Samuel Greg

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Samuel Greg
Samuel Greg, textile merchant.jpg
Portrait of Robert Hyde Greg, Samuel's son, circa 1870
Born26 March 1758
Died4 June 1834
Alma materHarrow School
Known forQuarry Bank Mill, Styal, Cheshire
Spouse(s)Hannah Lightbody

Samuel Greg (26 March 1758 – 4 June 1834) was a British entrepreneur of the early Industrial Revolution and a pioneer of the factory system. He built Quarry Bank Mill, which at his retirement was the largest textile mill in the country. He and his wife Hannah Greg took their responsibilities to their employees seriously, building a model village alongside the factory.

Early life and background[edit]

Greg was born in Belfast, Ireland, the second son of a successful merchant.[1] At the age of eight, he went to live with his maternal uncle, Robert Hyde, at Ardwick Hall, Manchester, in the heart of England. His uncles, Robert and Nathaniel, were linen merchants and, after completing his education at Harrow School, near London, Samuel joined their business in 1778.


Robert Hyde died in 1782; his brother's alcoholism rendered him incapable of running the business; Greg took over the enterprise. Seeing opportunities for manufacturing opened up by the Industrial Revolution, Greg founded Quarry Bank Mill, a cotton spinning mill in Styal on the bank of the River Bollin in Cheshire. Greg was quick to adopt innovations in the rapidly developing technologies of manufacturing and a partnership with Peter Ewart enabled him to exploit developments in water wheel and steam power.

Greg built up a model village of modest but salubrious housing on the Styal estate, not for philanthropic reasons but as an essential element in his vision of the efficient factory system.

In 1789 he married Hannah Lightbody (1766–1828), the daughter of a wealthy Unitarian Liverpool merchant. She was the youngest of three sisters.[2] and had been educated at a progressive school in Stoke Newington. Samuel was Presbyterian and so she introduced him to her Unitarian faith, Cross Street Chapel, and the influential network of Manchester and Liverpool trading and banking families.[3] Her religious and social views influenced his approach to the workers' welfare. Hannah gave birth to 13 children.[4]

The Gregs had mills in Reddish, Calver, Bollington, Lancaster and Caton. In the Escowbeck Estate, in Caton they built their own observatory. [5]

In 1832, Greg was attacked by a stag in the grounds of Quarry Bank Mill. The injury led to his retirement. By this time, it had become the largest spinning and weaving business in the United Kingdom. Greg never recovered from the attack and died two years later.


Already a wealthy man, in 1789, Samuel Greg married Hannah Lightbody, a prominent Unitarian, and set up a family home at 35 King Street, Manchester. She bore him six daughters and seven sons. In 1796, he built Quarry Bank House in Styal while retaining his town house. Greg was active as a member of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, and he too was a Unitarian.

Of Hannah and Samuel's thirteen children Robert Hyde Greg (1795–1875), John (1801–1882), Samuel Greg Jr. (1804–1876) and William Rathbone Greg (1809–1881) entered the business. Robert Hyde Greg was interested in astronomy and politics and was elected MP for Manchester in 1839. John was responsible for the Lancaster and Caton mills and eventually the Bollington mill. He was alderman and mayor of Lancaster. Samuel Jr. took charge of the Bollington mill and unsuccessfully experimented with profit sharing; disillusioned, he became a preacher. William was responsible for Hudcar Mill in Bury and then took over the troubled Bollington Mill; retiring from the business in 1850 he became Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office, and an avid essayist and pamphleteer. [6][7]

Elizabeth Greg (1790–1882) married William Rathbone V, of the Liverpool mercantile family. She founded the first public wash-houses in the United Kingdom in the wake of the 1832 cholera epidemic. Later she helped William Forster in formulating the 1870 Education Act.[7]


  • Rose, M.B. (1986) The Gregs of Quarry Bank Mill: The Rise and Decline of the Family Firm, 1750–1914


  1. ^ "Samuel Greg". Spartacus. Archived from the original on 2 November 2012. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  2. ^ Sekers 2013, pp. 14,27.
  3. ^ Bourne 2007, p. 5.
  4. ^ Sekers 2013, p. 14.
  5. ^ Rose 1986, p. 36.
  6. ^ Spinning the web-Places > The Rural scene > The Greg family.
  7. ^ a b Transcript of interpretive board at Quarry Bank Mill.