“The greatest social curse in this country”


The team at Quarry Bank made a great discovery after spending weeks gathering information for a new book called Life in Styal which details the history of the workers’ village.

Styal Villagers
Styal Villagers

Henry Greg (Quarry Bank founder Samuel Greg’s great grandson) made a stirring comment about what he believed to be ‘the greatest social curse’ in a speech he gave in 1900 to the people gathered at Styal Village Hall.  The villagers had come together for what they may have presumed would be a fun occasion, the official opening of the Hall, which housed a club where men could meet and enjoy billiards or play cards.

Henry used this opportunity to impose on them his views on the products of another village landmark, The Ship Inn.  Still in business today, at the time The Ship was part of the village owned and managed by the Greg family and Henry Greg had some strong opinions on the consumption of alcohol.

“As long as I can remember, I have regarded drunkenness as the greatest social curse in this country,” Henry told those gathered at the village hall.  “I have come to the conclusion the only cure is education. A well-educated man shuns drink as a healthy man shuns smallpox.”

Black and white photograph of Henry Greg
Henry Greg

It’s a wonderful comparison and gives a real insight into how much life – and attitudes – have changed. While it is clear that he disapproved of the consumption of alcohol, he was also a very logical man.

“On inheriting it (The Ship Inn), I was urged by several of my teetotal friends to close it, but I decided against it. I recognised that if I did, another public house would probably be erected off my land and I would prefer to have control of it.”

Henry kept this control by paying his landlord a bonus based on the number of soft drinks he could sell each year and he also issued the following notice.

A notice detailing alcohol consumption, issued by Henry P Greg
A notice detailing alcohol consumption, issued by Henry P Greg

We do not know how the villagers felt about this restriction, if they welcomed and agreed with Henry or felt they should have the right to choose how many drinks they had in the pub.  The Ship did continue trading however, whether through sales of alcohol or through Henry’s support and a healthy abundance of soft drinks.

The Ship Inn in Styal
The Ship Inn in Styal
Drinks list from the Ship Inn in 1900
Drinks list from the Ship Inn in 1900

This anecdote is taken from our extensive archive and many other anecdotes and features of life in the village can be found in ‘Life at Styal’ which is on sale in the shop at Quarry Bank.  Next time you are here, pop into the shop and take a look at the book before taking a walk to Styal Village to see where it all took place.  While there, why not visit The Ship for either an alcoholic beverage or soft drink of your choice.



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