Creating the gardens, 1800-1830s
In 1796, Samuel Greg began to build Quarry Bank House so that he, his wife, Hannah, and their growing brood could live closer to Quarry Bank Mill, and to allow Hannah to escape Manchester, which she found to be dirty, unclean and wanting in terms of intellectual stimulation.
The house was completed in 1801, and Samuel and Hannah began to develop the surrounding landscape into their private gardens. Their designs followed the principles of the Picturesque, as envisioned by Edmund Burke in the 18th century, being a combination of the beautiful and the sublime, with the designed gardens complementing the industrial mill.
Plants and seeds were supplied to Samuel by Caldwell’s Nursery at Knutsford. Their records, together with payments to other nurseries in the Greg account books, indicate that much of the ornamental planting was carried out in the 1810s and 1820s.
The basic structure of the garden today is much as it was on Samuel’s death in 1834, although his son Robert Hyde Greg was responsible for some further embellishment, including the cast iron urns in the lower garden and the addition of the parterre in the 1860s.
The influence of Robert Hyde Greg
Robert introduced a huge number of rhododendron varieties to the estate and created an extensive woodland garden between Quarry Bank House and the park of Norcliffe Hall. Robert claimed the land thereabout had been bare when he acquired it but, according to a contemporary writer, by his death in 1875, 'the rhododendrons and azaleas and other flowering shrubs backed by conifers and choice deciduous trees ... had made his gardens and woodlands famous.'
Part of Robert's gardening activities included the creation, probably in the 1830s, of a new kitchen garden which housed the sadly now dilapidated, curvilinear, cast-iron glasshouses. The glasshouses were discreetly placed so as to not impinge on the wider landscape and the adjoining orchard, which was originally laid out with fruit trees trained into a tunnel.
Today the site from the upper garden provides a truly picturesque view of the mill, river, Quarry Bank House and the lower gardens.