Hannah Greg Biography

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Hannah was the the wife of Samuel Greg, the founder of Quarry Bank Mill, and she played an extremely important role in the welfare of her husband's workers and apprentices.

She was born in 1766 and was the third daughter of Adam Lightbody, a Unitarian merchant in Liverpool. She received a humanitarian and liberal education at a private school in London, and she would later endeavour to bring up her own children in the same way.

Hannah married Samuel Greg in 1789, a move which greatly benefited Samuel’s business. Hannah brought a dowry of £10,000 and extremely useful business connections through her family, including links to other textile merchants.

Initially, Hannah and Samuel lived at 35 King Street in Manchester, with summers spent at Oak Farm in Styal village. Hannah disliked the dirty, smoky city, and missed the more intellectual life she had led before her marriage in Liverpool. In 1797, Samuel began constructing Quarry Bank House next door to the Mill. The family’s move to the countryside made Hannah much happier. She could raise her children in the fresh air, overlooking the picturesque view of the valley and the River Bollin, and was able to create a family society protected from the distractions of city life.

Samuel and Hannah had thirteen children together. Hannah took a keen interest in their education by ensuring the boys received a balanced education of literature and philosophy as well as instilling the importance of business. This sometimes led to conflicts with her husband, who wanted the boys to solely focus on business and the cotton industry, as well as embarking upon the traditional Grand Tour of Europe. Hannah did ensure that these travels around Europe were beyond the Unitarian scope of Samuel’s trips, for she believed her sons would settle down better if they had been allowed to spread their wings further in their youth.

Hannah also ensured that their daughters received a broad education that included history, geography and the sciences. At boarding school they received an education based upon a wide curriculum, meaning the girls were prepared for a life that didn’t solely revolve around marriage. She also set up a debating society at home for her children called the ‘Duodecimo Society’.

Hannah was not just concerned with the education and welfare of her own children. She took a great interest in the education of the apprentices; the pauper children who worked at the Mill. On Sundays she addressed them on Scripture as well as helping Dr Holland prepare the children’s prescriptions. Hannah also delegated the basic education of the apprentices to her own children who acted as tutors on Sunday afternoons. It was also Hannah who set up the practice of the annual prize giving for the apprentices with the best work.

This concern for the apprentices extended to the mill workers, and when Samuel began to build Styal village to house his expanding workforce in the 1820s, Hannah made it her responsibility to guarantee that the workers were provided with a good level of care. It is probable that she was responsible for setting up the Sick Club and The Woman’s Club as well as the Styal Infants School, which was established for the workers’ children.

In later years, when her son Robert had joined the family business and was running Quarry Bank Mill alongside Samuel, Hannah often acted as mediator when tensions rose between father and son, particularly in regards to the technological advancement of the Mill.

Hannah was certainly a very strong and intelligent woman and very much loved by her children, who inherited many of her recognisable aspects. This is no clearer than when her youngest son William Rathbone Greg recalled that in her old age her sons would take it in turns to carry her up the steep hill behind Quarry Bank House to see the sunset.