tcube Edenderry - The Alesbury Days
Read Time: 9min / Photo Courtesy of Offaly History Archives /
Most people around Edenderry would know that tcube, the town’s co-working, hotdesk, office, meeting room and event space, is located in the building known as the old ‘Edenderry Shoe Company’ factory which forms the frontage of the Edenderry Business Park on St Mary’s Street.
Long before the Edenderry Shoe Company, the site began its life as the ‘Alesbury Yard‘ some 140 years ago which set the foundation of a rich heritage to the town, its people and its culture.
The Alesbury Yard was the home of the Alesbury Bros. the manufacturing business of brothers Daniel and John Alesbury. Born and raised in Bristol, England, Daniel and John first arrived in Edenderry in 1878 without so much as knowing a single local. Being Quakers, however, made their move to the town easier on them because of the welcoming group of Quakers who had been in the town since the 1600’s. In fact, it was not long after their arrival that Daniel made the acquaintance of and started to work with a number of Quaker Friends (‘Friend’ being another name for someone of the Quaker community) in the town.
A family that he grew particularly close with was the Williams family, who had a timber business in Edenderry, marrying Mariette Williams in 1896, and from there, he and his brother founded what would come to be known as Alesbury Bros. Timber Company and Mills.
Alesbury Bros. became synonymous as a quality timber product manufacturer of furniture, horse and cart accessories, farming equipment and more.
In The Irish Times 1902 article, ‘Our National Industries: Marvels in Wood,’ Alesbury Bros. products were described as “the wonderful wood-works” of the Alesbury Brothers, “an enterprising and flourishing firm.” The report also described Edenderry itself as a “dreamy little town.”
According to Offaly Express Editor Justin Kelly, the Irish Times article captured the efficiency and brilliance of the factory at work, with the their reporter marvelling at the work taking place: “A huge tree trunk of ash, poplar, pine, or whichever else, comes in at one end of the factory, and comes out at the other end neatly turned and carved in so many legs and sides for chairs, tables, sofas; so many hubs for wheels; so many handles for spades, shovels, hatchets, hammers, whitewash brushes, or hockey sticks, or carriage shafts, or whatever else you care to see in the way of implements or furniture, and all this while you wait, and quicker than you can follow with your eyes.”
Kelly concludes; ‘The colourful language of the Irish Times paints the Alesbury factory like the Willy Wonka of wood-works, a wonderful spinning wheel of new timber, and an absolute hub of industry.’
The buildings standing here in the Edenderry Business Park today are not the original buildings used by the old timber factory. In 1904, a devastating fire caused the total destruction of the timber framed factory which was a great set-back to Alesbury Bros., their workers and the wider community.
Firstly, the fire was a huge financial hit on the Company as the rebuild cost in the region of £30,000, equivalent to over €4 million in today’s money.
But it didn’t end there. The re-construction, which was cast-in-situ concrete, also took substantial time and this, unfortunately, led to approximately 150 employees being stood down without any source of stable income.
One must remember that in the early 1900’s men were the primary, if not the only bread-winners, and many had a large family to support, not to mention the local retailers and Alesbury’s local business suppliers who would have also been heavily reliant on the local economy. Undoubtedly this fire would have caused widespread hardship in the area.
To Be or Not to Be Insured
Notwithstanding that this was the second fire to besiege Alesbury Bros., it was later reported and made public knowledge that Daniel Alesbury had, only months before the fire, declined the offer of insurance cover on the property. In hindsight it would have saved his Company a substantial fortune, and would have meant the continuation of the Company’s most productive and profitable era.
The Alesbury – Ireland’s First Ever Car (…made in Edenderry!)
Alesbury Bros. were widely known for being a timber factory making furniture, horse and cart accessories and farming equipment etc. however between the years 1905 and 1910 the Alesburys attempted to, not so much change their direction, but more so branch out into a different area of industry. The Automobile Industry.
Car manufacturing at the time was a complex business, but, as described by the Irish Times, the proficiency of the Alesbury factory in creating this lightweight, durable machine in 1907, kept accessibility at the heart of the car’s design.
With the exception of the engine and gearbox, a 8/10hp two-cylinder engine which was bought and shipped from Massachusetts-based Stevens-Duryea, the entire car (chassis, wheels, interior and exterior detailing, design and production) was built and assembled here on Edenderry Business Park.
The car was fitted with strong easy springs and huge rubber tyres, while the engine’s sub-frame rested on cross springs on the front axle, serving to reduce the vibration from the main frame which carried the body.
The Alesbury also exhibited specimens of wheel and bent timber work for coach and wagon building, and specimens of artillery motor wheels, complex and pioneering wood-work feats at the time.
The Alesbury made its first large public appearance at the Dublin Motor Show in 1907 to much acclaim. The Leinster Leader reported “Messrs. Alesbury Bros. are to be congratulated warmly upon the first product of their now motor-building enterprise. The first car turned out by these energetic manufacturers was exhibited at the Motor Show in Dublin during the week and received very flattering encomiums from experts and others for its appearance and excellence.”
The Alesbury ended with a short production run of 9 cars between 1907 to 1908. However, it could easily be said it is one of the things that put Edenderry on the International map!
* Co. Offaly was known as Kings County up to 1920
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article, the first of a series about the site and the businesses here. Our next article will cover the demise of the Alesbury Bros. business, and the impact it had on Edenderry.
We hope you've enjoyed reading about the history of the - if you'd like to hear about our next post about what happened after the Alesbury Bros. collapse, remember to join our newsletter, or ‘Like’ our Facebook page so we can let you know when the next instalment is published – we appreciate your support!
Lastly, please do reach out to us if you are in need of a desk, office space, meeting room, event space, or even just a business address – we’re here to support remote workers, freelancers, entrepreneurs, start-ups and local business around Edenderry – our phone number is 046 955 3444 and email email@example.com
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