Century England’, Past and Present (1981)

Alfred Fryer, Wilmslow Grave and Grave Thoughts from Wilmslow (1886)

Katrina Honeyman, ‘The poor law, the parish apprentice, and the textile industries in the north of England, 1780-1830’, Northern History, XLIV (2007)

Steven King, ‘Reclothing the English poor, 1750-1840’, Textile History, 33, 1 (2002)

Steven King and Christina Payne, ‘The dress of the poor’, Textile History 33, 1 (2002)

Miles Lambert, ‘“Cast-off wearing apparel”: the consumption and distribution of second-hand clothing in northern England during the long eighteenth century’, Textile History, 35, 1 (2004)

Margaret Ponsonby, Stories from Home: English Domestic Interiors, 1750-1850 (2007)

Sara Read, Menstruation and the Female Body in Early Modern England (2013)

Vivienne Richmond, Clothing the Poor in Nineteenth-Century England (2013)

Keith Robbinson, What Became of the Quarry Bank Mill Apprentices? The Origins, Childhood and Adult Lives of 200 Cotton Workers (Styal, 1996)

Mary B. Rose, The Gregs of Quarry Bank Mill: The Rise and Decline of a Family Firm, 1750-1914 (1986)

Sam Smiles, ‘Defying comprehension: resistance to uniform appearance in depicting the poor, 1770s to 1830s’, Textile History, 33, 1(2002)

John Styles, The Dress of the People: Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth-Century England (2007)

Jane Tozer and Sarah Levitt, Fabric of Society: A Century of People and their Clothes 1770–1870 (1983)

Ruth Watts, Gender, Power and the Unitarians in England, 1760-1860 (1998)

C. Willett and Philis Cunningham, History of Underclothes (1951)

Primary sources

London Metropolitan Archives

P79/JN1/468, Hackney Workhouse, Register of inmates of workhouse; section each for men, women, boys and girls, 1791-1807

Manchester Central Library (Archives+)

GB127.C5, R. Greg and Co. Ltd., of Quarry Bank Mill, Styal, Cheshire and Reddish, Lancashire, cotton spinners

C5/1, Business Accounts (including cash books, ledgers, stock books and stoppage accounts)

C5/3, Machinery and Equipment (including mill memoranda)

C5/5, Agreements and Indenture

C5/8, Correspondence

National Archives

Royal Military Asylum for Children of Soldiers of the Regular Army

WO 143/24, Admissions of female children

WO/143/52, Apprenticeship Book, 1806 – 1848

Parliamentary Papers

First Report From the Commissioners Appointed to Collect Information in the Manufacturing Districts, Relative to the Employment of Children in Factories (1833), 450, xx

Second Report From the Commissioners Appointed to Collect Information in the Manufacturing Districts, Relative to the Employment of Children in Factories (1833), 519, xx

Quarry Bank Archive

Hannah Greg, ‘Sermons for the apprentices’ (1819)

Quarry Bank Mill Indentures, QBA.765/5 

Unpublished reports

Danika Lloyd, ‘Shawcross research report’ (2015)

Matrix Archaeology, ‘The Apprentice House, Quarry Bank and Styal Estate, Cheshire: Historic Building Recording’ (November 2014)