Samuel Greg and the beginnings of Quarry Bank

Portrait of Samuel Greg who founded Quarry Bank
The man who shaped destiny of Quarry Bank Mill Quarry Bank Archive

How do you become a successful entrepreneur and found somewhere like Quarry Bank? There's no simple answer but for Samuel Greg, it was partially a case of being in the right place at the right time.

Born in Ireland in 1758, Samuel entered a world on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution. The son of Thomas Greg a successful merchant and his wife, Elizabeth Hyde, Samuel came from a wealthy family, but as a younger son, his parents knew he'd need to make his own living.

As a child he was adopted by his uncle, Robert Hyde, who had no children of his own. Robert was involved in the Belfast linen trade and Samuel left Ireland to live with Robert and his brother Nathaniel in Ardwick, Manchester, a prosperous area at this time.

Fortunate heir

Samuel was sent away to be educated. Following this, he was put to business in Chancery Lane and travelled the Continent, taking orders for the House of Hyde. Samuel must have shown his business acumen, as Robert made him a partner in the business and gave him £10,000.

Upon his death, in 1782, he made Samuel the heir to all his property. Samuel also 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 'd gained working for his uncles and a generous inheritance, 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 and equip the first Mill.

An advantageous marriage

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 through her dowry.

Their first home was in Manchester but by 1800 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. From this time, Hannah began to have more of an influence and Samuel increasingly relied on her opinion.

A growing family

The couple had 13 children together, born between 1790 and 1808. 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 didn't often see eye to eye. Their 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 Quarry Bank expanded with cottages in Styal Village for the workers and the Apprentice House for the pauper child labourers.

The business continued to thrive throughout the Napoleonic Wars, enabling Samuel, in the 1820s, to expand beyond Quarry Bank and construct five other cotton spinning and weaving mills, employing more than 2,000 people. During this period Samuel was joined by his four younger sons in the running of his empire.

Family ties

During 1825, with the advent of a banking crisis, Samuel’s sons put increasing pressure on him to introduce looms to Quarry Bank, but he refused. This caused much tension, and the family unit was held together by Hannah.

Unfortunately, in 1828, Hannah died, and so 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. Whilst relations between him and his headstrong sons had been fraught, he'd provided them with a solid future and vast business empire, all of which emanated from Quarry Bank.