Robert Hyde Greg Biography
Robert Hyde Greg was the fourth child – and second son – of Samuel and Hannah Greg. When Robert was still a baby the family moved to Quarry Bank House in 1796. He was educated at J J Taylor’s school in Nottingham, before moving to William Broadbent’s academy in Warrington, and completed his education at Edinburgh University from 1813 – 1814. These institutions offered a Non-conformist education at a time when entry to the English universities was exclusive to members of the Church of England, the Greg's being Unitarians.
In 1815, Robert started his travels around Europe, beginning with the Iberian Peninsula where he helped to wind up the affairs of S Greg & Co in Cadiz. In 1817, he travelled through France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Turkey and North Africa.
Robert entered his father’s business as a junior partner in 1817, the first of the four brothers to do so. His relationship with Samuel was tense, with constant arguments about the management of the mill. When Samuel died in 1834, he became the figurehead of the firm, remaining at Quarry Bank whilst his brothers managed the other mills in the enterprise.
Robert married his long time friend Mary Philips on 14 June 1824 in Prestwich, and they went on to have six children together. Initially they lived in Manchester before Robert built Norcliffe Hall in Styal as a family home. A keen gardener, he landscaped the grounds and surrounding woodlands of Norcliffe, introduced non-indigenous species of plants and propagated several new varieties of rhododendrons, some of which we believe are still in the garden today.
In 1839, along with his brother-in-law Mark Philips, he was elected as one of the first Members of Parliament for Manchester and served until 1841. He was a keen reformer and liberal, and his interest in politics was sparked by his business connections. He argued that water powered mill owners should be exempt from legislation restricting the length of the working day.
Robert introduced weaving to Quarry Bank Mill in 1838, and continued to expand the Mill with a new steam engine and boiler houses, a cloth warehouse, the gas retort house and the weaving sheds. During the 1840’s, the family enterprise suffered from crises as two of Robert’s brothers encountered problems and had retired from the firm by 1850 with the sale of one of the mills.
It was left to Robert and his brother, John to continue the business. John retired in 1864, with the Lancaster and Caton mills sold and the Bollington mill transferring to his sons. Robert retired from Quarry Bank in 1870, and passed on the management to his son, Edward Hyde Greg, who had been a junior partner since 1850. Robert died in 1875 having ensured that Quarry Bank would live on after his death under his son Edward.