Why was the site for Quarry Bank Mill chosen by Samuel Greg?
Samuel Greg chose the site at Quarry Bank near the village of Styal for a number of reasons. First, he needed a way to power his machines. The best form of power at the time was water power thanks to Richard Arkwright’s water frame. However this would have cost Greg a lot of money to use, since Arkwright had patented the idea forcing people to pay him to construct the frame and pay an annual fee. Fortunately for Greg, Arkwright’s patent on the water frame had just been removed so Greg would not have to pay to use it, so Greg opted for water power.
Therefore, Greg needed a fast flowing river to provide the power. The site at Styal was next to the River Bollin, which was capable of supplying the necessary power and was not navigable so could be used by Greg. The land itself was ideal for building on as it was large and flat but it was in a remote area and was unsuitable for other purposes such as agriculture. As a result, the land was very cheap and Greg further reduced the cost by leasing it from the Earl of Stamford rather than buying it.
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The construction of the Bridgewater Canal several years earlier (1776) was another important factor in the selection of the site. It provided Greg with an effective and cheap transport network as raw materials could be brought from Liverpool to Styal and once refined sent by the canal to Manchester. In fact, Styal’s proximity to Liverpool and Manchester was an important factor in itself. Manchester was where the main market was for Greg’s product so the closer it was the cheaper it would be to transport the goods produced at Quarry Bank.
Liverpool had been growing throughout the 18th century, according to Dr. Aikin’s “A Description of the Country from 30-40 miles around Manchester” (1795) by 1784 the number of ships in its dock were increasing by several hundred every year. This was important since now Liverpool was a large port town Greg could receive imports of raw materials from the USA, which were cheaper thanks to the American War of Independence. Liverpool was also useful as a source of labour.
One disadvantage of the site at Styal was it’s isolated position which meant apart from a few from Styal and Wilmslow there weren’t many labourers to work at Greg’s factory. Greg solved this problem by employing pauper apprentices from workhouses in Liverpool and also London. There were also indirect factors influencing Greg’s choice of the site at Styal; he needed the funds, the knowledge and a reason to build his factory. Fortunately he had all three. In 1766, Greg had been adopted by his uncle, Robert Hyde, a textile merchant.
Greg entered the business, gaining experience as a European traveller before becoming a partner and eventually sole owner of the company, giving him the knowledge to build his own factory. The next problem was accumulating the funds required to build the mill. This was easily overcome when Greg’s uncle left him an inheritance of i??26,000 and he received a dowry of i??10,000 upon marrying sometime later. The factory itself, the machines to go in it and houses for Greg and the apprentices only cost about i??7,700, so Greg still had plenty of money to fall back on should his venture have failed.
However, Greg’s factory was very successful thanks to the sudden increase in the cotton trade in Britain. By 1784, the year Greg built his factory, cotton being imported into Britain had begun to rise by several million pounds a year, according to the ” History of the Cotton Manufacture in Great Britain. ” The same was true of the profits from exporting cotton from Britain, rising from i??355,060 in 1780 to i??1,101,457 in 1787. Thanks to this and the ideal site due to the factors I have mentioned, Greg was very successful.