Antique pocket watch returned to National Trust place after more than a century

A pocket watch, made by Robert Milne of Manchester, was awarded to mill worker John Burgess, more than a century ago, on his retirement. The pocket watch was given to him for his dedicated service to the mill.

Quarry Bank Mill. National Trust. Antique pocket watch. Historic Display
Image credit: Aero Pixels, Flickr. Available under Creative Commons.

Since then the beautiful silver and engraved pocket watch has been handing through the generations of the Burgess’ family. It was recently decided by the family to return the watch to the Quarry Bank mill, a National Trust site, where it had originally been handed to John Burgess.

Archivist Ally Tsilik, who was delighted to receive the historical timepiece, stated: “We are very grateful to [the family] for donating this watch to the National Trust and hope it will allow us to tell John’s story to the public.”

Ally also 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.”

The inscription 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.’

The plan for the pocket watch is for it to go on display in the mill, but they are hoping to find out more about its owner before displaying the antique. It is known that John worked at first as a cotton weaver, and then eventually became an overlooker. The role was to supervise operations on one floor as well as have the ability to fix machines. This was considered one of the most important jobs at the mill. The hunt to find out about John Burgess lead the team to delve into the mill archives where it is believed that one image of John and his co-workers stood outside the stables has been found.

The piece has been well cared for by John and his family and will hopefully become a display piece of the Quarry Bank Mill soon. News like this goes to show how the story behind an antique pocket watch can be so valuable to their owners.