Watch returned to Quarry Bank after more than 100 years

Quarry Bank archivist Ally Tsilika with the pocket watch
Quarry Bank archivist Ally Tsilika with the pocket watch

A pocket watch that was given to a mill worker for his dedicated service has been returned to Quarry Bank after more than a century.

The watch – made by Robert Milne of Manchester – had been handed down through the generations of John Burgess’ family, but they decided they wanted to return it to his old workplace.

It is hoped the timepiece will eventually go on display, but first the team at Quarry Bank are hoping to find out more about its owner.

“John worked at the mill for 50 years and this was his reward for that service,” said archivist Ally Tsilika.

“He lived in Styal village all his life and his descendants still live there.

“We are very grateful to them for donating this watch to the National Trust and hope it will allow us to tell John’s story to the public.”

The back of the silver watch is engraved with a beautiful dedication which reads: ‘Presented to John Burgess on his retirement after 50 years’ faithful and efficient service with Robert Greg & Co, Quarry Bank Mill 1860 to 1910’.

John Burgess
The only picture believed to be of John Burgess. He is seated far left holding a small spanner. The photograph was taken in the 1890s and the workers are in front of the old stables at Quarry Bank, which is now the ticket office.

John, who also attended Styal School, worked at the mill as a cotton weaver and eventually became an overlooker – one of the most important jobs.

In this role he would have overseen operations on one floor and was even able to fix some of the machines.

His service was obviously appreciated by the Greg family who presented the watch to him on his retirement.

After delving into the archives it is believed Quarry Bank has one image of John with other workers outside the stables.

Ally added: “It is an amazing feeling to be holding this piece of history that presumably meant so much to John given that he took such good care of it.

“It has also been well looked after by his family and we hope to be able to share it with our visitors very soon.”