From industrial revolution to green revolution at historic Quarry Bank Mill

Historic views at The National Trust’s historic Quarry Bank, near Manchester, are set to be restored with a pioneering green energy project that its founder, early British industrialist and entrepreneur Samuel Greg, would no doubt have admired.

Eleanor Underhill, Steve Moores Regional Director of the EA and John Darlington at Quarry Bank Weir

Eleanor Underhill, Steve Moores Regional Director of the EA and John Darlington at Quarry Bank Weir

The partnership project between the National Trust and the Environment Agency will provide a new source of electrical power for Quarry Bank, Cheshire, whilst at the same time improving the ecosystem of the River Bollin which flows through the Quarry Bank and Styal estate.

For the past four months, work has been underway to install a hydro-electric power scheme and fish pass downstream from Quarry Bank’s historic weir on the Bollin. Sara Burdett, project manager for the Trust explains: “Water has always been used to power the spinning and weaving machines at Quarry Bank since the Mill was founded by Samuel Greg in 1784.

“The weir was built to harness waterpower, driving the huge water wheel which powered the looms.

“This partnership project with the Environment Agency will take the generation of water powered energy to a new level at Quarry Bank through the use of  a Kaplan turbine installed 30 metres downstream from the weir.  This propeller-type turbine with adjustable blades will generate enough electricity to meet 55% of Quarry Bank’s on site energy requirements, and will help fulfil the National Trust’s own energy strategy – to make its properties fit for the future by producing 50% of its energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020.”

The bank of the River Bollin showing work on the construction of the hydro-power scheme and fish pass c NT  Emma Williams

The bank of the River Bollin showing work on the construction of the hydro-power scheme and fish pass c NT Emma Williams

Alongside the turbine, the Environment Agency is building a fish pass to allow the migratory route of fish such as salmon to be accessible once again. “This is a very exciting project which will enable fish such as salmon, trout and coarse fish to reach the upper catchment area of the Bollin using the fish pass or ‘ladder’,” said Katherine Causer, project manager for the Environment Agency.

“Thanks to significant improvements made in the water quality of the MerseyBasin over the past 25 years, fish and other freshwater habitats have become much cleaner, leading to re-colonisation by locally extinct species. Here in the North West, our industrial past led to many weirs being constructed across rivers and these blocked migratory routes, preventing species such as salmon, trout and eels finding the optimum habitat for feeding, breeding and shelter.  The weir at Quarry Bank is historically important so we can’t be removed – so a fish pass is the next best solution which will allow migratory fish to pass up the Bollin. This will help improve both fish stocks and the river’s biodiversity reaching required European environmental standards.”  

Meanwhile, visitors to Quarry Bank will be able to see exactly how much electricity is being generated by the turbine via a meter in the Mill’s Power Gallery. This will also be the location of a ‘sam cam’ – a camera linked directly to one of two resting pools within the fish pass which will beam pictures of the fish using the fish pass directly back to the Gallery.  The Gallery, which is due to undergo complete refurbishment by spring 2014 will also incorporate new touch screen technology and a DVD facility illustrating the entire history of water power at Quarry Bank.

The hydropower scheme will also lead to the reinstatement of historic views of this part of the Quarry Bank estate which can be seen in the series of paintings held in the archives at Dyrham (another National Trust property). These paintings, dated 1818 show open and extensive views of the Bollin valley, Quarry Bank House and the mill and give the impression that this ‘picturesque’ view was very much a part of the Greg family pleasure grounds, which also extended into the Northern Woods. Over time these views have gradually became lost due to unchecked growth of trees and scrub over many decades.

Part of setting up the hydropower scheme involved a programme of tree clearance with the aim of once again opening up those views which Samuel Greg and his family would have enjoyed.

The view from the weir across the Mill Meadow to Quarry Bank House in the far distance c NT

The view from the weir across the Mill Meadow to Quarry Bank House in the far distance c NT

Project Manager Sara Burdett sums up: “The hydropower scheme and fish pass project is a very exciting development for Quarry Bank. The combination of ecological, environmental and cultural benefits will open a whole new chapter for the property and its visitors. Talking to visitors on site we have had very positive about the project.  We are looking forward to spring net year when the hydropower scheme and fish pass will be fully operational. Any surplus electricity generated will be exported to the national grid, and the revenue ploughed back into conservation work at Quarry Bank.”

Next stages in the project will be the installation of the fish and eel pass later this month; and once the construction work is complete volunteers from the local community at Styal will be helping Quarry Bank’s Lead Ranger Simon Hiley to landscape the area.  At the end of the year, the huge Kaplan turbine will be delivered to site ready to be installed early in the New Year.

  • Help the Trust to become Fit for the Future by making the switch to green electricity supplier Good Energy. For every switch, Good Energy gifts up to £40 to the Trust.
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One thought on “From industrial revolution to green revolution at historic Quarry Bank Mill

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