Breaking new ground at Quarry Bank Mill

Archaeologists on the trail of the lost Melon House in the Upper Garden earlier this year

The derelict Alpine House which is about to undergo restoration

First published in Days Out

A fascinating exhibition exploring the history of the Upper Garden at Quarry Bank Mill will open later this month.

The Upper Garden was the original kitchen garden of 18th century Quarry Bank Mill and would have supplied vegetables and cut flowers for the Greg family, who owned the mill.

Created in the early 1800s, the garden would also have provided exotic and tender species such as peaches, pineapples and rare hot house flowers, as well as being a place where the Gregs could bring their family and friends to enjoy woodland walks and cliff top views across the River Bollin valley.

Amanda Lunt, heritage manager at the Mill takes up the story: “We acquired the Upper Garden at the end of 2012 from private hands.” says Amanda. “It was then completely derelict and overgrown, but over the past year, we have been working to restore the original pathways, and have recently cleared out the original dipping pond.

"The garden is home to an extensive array of Victorian glasshouses, which although very derelict, retain their cast iron frameworks and are rare examples of the earliest cast iron structures of their type – we think about 1813, making them exceptionally important.

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"Because they are made of cast iron rather than wrought iron, it means that Samuel Greg, who founded Quarry Bank Mill in the 1780s was at the forefront of technological advances in this field”.

“Earlier this year we carried out an archaeological dig to find the remains of the Melon House and this autumn, work is beginning on restoring the derelict Alpine House in the garden.

It will be dismantled during October/November and rebuilt by local craftsmen, with the metalwork and winding mechanism to open the windows being carried out by our Mill engineering team.

The Alpine House should be completed by opening in early spring”

The exhibition ‘Breaking New Ground’ will look at the history of the Upper Garden, and also focus on aspects such as the Victorian technology that it contained, the artefacts discovered during ground clearance and the archaeological dig, and Henry Hope – one of the gardeners who worked in the Upper Garden at the end of the 19th century.

“We also want to invite visitors to give us their thoughts and ideas about possible uses for the space in the Upper Garden” continues Amanda. “ It’s a lovely area and could be used for picnics, small events, or just to sit and contemplate the setting”’ Meanwhile, Quarry Bank’s garden staff and volunteers will also be busy restoring the woodland and cliff top walks over the autumn/winter period, replanting the huge herbaceous border and bringing vegetables back into cultivation.

Alan Knapper is the Head Gardener at Quarry Bank: “We’re also going to be hard pruning the Mulberry and Plum trees in the garden” says Alan, “and sending specimens off to Brogdale, as we think some are quite rare, having been planted by Robert Hyde Greg, Samuel’s son, who was a great plant collector of his day”.

‘Breaking New Ground’ opens at Quarry Bank Mill on Saturday, September 24 and is open daily* 11am – 4pm until January 27 (*when Mill open, check website for details, www.nationaltrust.org.uk/quarrybankmill).

Normal admission rates apply but entrance to the exhibition is free. For details call 01625 445845.

The Upper Garden will be formally open in spring 2012 – in the meantime visitors are welcome to look around and watch restoration work in progress.

Quarry Bank Mill, gardens and Styal Estate are open daily, from 11am to 5pm.

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