For centuries weaving was an industry synonymous with The Liberties. The development of the area in the 17th century as essentially an industrial suburb of the City of Dublin, led to the growth of crafts such as weaving, (and its altogether filthier cousin) tanning, smithwork and brewing and distilling. In the late 1600s, French Huguenots established in Dublin and many set up in the-then Earl of Meath’s Liberty, drawn in by the strong commercial and mercantile vibe of the area. Many of them were experienced silk weavers and their expertise contributed to the establishment of a thriving silk and poplin industry in the city.
The Guild of Weavers established its guildhall on The Coombe in 1682 and by 1745, had built a more magnificent premises, funded by the great Georgian banker David Digges La Touche. The woollen, silk and poplin industries in Dublin flourished – but not for long. Jealousy among English manufacturers caused laws to be introduced in the late 18th century to limit the export of woollen cloth from Ireland. A similar situation arose with the silk industry, as markets in the Far East were opened.
The industry waned in Dublin, and became more associated with Belfast and Lisburn. Nevertheless many producers continued right into the 20th century and up until the 1960s. Few of the original powerhouse producers continue to this day.
Which makes Botany Weavers on Cork Street something of a lone survivor. Established in 1934, Botany Weaving Mill was originally a producer of traditional tweed apparel. In the early 1990s the company switched its focus to the airline and transportation sector and is now one of the most respected producers of fabrics for aircraft seats and carpets. It employs over 130 people across three manufacturing facilities in Ireland, including Cork Street and remains family owned to this day. Each year the firm produces over 1 million metres of seat and curtain fabric and weaves 1 million metres of carpet. If you fly an Airbus plane, then there’s a 50% chance that you’ll be sitting in a Liberties-produced seat.
The Cork Street factory is current undergoing refurbishment – the company’s own welcome contribution to the renewal of the area – but not many would know the hive of activity that happens behind its simple brick facade. Sending Liberties-made products to every corner of the globe.
More information on Botany Weaving at www.botanyweaving.com
Meanwhile, if you would like a short history of weaving in The Liberties, the Irish Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers has some great background and information.