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September 13, 2012

Platt Hall Costume Study Day


The collection at Platt Hall includes over 20,000 items of clothing, a huge array of buttons, and ephemera including fashion plates and magazines. The curator closed the museum in the morning to admit our group, which was lovely. Half of us wandered all over the former great house, enjoying the clothing on display, much of which was collected by the late Dr. C. Willett Cunnington.

Unfortunately, there’s a “no sharing” policy for photos taken in the museum, so I can’t show you any of the beautiful exhibits or the amazing items we were allowed to handle in the study room (imagine one table just covered in Spencer jackets of all colors and shapes!). Suffice it to say, we had costume overload all day and left with our heads spinning. It was wonderful.

Even my little miss enjoyed all the fun!


Yesterday we enjoyed the jaw-dropping tapestries at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire. I’ll share those pictures later tonight.

September 12, 2012

Quarry Bank Mill

Monday we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before journeying to nearby Styal for our tour of Quarry Bank Mill–a beautifully preserved cotton mill from the early 1840s, complete with the workers’ village, apprentice house, and gardens. If you’ve read Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South or watched the BBC film adaptation, you can imagine the setting perfectly.

Getting to the mill proved a bit of a challenge once we arrived at the Manchester Airport train station and bus stand. When Suzi and I did the mill on our recce trip last year, we had quite a time with the bus and realized it was going to be a challenge to manage the route. So, as much as we wanted to add Stockport’s Hat Museum to our itinerary, we deliberately planned to do only the mill and nothing else on Monday. This turned out to be a good idea!

Waiting for the bus…

When we arrived at Manchester airport, the bus wasn’t at the stand, so we assumed it had already left (two minutes early?). However, after waiting in vain for the bus to loop back around, I checked the information desk and found the 200 bus had never showed up that morning, and the company was sending a mini-bus instead! When that arrived, it only held 14 of our group, so the rest of us dashed up to the taxi stand and hired two cabs. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Approaching the mill

Quarry Bank Mill sits down in a river valley surrounded by green hills. Its owners lived on the property and built an entire village to house their workers in a clean and convenient location. During the early days of the Industrial Revolution, child labor was all too common, but the owners of Quarry Bank were considered quite forward-thinking to provide a school for the children and workers’ comp for injured mill laborers.

Looking back toward the smokestack.

Walking though the mill really provides a window on the time, and you can never again take a simple spool of thread for granted! It was incredibly dangerous work to manage the winding and weaving machines, and many people died or were left crippled for life in the process. The National Trust has done an amazing job of preserving this amazing site so we can all learn from it now.

Our group enjoyed a delicious luncheon before our tour of the mill and grounds.

This is one of the winding machines for cotton thread.

A weaving machine. Cloth is still woven here by hand for demonstrations and sold in the gift shop. It’s beautiful stuff!

Clothing produced by fabric milled here.

This is a block-printing table for hand-printing fabrics.

The entrance to the mill gardens, which are lovely.

A small bed of flowers.

My son is a wonderful photographer and captured a lot of shots of flowers (aren’t you proud, Grammie?)

I’ll blog later tonight about our day at Platt Hall if all goes well!

September 11, 2012

Couple of quick photo additions…

Here are better pictures of that amazing black and white skirt of Cathy’s:


Sorry they’re so small; with the iPad WordPress app, it’s all or nothing when it comes to size. :-P

September 10, 2012

We’re here!

20120910-171112.jpgIt was quite an adventure getting from Kenya to Manchester, including the last-minute surprise of a child’s expired passport, a long walk through Dubai Airport, and a running dash for the train to Manchester, but we did manage to get here at last. We met up as a group Sunday night for our first get-together and a marvelous evening of Show and Tell, starring Suzi’s gorgeous collection of historical bodices and corsets and some added attractions brought in by special guest Cathy Hay of

My laptop decided to crash on me the day I left, so I’m blogging from my iPad, which is going to keep posts short and sweet this trip, I’m afraid! I can’t align photos as nicely as I can from the laptop, but I’ll try to do photo highlights from each day’s fun the day after. Here are shots from our gathering last night!

20120910-171824.jpgOne group member examines an 1870s bodice up close.

20120910-171802.jpgCathy Hay arrived in a reproduction Ginger Rogers ensemble–too adorable!

20120910-171929.jpgThis is a ca. 1900 skirt Cathy picked up for a song at a vintage clothing shop. Look at that gorgeous Chantilly lace! (sorry this one’s a bit blurry–I’ll see if I can find a clearer one later on….)

20120910-174653.jpgThis set of stays was made by Jean Hunnisett for Ann Margaret to wear in a film. The fabric is original and from the 1780s!

20120910-172009.jpgInside of the stays.

20120910-171952.jpgSuzi talks about the significance of each piece in her collection. Everything has a story!

20120910-171751.jpgAll ears…in spite of jet lag!

Cathy even brought a part of her famous work-in-progress, the Peacock Dress!

Today we toured Quarry Bank Mill, which evokes images right out of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. I’ll do my best to post on that tomorrow!