Exhibition sheds light on Greg family of historic Quarry Bank Mill in Styal

PUBLISHED: 23:30 10 July 2012 | UPDATED: 09:22 06 July 2016

Members of the Greg family including (back right) Edward Hyde Greg, son of Robert Hyde Greg

Members of the Greg family including (back right) Edward Hyde Greg, son of Robert Hyde Greg

A new exhibition featuring previously unseen images and artefacts reveals a different side to the pioneering Greg family of historic Quarry Bank Mill in Styal WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH

The Greg familyThe Greg family

This exhibition is on now until September at Quarry Bank Mill Museum, Styal, near Wilmslow. For full details of opening hours visit www.quarrybankmill.org.uk

The impact the Greg family had on the cotton trade was immense.  Samuel Greg, who set up Quarry Bank Mill in 1784, and his son Robert Hyde Greg, in particular, are renowned even today for their formidable and dedicated approach to the business.

They are regarded as pioneers of the factory system upon which  England’s industrial revolution was built. They ran several mills around the north west, including the large operation at Styal, near Wilmslow. Paintings and photographs often showed them in grand locations with solemn facial expressions – a symbol that they were powerhouses of industry. But it was not all work.

The Gregs,  particularly in the generations that followed Samuel and Robert, enjoyed a long list of hobbies. They collected autographs of prominent figures like George Washington, William Gladstone and Charles Dickens and owned luxurious cars and vehicles – there was even a model railway around the estate. They also enjoyed extensive travels, loved photography and were fascinated by geology and astronomy.

Photographs taken by Elizabeth Mary Greg during her travels across IndiaPhotographs taken by Elizabeth Mary Greg during her travels across India

This month a new exhibition opens at the National Trust museum
on the site. All Work and No Play, which runs until September, looks at
the lighter side of life outside the mill.  Many photographs from the Greg family albums, travel journals and items they collected have been unearthed for this special exhibition. Current members of the Greg family have also donated items.

Ally Tsilika, collections assistant at Quarry Bank Mill, said: ‘We decided to
do the exhibition because the Gregs are always portrayed as very serious.
We started researching our files and found wonderful items from the
family archives.

‘It’s a nice change to show a fun side to the Gregs. They were real people and weren’t just all about work, thinking about the mill all of the time. We feel very proud to share what we have discovered with the public.’

The exhibition reveals the hobbies of people like Robert Hyde Greg who travelled extensively around Europe, on the order of his father, before he took over at the mill. His son, Robert Philips Greg was a geology and meteorites enthusiast.

Photographs taken by Elizabeth Mary Greg during her travels across IndiaPhotographs taken by Elizabeth Mary Greg during her travels across India

He had an enviable collection, which he eventually sold to the British  Museum, and held prominence in many astronomy societies including some founded by Lord Baden-Powell. Robert Hyde’s granddaughter Elizabeth Mary loved photography and travel and in the late 1800s
spent time travelling with a friend to exotic destinations like India.
Ally said: ‘It would have been unusual for women to travel so extensively.

They did it in luxury too with 12 servants to help them. We have a letter from her father to the man running the company they were travelling with. He was telling him to look after his daughter. It shows they were well
connected.

‘A lot of what the Greg family did was to show their wealth. This was important to them and the more hobbies they had the better. They didn’t want to be thought of as middle class, they considered themselves aristocracy. The later generations born into wealth didn’t have the same interest in the family business. They didn’t want to go to the dirty old mill, they wanted to enjoy themselves.’


Old stereographs, Edward Hyde Greg’s travel journals featuring cartoon-like drawings of men fighting off crocodiles, illustrations made by Robert Hyde Greg on his travels and carriages from the old model railway will feature in the exhibition alongside the many photographs.

Family portraits usually featured a solemn expression, as in this one of Robert Hyde GregFamily portraits usually featured a solemn expression, as in this one of Robert Hyde Greg

There will also be activities to coincide with each hobby. Pupils from a
Wythenshawe primary school will create a piece of textile art with help from a local artist.

Ally said: ‘This was a very special and important family and we hope the
exhibition will bring a very different side of their lives to life for all of our visitors.’

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