Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,411 pages of information and 245,908 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

R. Greg and Co

From Graces Guide

of Quarry Bank Mill, Styal, Cheshire and Reddish, Lancashire, cotton spinners.

and from 1891 of Albert Mill, Reddish, Stockport.

1784-1952 (approximately 7 shelves)

Greg deeds and plans, circa 1613-1967 (10 boxes) can be found in an uncatalogued collection of Greg family papers. (C25/)

1780 Samuel Greg became a partner in the business of his uncles, Robert and Nathaniel Hyde.

1783 He took over the business, which continued as Samuel Greg and Co. Construction of Quarry Bank Mill, Styal, Cheshire, began in 1783 and was completed by 1784. Samuel Greg had a number of different partners in the Quarry Bank Mill business, including Peter Ewart, an engineer.

1796 Quarry Bank Mill began as a water-powered cotton spinning mill. Steam engines were used for supplementary power from 1796.

1806 Land was acquired in Peter Street, Manchester. A steam-driven mule mill was built and this remained a Greg concern until 1815.

1813 They had an interest in Low Mill, Caton, near Lancaster, from 1813 and acquired the mill in 1817. This was a cotton spinning mill until 1837, when power weaving was also introduced.

After 1815, most of the partners in the various Greg ventures were members of the family. The Manchester-based firm, formerly run by his uncles, became the marketing business for the yarn and cloth produced by the Greg mills.

1816 Apprentices constituted a third of the labour force. Children came from as far afield as Liverpool and even London.

1820s New constructions at Styal included workers cottages, the Norcliffe Chapel and Oak School.

1822 Moor Lane Mill in Lancaster was purchased and began operating as a steam-powered spinning and weaving mill in 1824.

1825-28 The Gregs were involved with a mill in Ancoats, Manchester.

1827 They acquired Hudcar Mill, Bury, a cotton spinning and weaving mill, which Samuel's son William Rathbone Greg was to manage by way of apprenticeship to the family partnership.

1830s Weaving began at the Bury mill.

1832 Lowerhouse Mill, Bollington, near Macclesfield, Cheshire, a spinning and weaving concern, was leased.

1834 Samuel Greg died.

1837 Child Labour -see below.

1841 The family partnership broke up, with each of his sons taking over the mill they had previously been managing. Quarry Bank Mill and the Manchester business became the responsibility of Robert Hyde Greg.

1847 The use of apprentices ended at Styal. Many of the free labourers at the mill also came from other areas of England in the first half of the 19th century. Weaving was mainly done by women and girls A factory colony gradually grew up around the mill to supply the needs of the workers. A spinning and doubling mill in Calver, Derbyshire, was rented. Greg involvement continued until 1864. Construction of the Victoria and Albert Mill, Reddish, was completed in 1847. Victoria Mill was sold, but Albert Mill went on to become a highly successful Greg cotton spinning concern.

From 1848 the business was carried on under the name R. H. Greg and Co.

1856 Robert Hyde Greg was joined in partnership by his third son, Henry Russell Greg.

1865 After Robert Hyde Greg retired, the Manchester business continued as Greg Brothers, primarily active as commission agents, specialising in the sale of coarse yarn and cloth from Greg and other mills.

1875 On Robert Hyde Greg's death, H. R. Greg took control, in partnership with Charles Sharpe Parker.

1881 The firm also went into manufacturing. They acquired a spinning and doubling mill in Stockport, Cheshire, and acted as managing directors of Cressbrook Mills, Derbyshire, a cotton weaving business, from 1881.

In addition to their manufacturing concerns, the Gregs held extensive estates. These included the Oak Farm and Styal estates, at Styal; property in Reddish, Manchester and Caton; extensive lands in Hertfordshire; land in New York State, U.S.A. and sugar plantations in the West Indies.

1887 Henry Philips Greg began work at Albert Mill, Reddish.

1894 On Henry Russell Greg's death, Henry Philips Greg became sole partner in R. Greg and Co of Reddish. He expanded and modernized the mill, shifting production towards fancy yarns used in upholstery, and replaced flyer throstles and mule spindles with ring spindles. These moves later ensured the mill's competitive success in the 1920s and 1930s.

1894 Weaving became the mill’s sole concern from 1894 onwards. Because the local labour supply was insufficient for the mill’s needs, workers had to be brought in from further afield. Many of the earlier cotton spinning workers were children, aged ten and upwards, apprenticed by their parents or by the poor law authorities. More than half of these were girls.

1903/4 The water wheel at Styal was replaced by a water turbine system.

1939 The mill at Styal was given to the National Trust, with Styal village and estate.

of Reddish, Stockport (1891)

of Albert Mill, Reddish, (South Reddish), Stockport. Telephone: Stockport 645 (1929)

1891 Directory (Stockport): Listed as Cotton spinner and manufacturer. More details

1929 Listed Exhibitor. Manufacturers of, Spinners and Doublers of Cotton Yarns, 4's to 36's in hank, warp, cheese, cone, pirn**. Hosiery and Marl Yarns. Fancy Yarns of every description in Cotton and Artificial Silk for manufacturing. Machine Knitting Yarns. (Stand No. S.44) [1]


1837 'FACTORY CHILDREN. [From the Standard of the 1st. May] WE see that Mr. Robert Hyde Greg, roused by an able and elaborate article on Factory Labour, which appeared in the Quarterly Review last December, has come forth with a pamphlet, in which all authorities (Pariamentary, medical, nay, even his own brother's) are treated with contempt. At some future time we may have occasion to notice his extraordinary statements, and the arguments by which he attempt to support them. For the present we must contend ourselves with the following extracts from the parliamentary return of convictions under the Factory Act, between May 1, 1836, and January 1, 1837. We have only to add that this Mr. Robert Hyde Greg, whose testimony is to throw all other evidence into the shade, is a partner in the under-mentioned firm of Samuel Greg and Co., who cut so conspicuous a figure in that return. These gentlemen spin a greater quantity of cotton than any other firm, and have establishments in various parts of the kingdom. In connection with their establishment at FreeTown, Bury, the following convictions took place on the 9th of September last, no defence being attempted.
Under, the column (page 12) headed 'Statement of the Offence," we read as follows:-“
Employing four children more than nine hours on the 22nd August
ditto .. ..three ditto ….23d August.
ditto ….three ditto .. .. .. 24th ditto …. two ditto .. .. .. 25th
Employing two children, without having school certificates on the 18th August.
ditto….two ditto. . .. 19th August
….ditto…. two ditto 20th ditto.
two ditto 22d ditto.
two ditto .. .. .. 23d.
ditto'. two ditto .. .. .. 24th
ditto .. four ditto .. .. . 25th August
"Employing persons between thirteen and eighteen years more than twelve hours, on the 22d August.
ditto ….ditto…. 23d August.
ditto ..ditto .. . .. 24th. August
ditto .. ditto .. .. .. .. 25th August
"Not allowing the prescribed time for meals on 24th August.
"Not keeping No. 2 time-book.
"Not keeping register of workers."
For these eighteen offences in the case of this opulent and overgrown firm, the entire penalties amounted to only 18l, the magistrates who tried the cases being, according to the return, "Richard Walker, Esq. iron-master and machine-maker, and M.P.; and Edmund Grundy, Esq., woollen-manufacturer.”
Turning to page 16 we read as follows " Oct. 8, Greg and Co., Caton, Lancaster.
"Employing fourteen children more than nine hours on the 19th, 20th, 21st, 23d, and 26th September.
"Emiploying fourteen children without school certificates on the 19th September.
”Not keeping a register of workers on the 27th Sept.
"Not keeping No. 2 time book on the 27th September.
” Employing four young persons more than twelve hours on the 19th, 20th, 21st, 22d, and 23d of September."
The first three of this second batch of offences were visited with a-fine of 2l. each, eight magistrates being on the bench ; the two other cases were withdrawn.
Under the same date, a little further down we read-
"Greg and Co, Lancaster.
Employing nine children more than nine hours on the 19th, 20th, 21st, 22d, 23d, 26th, and 27th of September.
”Employing the said children without school certificates.
Not keeping a register of workers.
”Not keeping No. 2 time-book."
Three of these cases were admitted, the first two being visited with a penalty of 2l. each, and the third with a penalty of 1l.; the fourth case was withdrawn.
In all, twenty-four convictions in the space of one month; not to mention that on one occasion, as will be seen above, seven distinct offences were thrown together as one; the penalty, therefore, if divided, not averaging on these the paltry sum of six shillings. Happily for the poor and oppressed, the Messrs. Greg themselves are none of them in Parliament to vote in the double capacity of convicted mill-owners and immaculate representatives of the people; but there are others who are in this predicament. The case of Mr. Fenton, the newly-elected member for Rochdale, stares us in the face as one of this description. At page 24 of these Parliamentary returns we read as follows :-
Dec. 10, 1836. Fenton and Schofield, Heap, Bury. ..... The Messrs. Greg have long been wholesale customers for (we fear we might add consumers of) poor friendless children, invoiced from the workhouses of Liverpool and Chelsea.'[2]

—In consequence of a contradiction given by Mr. Mark Philips to a statement made by Mr. Ferrand in the House of Commons on the night of the 13th instant, respecting certain cruelties to which unprotected females were said to be subjected in the mills of Mr. R. H. Greg, near Wilmslow, a special general meeting of the Lancashire Central Short Time Committee was held at their rooms, London-road, Manchester, in order to corroborate Mr. Ferrand's statements. Mr. John Lawton occupied the chair. Mr. Doherty drew the attention of the meeting to the following statement, made by Mr. Ferrand, in the House of Commons, on the night of the 13th instant, as reported in the Times :—
"He also found that the manufacturers had, to a great extent, introduced the system of apprenticeship. At the Wilmslow Mills, the property of Mr. Greg and partners, in 1837, that system was carried on with all its barbarities. The children were fetched from all parts of the country, and compelled to live in a house built for their accommodation; they were delivered up to the tender mercies of a governor and a matron, whose hearts were steeled against them, and they worked them as long and as severely as nature could endure, and paid them no wages. Those children were collected from all the foundling hospitals in the country; they knew nothing of their parentage, and had no protection from the tyranny practised on them. Two of them, both girls, of thirteen and fourteen years of age, heard of their parents; they applied for leave of absence to go and see their long lost earthly Protectors; their request was refused. Their application was renewed at every pastime, such as the holydays of Christmas, &c., but every time rejected for upwards of two years, until at length they determined to run away, which they did at the Wilmslow 'wakes', on which occasion it was the custom to stop the mills for two days. They found their parents, the one in Liverpool, the other in Manchester. They were poor, but still loved their children, and kept them a day longer than the 'wakes.' On their return they were thrown into a cell by the orders of Mr. Greg, and kept in solitary confinement for six days, upon short allowance of food, and without a bed to lie on. During the time of their confinement the matron of the apprentice house died very suddenly, and was laid out in the next room to these two children, who were almost driven frantic with fright."
Mr. Doherty next read from the Morning Post of Saturday last, Mr. Mark Philip's contradiction of the above statement. He (Mr. Doherty) thought it the duty of the Short Time Committee to express an opinion on this matter, inasmuch as they had, in 1837, at considerable expense and inconvenience, obtained all the facts of the case. In that year it was reported to the committee that Esther Price, a parish apprentice from the workhouse of Liverpool, was ordered by Mr. Greg into solitary confinement for having gone to see her father, at Liverpool, during the Wimslow "wakes," after having been refused permission to so. A deputation was appointed to go to Wilmslow and ascertain if the report were true. They stated, on their return, that it was quite true, but as they had not obtained irrefragable evidence of the fact, a second deputation was appointed for the same purpose. They learned from the girl's own lips that the facts were precisely as they had been stated. Having been also told by her that she was an apprentice from the workhouse at Liverpool, the deputation was sent there to inquire if that statement were correct, and, if so, to call on the overseers to interfere on behalf of the girl as her legal guardians. The deputation did so, and subsequently had an interview with one of the churchwardens, who pledged himself that the affair should be inquired into, and the delinquent, if any, brought before the proper tribunal. This pledge, however, seemed to have been forgotten, and the committee, after much delay, resolved to take the matter into their own hands. A deputation, consisting of three persons was sent to Wimslow, for the purpose of getting the girl's statement in writing. They obtaiued an interview with her in the presence of her sister and about thirty of Mr. Greg's workmen, who were evidently sent to intimidate her from repeating her former statements. When asked if she would allow them to take down in writing the particulars of her case, she said that as Mr. Greg had promised not to maltreat her for the future, and as she had eighteen months of her apprenticeship to serve, during which period she might be made very uncomfortable if she opposed his wishes, she was determined to let the matter drop, and therefore would not allow any written statement to be taken of what had occurred. The committee subsequently applied to Messrs. Atkinson, Birch, and Saunders, respectable solicitors, and also to Mr. Condy, a barrister, for legal advice, and their opinion was that Mr. Greg should be prosecuted for false imprisonment, but that it was for the committee to consitier whether they had funds enough to sustain them in a legal contest with a person of Mr. Greg's wealth, This latter consideration prevented the committee from proceeding any further. While investigating the case of Esther Price the deputation found that another girl, named Lucy Gardiner, had been subjected to similar treatment for a like offence. He (Mr. Doherty) saw the room in which these girls were confined. The light was completely excluded; they were not allowed either fire, light, or bed, and their usual allowance of food was considerably diminished. Their hair was cut off, and their confinement lasted for several days. During the confinement of Esther Price, several of her fellow-apprentices mitigated the rigour of her punishment by putting in through the crevices of the wainscotting, which separated what Mr. Philips called this " well aired room" from the adjoing apartment, portions of their own rations, as well as cloaks, &c., to cover her by night. On Friday afternoon the matron died, and the remains lay in the next room to that in which the poor girl was confined. When she heard of this, she was, as Mr. Ferrand had observed, "almost driven frantic with fright." On the following day, when refreshments were brought her, she rushed out of the room, and told the person having her in charge that she would not, under any circumstances, pass another night in that apartment. The man said, "Well, Esther, if you pledge yourself not to be seen I shall say nothing about it, but you know if you are seen it is as much as my place is worth." Mr. Doherty having complimented Mr. Ferrand for bringing the matter before the House of Commons, again adverted to Mr. Philips's reply, and noticed some equivocations in that gentleman's speech relative to the situation of Mr. Greg's mills, and contended that the facts of the case were altogether untouched by any thing which Mr. Philips had stated. Mr. Doherty then moved the following resolutions', which were carried by acclamation.
"1. That this committee having heard read that part of Mr. Ferrand's speech delivered in the House of Commons on Monday night, Feb. 13, in reference to the cruelties practised by Mr. R. H. Greg on the unprotected factory girls at his mills, near Wilmslow, are prepared to prove that that statement gives but a very faint idea of the hardships to which those females were subjected; and that the contradiction which Mr. Mark Philips was instructed to make to Mr. Ferrand's charges is characterised by equivocation and a total disregard to truth."
"2. That the thanks of this committee be given to Mr. Ferrand for his praiseworthy and fearful exposure of the cruelties practised by the manufacturers generally on the defenceless children committed to their care."
Several other members, same of whom had been engaged in investigating the circumstances connected with the confinement of the girls alluded to, addressed the meeting, and confirmed the statements of Mr. Doherty. The proceedings of the committee were not concluded till twelve o'clock.'[3]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1929 British Industries Fair Page 72
  2. The Champion - Sunday 7 May 1837
  3. Evening Star (London) - Thursday 23 February 1843
  • Manchester Archives
  • Biography of Henry Philips Greg, ODNB [1]