I’m off on my jolly holidays next week and I cannot wait to be in a country with some guaranteed sun! No doubt many of you are also counting down the days until you can escape from the office and this unpredictable weather, and it seems the Gregs were no different.
Travelling was a hobby for several of the Gregs and between them they visited some of the most exotic countries in the world. Samuel Greg completed the traditional ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe when he was young, on behalf of his uncles whom he worked for; “He travelled the continent taking orders for the House of Hyde and [became] a regular manufacturer in Manchester of stuffs, chiefly velveteens, nankeens and quiltings” According to his grandson, Robert Philips Greg, he was irritated by his principal customers, the Italians, due to their incessant haggling!
Robert Hyde Greg followed in his father’s footsteps in 1814 venturing to Portugal with his cousin Isaac Hodgson to build up contacts for his father’s business. His journey lasted until 1817, and took him to Spain, Italy, Morocco, Greece and the Ottoman Empire. We know a great deal about Robert’s travels as he kept an extensive journal, made many sketches and wrote letters to his mother, Hannah.
Robert had originally intended to visit Sicily in 1817, but found himself with an offer he couldn’t refuse:
“My dear mother…the Prussian consul…introduced me to his Highness the Prince of Hesse Homburg. The Prince said he was going to make a short excursion into Greece, and …he should be charmed to have me for his companion…What could I say, what could any one say in such a situation, but I shall feel myself exceedingly happy in having such a companion for such a journey.”
Robert’s son Edward Hyde Greg travelled around America, South America and Canada at a time when these places were neither easily nor safely visited. He had many adventures, including alligator hunting in the Gulf of Mexico! Edward made a little flip-book based on his alligator experiences.
Samuel’s great-granddaughter, Elizabeth Mary Greg, known as Bessie to her family, explored the other side of the world. Bessie set off in 1898, and journeyed to India, China and Japan. She loved India as due to British rule there, it was similar to England (well perhaps in terms of the company she kept – I don’t tend to see many elephants in Wilmslow!). Unfortunately she spent Christmas in hospital with smallpox, but in the New Year of 1899, she glimpsed Mount Everest en route to Calcutta and Madras before she travelled on to Sri Lanka (known then as Ceylon).
The next stop on her journey was China, where she visited Shanghai and Peking (Beijing) which she disliked, and described as “an odious place, very smelly and dirty”. After visiting the Great Wall she travelled around Japan before sailing the Pacific Ocean on the SS Empress of Japan to Canada where she visited Vancouver and later went on to New York.
Hopefully you’re not all staring out of a window feeling disheartened at the grey skies like me after hearing of the Gregs’ travels. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that one day I can say that I’m as ‘well-travelled’ as the Greg family (although I don’t have a very successful cotton empire to fund me – darn!)