Samuel Greg founder of Quarry Bank

Samuel Greg founder of Quarry Bank © Quarry Bank Archives

Samuel Greg founder of Quarry Bank

Samuel Greg, born in Ireland in 1758, was the son of Thomas Greg, a successful merchant and his wife, Elizabeth Hyde. Samuel was one of nine surviving children, he had four more siblings who died.

At a young age he was adopted by his uncle, Robert Hyde, who was involved in the Belfast linen trade, with no children of his own, and was sent to England to study at schools in York.

Fortunate heir

Samuel’s son Robert Hyde Greg recorded his father’s next steps ‘he was put to business in Chancery Lane…my father then…travelled the Continent, taking orders for the House of Hyde and becoming a regular manufacturer of all Manchester stuffs. Chiefly velveteens, nankeens, quiltings etc.' Samuel’s uncle made him partner in the business and gave him £10,000. Upon Robert’s death in 1782, he made Samuel the heir to all his property. Samuel later received £14,000 in shares from his uncle Nathaniel Hyde when he retired shortly after Robert’s death.

Founder of Quarry Bank

Armed with the business experience he had gained working for his uncles and the generous inheritance they had left him, Samuel seized the opportunity to take advantage of the desperate need for the expansion and industrialisation of the cotton industry In 1783, he found the perfect spot for his vision and built Quarry Bank Mill on the River Bollin, harnessing the awesome flow of the river to power the Mill. It cost Samuel £3,000 to build, equip the first Mill.

An advantageous marriage

But it wasn’t all work and no play for Samuel. In 1789, he married Hannah Lightbody, an advantageous marriage which brought Samuel a further £10,000 by way of Hannah’s dowry. Their first home was at 35 King Street in Manchester. By 1800 however, the couple had grown tired of the dirty streets of the city, and Samuel built Quarry Bank House, a stone’s throw away from his beloved Mill. With this relocation, Hannah began to have more of an influence on the day to day operations of the Mill, and Samuel began to rely on her opinion more and more. The couple had thirteen children together, born between 1790 and 1808. As Unitarian family, the boys were sent to Unitarian schools in Bristol and Nottingham and spent some time at Edinburgh University, a Presbyterian stronghold. Hannah frequently had to act as peacemaker with Samuel and their sons, for they did not often see eye to eye. It seems his daughters were less of a problem and one visitor commented that they possessed a 'delightful simplicity of people perfectly satisfied in their place'.

Building an empire

Business was good for Samuel and he needed an increasingly large workforce, which included pauper children, indeed, until the 1840s when new legislation came through, more than half of Samuel’s workforce was made up of children. He built cottages in Styal Village for his workers and the Apprentice House for the children in around 1790. When war with France broke out in 1793 the growth of Samuel’s firm rapidly increased, with the potential of selling to American markets. The business continued to thrive throughout the Napoleonic Wars, so that during the 1820s Samuel was able to expand not only Quarry Bank but constructed five other cotton spinning and weaving mills, employing more than 2,000 people. It was during this period that Samuel was joined by his four younger sons in the running of his empire.

In 1825, with the advent of a banking crisis, Samuel’s sons put increasing pressure on him to introduce looms to Quarry Bank, but he continued to refuse, causing tension, and the family remained held together by Hannah, Unfortunately, in 1828, Hannah died, and her bonding force was lost, Samuel refused to recognise the need to revolutionise his beloved Mill and only retired from the business in 1832 when an accident left him lame. In 1834, he died, and whilst relations between he and his headstrong sons had been fraught, he had provided them with a solid future and vast business empire, all of which emanated from Quarry Bank.