A Healthy Profit exhibition

Visitors looking at archive documents in an exhibition at Quarry Bank

In a new exhibition we explore the physical, mental and emotional toil of working in a mill. What did it feel like to lose a finger, to suffer from cotton lung or return to work days after giving birth? Discover the impact of mill work on the body, the treatments given to workers, and how this historical story is relevant to our health and wellbeing today.

Exhibition: 19 October 2019 - 19 April 2020

Quarry Bank archive document

A healthy workforce?

Quarry Bank was the first mill in the country to provide healthcare for its workers. Learn more about the lives of Quarry Bank’s mill workers from the notes of surgeon, Peter Holland and discover how the body was affected by the toil of mill work – from cotton lung and infections, to accidents and injuries. Underpinned by original research from a new academic study with the University of Manchester, discover more about the impact that working and living at Quarry Bank had on the body, as we explore both health in the past, and health today.

Anatomical drawing of lungs

What will you see?

Journey through different parts of the body, including the brain, eyes, ears, lungs, and skeleton to uncover how long, hard days in the mill affected the workers at Quarry Bank. See archive displays of historic medical equipment including glass eyes and medical chests complete with powders and potions, as well as leech jars, inhalers and ear trumpets (Courtesy of the Thackray Medical Museum and Manchester Medical Museum - including objects from the extensive Beswick Collection at the Museum of Medicine and Health). Learn more about the stories of Quarry Bank’s workers, and see original, never-before-seen documents from the mill archives accounting for accidents, injuries and even causes of death at Quarry Bank.

Visitors at Quarry Bank using the interactive displays

Get interactive

Explore a giant interactive brain to learn more about its functions, and see vision put to the test through two giant eyeballs. Have a go at mee-mawing (a form of speech invented by the mill workers where exaggerated movements allowed for lip reading amongst the noisy machines) and discover how loud the machines really were with infographics.

Cototn processing at Quarry Bank

Half term activities 

This October half-term join us for crafts, science experiments and interactive activities that will bring all of the aches, pains and injuries of 18th Century mill work to life. We’re launching this new exhibition with two weeks of activities, workshops and talks. Step into the nineteenth century to learn if you have what it takes to work like an apprentice and learn more about how the body works in the Germ Emporium.