The Apprentice House and garden

The Apprentice House at Quarry Bank

The early Industrial Revolution wasn’t just powered by water and steam. It was powered by children. At Quarry Bank, child workers lived in the Apprentice House where they were given food and board in exchange for their labour. You can take a guided tour of where they lived, ate and slept from the 1790s right through to the end of the apprentice system in the 1840s, and explore the garden that the children tended after their long shifts in the cotton mill.

Who were the apprentices?


At the start of the Industrial Revolution, entrepreneurs such as Samuel Greg were looking for cheap labour to power their mills. The apprentice system offered the perfect solution. Children as young as eight years old were brought from workhouses or from their family homes to the Apprentice House. As many as 90 children lived packed in together, and worked in the mill in exchange for food, clothes and board. 

Children scrubbing in the Apprentice House kitchen

Try out apprentice life

On guided tours of the Apprentice House, you’ll get to see just what life was like for the children who lived there. You can see where they ate and were given a small amount of education, and the dormitories where they slept two to a bed. Find out all about nineteenth century cures for everything from headaches to lost limbs, and compare the children’s accommodation with that of the Apprentice House superintendents Mr and Mrs Shawcross. Timed tickets for Apprentice House tours need to be collected from Visitor Reception.

Discover the Apprentice House garden


Next to the Apprentice House, you can explore the working kitchen garden and orchard. Now tended by our team of gardeners and volunteers, in the past the apprentice children worked in the garden after their shift in the mill. The food grown there was used in the apprentices’ meals, meaning that they benefitted from a diet packed with staple vegetables. They also used to steal apples from the orchard, even though it got them in big trouble! The Apprentice House garden is also a haven for wildlife, and a great place to look for insects, reptiles and amphibians.