The Greg family originated in Ayr, Scotland, but John Greg (1693-1783) settled in Belfast in 1715. He had two sons. The elder, John (1716-1795) went to the West Indies in 1765, married there and became the first Government Commissioner for the sale of land. He had two estates in Dominica, Hertford, of 250 acres, owned jointly with Mr. Jennett, and Hillsborough of 120 cultivated acres in the parish of St. Joseph. This latter was originally named Layou, but received its new title in honour of Viscount Hillsborough (later 1st Marquis of Downshire) a friend of the Greg family. John Gregg later sold Hertford estate, but in 1773 Mrs. Gregg (neé Catharine Henderson) inherited Cane Garden estate, St. Vincent, from her mother.
His brother Thomas Greg (1718-1796) also owned an estate in Dominica, in partnership with Waddell Cunningham. This adjoined Hertford and was called Belfast. Thomas Gregg married Elizabeth Hyde and has 13 children: he died in 1796, leaving his youngest son Cunningham as residuary legatee, and he and Waddell Cunningham sold the Belfast estate for £17,000.
On 10th June 1795, John Greg died in England. He bequeathed his West Indian properties to his nephews Thomas and Samuel, the sixth and ninth children of his brother Thomas, with a life interest to his widow, Catharine. She died at Hampton, aged 82, 'full of years and of benevolence,' on 22nd November 1819, and is buried with her husband in an extraordinary pyramidal tomb, the source of local legends, in the churchyard there.
Thomas, who died in 1832, conveyed his share to Samuel in return for an annuity of £1,500, but the estate more than repaid this in the prosperous period of the 1820s. The Gregs did not administer the estate directly, but through a local agent and a resident manager.
Samuel Greg had settled at Quarry Bank, Manchester, and was a prosperous and enlightened merchant. It would be interesting to know more of his attitude to his West Indian estates in the last days of slavery, but this does not emerge from the documents. The 1830s bought many changes: the freeing of the slaves in 1833, the death of Samuel Greg in 1834, and a severe hurricane in Dominica in September of the same year. The damage was estimated at £5,000-£7,000, but new buildings were erected and the estate work resumed.
Samuel Gregg had eleven children, including five sons: Thomas; Robert Hyde, economist and antiquary; John; Samuel, mill owner and philanthropist; William Rathbone, political and philosophical writer. The last of these was named after William Rathbone (1757-1809) merchant and reformer. The Greg and Rathbone families were close friends, and Samuel Greg's daughter Elizabeth married William Rathbone junior (1787-1868); their grand-daughter was Eleanor Rathbone, M.P.
On Samuel's death the West Indian Estates passed to his eldest son Thomas, but he survived his father by only five years, and they became the joint property of the remaining brothers. Robert Hyde Greg (1795-1875) bought out his brother Samuel's life interest in 1845, and twenty years later passed the estates to his son Robert Philips Greg (1826-1906), who in turn bought out the shares of his uncles John (1868) and William (1875) and in 1870 sold the Cane Garden estate. On 31st December 1894 R.P. Greg sold all his interests in Hillsborough to his nephew John Tylston Greg, who decided to supervise it personally, and continued to run the estate until 1928 when he sold it and returned to England to spend the rest of his life in Oxford in a house he named Hillsborough.
A collection of documents relating to the West Indian property of the Greg family of Belfast, notably Hillsborough, in Dominica. The collection also comprises two volumes of accounts and notes, an album of photographs and five other related documents, as detailed below:
1. A coloured map of Hillsborough, 810 mm x 530 mm, by F. Lowndes, 1795 which shows the layout of the estate.
2. Certified copy (1917) of the will of John Greg, 1795.
3. Power of Attorney given to John Greg from Thomas Greg and Waddell Cunningham, 1772, to 'enter upon and take possession of all and every the Lands Houses Plantations Negroes Cattle Stock and Hereditaments whatsoever which belong to us in the said Island of Dominica.'
4. Inventory of slaves and other property, Hillsborough Estate, 1818, listing 71 male and 68 female slaves, and the contents of dwelling House, Mill House, Boiling House, Curing House, Iron Store, Still House, Rum Store (including one puncheon of 'old Rum put by for Madam Greg'), Store, and Overseer's House, and also a hospital.
5. Account book of Cane Garden and Hillsborough Estates, 1820-8, with various documents inserted, commencing with a statement of accounts of the Hillsborough and Cane Garden estates following the death of Mrs. Catharine Gregg, and continuing with invoices of goods shipped to St. Vincent and Dominica for estate needs. The other half of the book gives sugar and rum consignments, all recorded in great detail. Leather bound.
6. Report upon Tares on sugar. (printed report by West India Merchants Committee), 1828.
7. Copy of 'Dominica Colonist,' 21 September 1834, with account of hurricane damage at Hillsborough.
8. Inter-Colonial apportionment of £20,000,000 slave compensation for West Indian colones in 1835, showing an average of £19 a head in Dominica and £25 in St. Vincent. Printed document with pencilled notes and calculations.
9. Volume lettered 'Ledger: West India,' worn black leather binding (Robert Philips Greg seems to be the main writer) containing miscellaneous notes on the history of the West Indian properties including summaries of their vicissitudes in the 19th Century, and compilations of statistics of their operations, and concluding with diary entries by John T. Greg, 1897-9, highlighting some of the problems encountered when taking up the reins after local managers had been accustomed to a free hand.
10. Photograph album of John T. Greg, 1891-7, Jamaica and Dominica. some of Jamaica but the majority showing scenes of Hillsborough estate, the buildings, the staff and servants, and Mr. Greg himself. This item is a section of the original album spine with caption only, the photographs themselves are held at Y307H.
11. One print of a portrait of a seated John Greg.
12. Correspondence of Mrs. Longden with Librarian, Royal Commonwealth Society, concerning the gift; notes on the Greg family; correspondence with Rhodes House.
Presented to the Royal Commonwealth Society by Robert Philips Greg's daughters, Mrs. Margaret Longden and Miss Natalie Greg in 1964.