How and Why Samuel Greg Choose the Sight for Quarry Bank Mill in Styal
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Samuel Greg had a large fortune of what would today be about 3 million pounds (source 1&2). He inherited a lot from his “mill owning” uncle and he also married a very rich women and because of the laws of his era her money became his. This was useful to Greg, it meant he could purchase all the equipment he needed for his mill, but it also meant he had money to live off if the mill wasn’t very profitable to begin with. Greg had already had experience in running the mill. This is because he was part owner of a large mill in Manchester, which his uncle had left to him. He decided he was going to set up his own mill in the country, his decision for it being in the country was that land was too expensive in Manchester.
There were other factors that influenced Greg to set up his own mill. He had found that Arkwrights patent had run out (source 30, this meant he could use his machines freely, this was a good thing for Greg because they were the most efficient machines of the 1780’s. In that period there was also a massive increase in the trade for cotton (source 7), inside and outside the country. The American war had also just ended, this meant that raw cotton was more available. From looking at all of these factors Greg concluded he would be successful and so went ahead with the search for a suitable sight.
Greg and his agents decided waterpower was what they required because it was the most efficient kind of power at that time because steam power was still being developed. This meant they had to look for a sight with a suitable water supply, Styal was found. When it was discovered there was a hamlet, and an old corn mill which was out of business. This mill gave proof to Greg that the river there was capable of supplying water to a mill. The River Bollin, which ran next to Styal (source 4) ran very fast and gave sufficient power for the mill Greg proposed. When Greg decided to use the site he saw the possibility of harnessing the waters power. He added a weir and made the river narrower for this purpose. The weir was put in place because on hot days the flow of water was reduced so this gave an extra supply. The reason for narrowing the river was so the water would flow faster; this would result in more power being supplied because the wheel would turn faster. It is certain that the River Bollin was the aspect of the sight that influenced Greg the most.
There were also several other clear advantages about the site Greg choose. The first being the fact it was cheap land (source 5), this was because it was a poor quality land for agriculture because it was at the bottom of a steep valley. He rented it from the Earl of Stanford. Once in the 1820’s the Earl offered it for sale to Greg, he refused because it was cheaper just to rent it. Although Styal was still in the country it still had an incredibly sufficient transport system in and out of the mill. There were transport links to Manchester and Liverpool. The bridge water canal was the main way they got things to and from the mill. Greg later built a warehouse on the bank of the canal (source 11) which was used to store his cotton. The canal was connected to the turn pipe road, which led straight to the mill. Another reason for Greg choosing the sight was the moist conditions, this gave a Greg a good advantage because they were good conditions to spin cotton in.
The labour in the area was sufficient. With people in the surrounding hamlets and villages willing to work for a higher wage than they were getting from being self employed. People from the workhouses in Manchester, Liverpool and even as far away as London and Newcastle (source 19) were coming into work, this meant there was never a shortage. Children were a large factor of the workers, about 2/3 is the estimation given by historians of the work force. An apprentice house was even set up with about 90-100 boys and girls. Children were offered from places and people to work in the factory. A vicar of Biddulph offered some children to start work as apprentices once (source 18).
After looking at all the evidence we can now put the reasons for his choice of Styal in order of importance. The first is definitely the water supply, which gave power to the mill. The second is its proximity to Manchester and Liverpool. This is because they both used to supply an income of raw cotton and workers to the mill. The next reason is the very good supply of building materials found at the site of the mill. I have not looked into this in great detail but from what I have discovered there was good quantities of wood and stone, which were used in numerous building projects. The next was the cheap land; I have put this quite low down the list as I don’t think money was a great concern to Greg. This is because of his incredibly good financial position, also because the site is in the countryside its price would be quite low compared to an inner city site. The next was the transport system; this was more convenient to Greg than anything else as from what I have read it was not that important to him.