Guest post: G J Griffiths – Why I wrote “The Tales of Quarry Bank Mill” series of books

The Quarry Bank Runaways Kindle Edition

Today, I am delighted to introduce you to author G J Griffiths. I have read all three of Graham’s Quarry Bank Mill books and enjoyed them thoroughly. I invited him over today, to tell you about how he came to write his historical series.

Over to G J Griffiths

I am a retired science teacher and I have spent many of my retirement days at Quarry Bank Mill Museum, in the UK, as a volunteer in various guises. I started as a volunteer ranger on the estate; I’ve been an exhibition guide; I’ve enjoyed leading groups of school children and adults on tours around the mill, and QB House. It can be good fun entertaining them with a few family or workers anecdotes, and even, occasionally, some upsetting facts. Often they are particularly interested in the information we share with visitors about the child apprentices. They were indentured from distant workhouses during the first fifty or sixty years of the mill’s existence, and well into the 19th century; these were children who lived in the Apprentice House at Quarry Bank.

When I’m not at QBM I write books under the pen name G J Griffiths and I’ve recently completed on my third historical fiction involving two particular apprentices who ran away in 1806. It’s quite a departure for me as a science teacher who hated history lessons at school back in the 1960s. But many of the true stories at QBM as well as the fantastic site have given me new inspiration for writing, as well as a surprising love of history! My historical fiction novels are entitled The Quarry Bank Runaways, Mules; Masters & Mud and The Mule Spinners’ Daughters. All of the stories are very much focussed around the lives of Thomas Priestley and Joseph Sefton; the runaways who were aged 13 and 16 in 1806. To add a sense of authenticity to the tales I attempted to write much of the dialogue in a kind if old English dialect. Then I subsequently added a “NUTS alert” in the book’s blurb to warn future prospective readers about what to expect. This was because some reviews mentioned difficulty in understanding one or two characters’ speech. It reads thus:

WARNING! This book may contain NUTS! (Non-Uniform Text Speech)
In other words, conversations in what some have called “Olde English Vernacular”. It is spoken by characters in the book from the North, the Midlands and the South of England. There is a glossary at the end of the book to help if you can rise to the challenge. It adds shades of colour to this 19th century story that you may not be expecting.

The specific inspiration for writing each book in the series came about, briefly, as follows:

The Quarry Bank Runaways

When I learned that the two boys sneaked out from the mill and made their way on foot to London, 200 miles south of Cheshire, I wanted to know what happened on their journey. There were no obvious answers to my many questions so I planned out their probable route, most likely along the various drovers’ roads between the numerous market towns. It is known that Thomas Priestley and Joseph Sefton appeared in court in Middlesex from archive evidence held at Quarry Bank, and that they wished to find their mothers who were in Hackney Workhouse. It was from that same workhouse that the very young boys were originally taken in order to be indentured to Samuel Greg, the owner of QBM. So with that destination as the finale to my story I commenced researching and writing.

Mules; Masters & Mud

While gathering information for the runaways book I came across the real story of Robert Blincoe, also a child apprentice in various northern mills, and the appalling treatment that he had to endure. He eventually became a relatively successful business man in the same region of Cheshire, but not at Quarry Bank. At the same time I discovered stories of the ‘mud larks’ along the River Thames, and I always had an intention to include something about chimney sweep masters and their ill-treated apprentices. With all this buzzing around in my head I decided to make Thomas and Joseph achieve some satisfaction in their adult lives with a loving family and a different occupation. And how could I cover this period of British history without including one of the young men being present at the horrendous Peterloo Massacre?

The Mule Spinners’ Daughters

When Thomas and Joseph each became loving fathers to a family, in book 2, they had daughters who inherited their parents’ determined spirits. The young women were literate and thoughtful about life, sensitive to the social changes during the first half of Queen Victoria’s reign but not without romantic inclinations. I had been encouraged by a staff colleague at QBM to include something in the next book about a robbery there around the 1840s, as well as a preacher, John Wroe, who formed the religious sect known as the Christian Israelites in nearby Ashton-Under-Lyne. How could I resist ‘flinging’ the two young women, Sally and Catherine, into this melange and discover, for myself, what they would make of it all? Writing this book was quite a challenge, but for his ‘reward’ I named my police inspector Walter, after the man with his two bright ideas at Quarry Bank Mill!

Thank you, Graham, for visiting me with this terrific post.

About G J Griffiths

G J Griffiths is a retired science teacher with some early working experience of the photographic industry. Born in the UK he enjoys reading most genres of fiction such as sci-fi, crime/detective thrillers, historical and wildlife stories. Non-fiction reading mainly includes scientific or historical books. Walking in the English, Scottish or Welsh countryside with binoculars ready for bird-watching or other wildlife is a particular pleasure. Seeing badgers and otters in the wild recently was an exciting first.

His first novel was Fallen Hero and the So What! series of three books followed and which are all focussed around the fictitious Birch Green High School. More recent works include poetry: Dizzyrambic Imaginings, two illustrated children’s sci-fi stories about ant-size aliens and historical novels based upon real characters from the Industrial Revolution period: The Quarry Bank Tales.
If you enjoy reading any of G J Griffiths’ books please share your enjoyment with other readers and post a review. This is very helpful for new writers. G.J. would be pleased to hear from you on a Comments page at his website:

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My review of The Quarry Bank Runaways

I was introduced to the writing of G.J. Griffith through the second book in this series, Mules, Masters & Mud, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I found this first book to be equally entertaining and interesting and I found myself even fonder of the main characters, Joseph and Thomas, as teenagers in The Quarry Bank Runaways.

Joseph and Thomas are both indentured apprentices to Quarry Bank Mill in the early 19th century, having spent the later part of their short childhoods in a workhouse in London after their mothers fell on hard times. The boys vividly recall the journey from London to the mill near Manchester in the bank of an enclosed wagon with a lot of other children. The paupers were bumped around and arrived battered and bruised and, although their master, Mr Greg, is one of the better mill owners as far as treatment of his workers was concerned, life does not improve for the apprentices after their arrival.

Following an accident in which Thomas loses a finger, he is desperate to travel to London to visit his mother. Joseph decides to accompany him and take advantage and visit his own mother. The two boys make a plan and manage to escape the mill and set off on the long and arduous journey by foot to London. Their determination to visit their mothers during a time of physical challenge seemed very natural to me and the mill owner was unkind to disallow the journey. Mr Greg’s refusal of Thomas’ request to have leave of absence from the mill highlighted the fact that workers were treated as commodities at that time in history and had no rights whatsoever.

The story tells of the boys journey and the various people they meet along the way. Many are kindly and do their best to assist the runaways, but others attempt to exploit them for their own personal gain.

The detailed depictions of life during the early years of the industrial revolution and the awful work conditions and related health issues in various walks of life from mill workers to bargemen to potters to charcoal burners is well researched and fascinating. The reader is also given a brief glimpse into the lives of a retired night watchman, a magistrate and a scullery maid as well as the harsh laws impacting the lives of people forced to enter the workhouses.

The dialogue is written in various dialects which some readers may find a bit challenging, but I quickly got used to it and thought it added to the authentic feel of the time and the story. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy delving into history and how people lived in the past.

27 thoughts on “Guest post: G J Griffiths – Why I wrote “The Tales of Quarry Bank Mill” series of books

  1. As always your reviews give a great insight into what the reader can expect, Robbie the bonus? Getting to know about the author which then gives a well-rounded review of the book(s) in question 🙂 x Have a great weekend 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve become a fan of historical fiction lately and the book sounds fascinating. I can see how Graham’s curiosity was sparked and the research started. Thanks for sharing your review, and congrats to Graham on the wonderful read. 🙂


  3. What a very interesting author, and boos. Dont worry about NUTS. I am happy investigating the English language. Sometimes i think it was only created giving me the chance of never ending learning purposes. Lol
    This historical fiction gives a very good look into the past society, and make loving me history. Michael.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am delighted to know you are enjoying learning more about English, Michael. You do incredibly well. I am not that good at other languages, sadly. It’s not one of my strengths. I really enjoyed Graham’s books, Michael. Such wonderful insight into English history.

      Liked by 1 person

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