How did money from slavery help develop Greater Manchester?

The Greg family of Styal

Although Styal is in Cheshire, outside of Greater Manchester, the wealth of this family would have contributed significantly to the economic development of the wider north west region.

Samuel Greg was born in Belfast in 1758, one of 13 children. His father was a merchant, manufacturer, ship owner and owner of lands in America and the West Indies.

Textile manufacturing in Manchester

In 1766 Samuel was sent to live with his maternal uncles Robert and Nathaniel Hyde in Manchester. In 1778 he entered his uncles' textile merchant and manufacturing business, one of the largest trading firms in the city. Within four years he had risen to the position of partner in the firm, inheriting a further £10,000 on the death of his uncle Robert Hyde.

On the retirement of his remaining uncle, Nathaniel, the 24-year old Samuel took charge of a prospering business valued at £26,000. In 1783 he built Quarry Bank Mill at Styal, on the outskirts of Manchester. Greg ran Quarry Bank Mill as a model factory community and his sons continued the family business into the nineteenth century.

Quarry Bank Mill and the surrounding estate and woodland is now in the property of the National Trust. 

Plantation owner

Samuel Greg also inherited the Hillsborough Estate, a large sugar plantation on the West Indian island of Dominica which John Greg, Samuel's paternal uncle had originally bought. The Gregs supplied the enslaved Africans on the estate with clothing and blankets made at Quarry Bank Mill.

The Gregs had various other family connections to the transatlantic slave trade, including Samuel's brother-in-law, Thomas Hodgson, who owned slaving ships and another brother-in-law, Thomas Pares, a banker whose family also made their fortune through slavery.

Anti-slavery support

The family also had anti-slavery connections, however, in Samuel Greg's younger brother William Rathbone Greg, who was a supporter of the Anti-Corn Law League and an advocate of the abolition of slavery.

The success of the business enabled the Greg family to become active members of Manchester's middle-class elite, positions of status which in turn were pursued by their descendants.

Donations to the arts

Samuel's grandson, Thomas Tylston Greg, was a serious collector of historic English pottery and formed one of the earliest scholarly collections, later donated to Manchester Art Gallery. His wife Mary was also a collector of doll's houses and domestic ephemera, also now in the collection of Manchester Art Gallery. Mary was an active campaigner for the educational benefits of museums and was closely involved with Manchester Art Gallery until her death in 1949.