Well let’s not beat around the bush here, it should be fairly obvious to you all by now that the Greg family lived at Quarry Bank House, so if we were to try a blog style Through the Keyhole, the guessing game would be over pretty quickly. However, I know that you probably couldn’t resist having a nosy around the house, (I certainly couldn’t), whilst it stands empty before we find some new tenants.
Samuel and Hannah Greg had been living in Manchester, at 35 King Street for the first few years of their marriage in the early 1790s. However, Hannah found Manchester tiring and dull, but found ‘the romantic beauty of Quarry Bank’ to be the perfect tonic. Their young family had been staying at Oak Farm in Styal in the summer throughout the 1790s, but Hannah finally got her way when Samuel began building Quarry Bank House right next door to his beloved mill.
The first version of Quarry Bank House was a modest 18thC style villa, architecturally following the popular neo-classical style, and in terms of layout it followed the examples of dwelling within Styal village, with Hannah describing it as consisting of ‘3 or 4 rooms’.
By 1803 the Greg family had fallen in love with their new home and with business booming Samuel was able to double their modest house to twice its size. He added the large curving bay window to the dining room and built the Drawing Room, entrance hall and his office, as well as 5 new bedrooms, three of which were heated. He developed a basement complex which still remains and consists of the kitchen, laundry, coal room, wine cellar and a wet and dry larder.
From their new home, Samuel could exercise tight supervision of his workforce from his office and Hannah could cultivate her cosmopolitan saloon, in the largest room of the house – the Drawing Room, which is home to a beautiful classical fireplace, with a central plaque of a nymph on a cornucopia, spinning cotton, with a graffito of a sailing ship, symbolising the origins of the Greg family wealth.
The Drawing Room became a place of debate, where Hannah invited her friends who made up the liberal intelligentsia of Manchester and Liverpool, to discuss politics, social reform, education, medicine, art and poetry. She set up a Literary and Philosophical Society amongst her children called Duodecimo, which held its meetings in the Drawing Room. Each member had to submit a paper, which was then drawn from a box and presented to the rest of the family for scrutiny, to help them learn the art of rhetoric.
Years later, in 1857 Edward Hyde Greg made Quarry Bank House his marital home, for his father Robert Hyde Greg had built the Tudor style mansion Norcliffe Hall. When he inherited Quarry Bank Mill in 1875 he reflected his new status in Quarry Bank House, by enlarging his grandfather’s old office. He installed 2 very interesting features; a Queen Anne Revival fireplace, almost identical to the one located in the Mill Manager’s Office, suggesting he altered the Mill at around the same time, and a beautiful stained glass window which bears the Greg coat of arms and motto.
Back in 1814, Samuel once again doubled the size of Quarry Bank House, demonstrating how far he had come from owner of a single mill to head of a business empire. This time he added an entire service wing, 3 bays long, 2 bays deep and 3 storeys high. Interestingly the windows of the wing are smaller than those in the rest of the house reflecting its primary status as a residence for the servants, despite also housing bathrooms, bedrooms and a nursery for the Greg children. The wing was set back from the rest of the house, thus hiding it from the view from the drive, so as not to spoil the symmetry of the rest of the house.
Sadly in 1963, the service wing was demolished as it was structurally unsound. The remains of the wing were adapted and remodelled, for example old door-ways were turned into windows, to preserve the appearance of the house. However the remaining house contains several interesting, rare archeological features.
For example, the Dining Room has remained largely unchanged since 1802, and contains a dinner service room, or pantry, with original benches, cupboards and shelves, which acted as a butler’s pantry until the service wing was built. Meanwhile the kitchen still retains its original 3-arched fireplace, which contains a roasting range and integral pastry oven, and possesses a rare survival of a wrought-iron hot plate, typical of the 1810s and 20s.
The room I am perhaps most jealous of is Samuel and Hannah’s bedroom, purely for the fantastic view that must have been a joy to wake up to every morning, and I can picture Sam and Hannah in their twilight years, peering out of the curtains in the evenings to watch their grown children come down from the Upper garden having watched the sunset over the valley.
As part of the Quarry Bank Project we are going to open up Quarry Bank House to the public, and tell the story of the Greg family in their family home. We still need your help to make this a reality and you can do so by being kind enough to donate to our £1.4m appeal. We’re already half-way but there’s still half to go!