Rights of the Child exhibition

Visitors studying a protest banner made for the Rights of the Child exhibition

2019 marks 200 years since the Peterloo Massacre, a key moment in British history when working people marched to demand a voice and were cut down. In the aftermath of the massacre, there was increased demand for representation and opportunity, particularly for children.

6 April to 29 September 2019

This new exhibition explores the experiences of hundreds of children who worked at Quarry Bank, living and working in conditions inconceivable in Britain today. Children made up over 50% of the workforce at Quarry Bank when the mill first opened and were a vital part of its operation. Children as young as eight years old were brought from the workhouses, or from their family homes, to the Apprentice House in Styal.  As many as 90 children lived together, working long, gruelling hours in the mill under dangerous conditions, in exchange for food, clothes and board.

Discover their stories and explore how children’s rights have changed over time as we ask ‘what are the rights and freedoms we can expect today, and how did we secure them?’

The exhibition draws upon the extensive archive collections held at both Quarry Bank and Dunham Massey, which capture stories of working class people and the evolving right for fair and appropriate treatment of children in our society.

A sneak peak of the exhibition . . .
Inside the Rights of the Child exhibition
A sneak peak of the exhibition . . .

Exploring Quarry Bank's connections to Peterloo

In 2019 we’re exploring what the Peterloo Massacre meant to the people who were there at the time and its significance today. The exhibition features new protest banners created by banner maker Ed Hall with help from local community groups and schools.

Through the exhibition you will discover Quarry Bank’s connection to these events and how mill owners Samuel Greg and Robert Hyde Greg witnessed the massacre and spoke out against the atrocities.

Listen to the brand new Peterloo ballad, written and composed for the exhibition by National Trust staff
National Trust staff, performing a song about Peterloo, written and composed for the exhibition
Listen to the brand new Peterloo ballad, written and composed for the exhibition by National Trust staff

What will you see?

Archive material from Quarry Bank and Dunham Massey will be on display, including letters, newspaper articles and indentures, which capture the stories of working class people and the evolving right for the fair and appropriate treatment of children.

Uncover their stories as you feel the thundering of the mill machinery beneath your feet, giving some sense of the working conditions experienced by the children at Quarry Bank.

An imposing 5 meter long banner depicting the significance of the 1833 Factory Act will also be hung in the exhibition. Designed in 2015, this is the first time this powerful banner will have been displayed outside of its original home in Westminster Hall.

An Apprentice Indenture signed by a child worker at Quarry Bank in 1794. The apprentice was required to 12 hours a day, six days a week
An Apprentice Indenture signed by a child worker at Quarry Bank in 1794. The apprentice was required to 12 hours a day, six days a week
An Apprentice Indenture signed by a child worker at Quarry Bank in 1794. The apprentice was required to 12 hours a day, six days a week

New protest banners by Ed Hall and local schools

As well as looking back to the historic experiences of hundreds of children who grew up in a world  without rights to protect their health and wellbeing, the exhibition also looks forward and asks ‘what rights would you stand up for today? How much work is there still left to be done?’ Featuring new protest banners created by trade union banner maker Ed Hall, with help from Styal Primary School and Newall Green High School pupils, the exhibition explores what rights are important to young people today.

Alongside other campaign materials created by the students, these brand new protest banners consider the significance of the right to health care, the right to a safe environment and the right of association - allowing people the opportunity to join clubs and support causes important to them.

New protest banners created by trade union banner maker Ed Hall with help from local schools, explore what rights are important to young people today
New protest banners created by trade union banner maker Ed Hall with help from local schools, explore what rights are important to young people today
New protest banners created by trade union banner maker Ed Hall with help from local schools, explore what rights are important to young people today

During your visit

Whilst at Quarry Bank you can also join a guided tour of the Apprentice House, to see where the child workers lived, ate and slept under the strict watch of the Apprentice House superintendents. Tours of the recently restored workers cottage in Styal village also explore the domestic lives and living conditions of the adult mill workers and their families. Pop into Quarry Bank House where the mill owners lived, and see a different side to life at Quarry Bank.

At Quarry Bank, child workers lived in the Apprentice House where they were given food and board in exchange for their labour.
At Quarry Bank, child workers lived in the Apprentice House where they were given food and board in exchange for their labour.
At Quarry Bank, child workers lived in the Apprentice House where they were given food and board in exchange for their labour.
Inside Quarry Bank mill today - The child workers would have scavenged for waste cotton underneath this full length spinning mule.
Inside Quarry Bank mill today - The child workers would have scavenged for waste cotton underneath this full length spinning mule.
Inside Quarry Bank mill today - The child workers would have scavenged for waste cotton underneath this full length spinning mule.