It all started when…
Newbridge was a garrison town Newbridge Silverware, originally known as the Newbridge Cutlery Company was founded in 1934 and is one of Ireland’s oldest surviving companies.
Newbridge was once a Garrison Town. In 1853, with the outbreak of the Crimean War, the British Army had an urgent need for greater training facilities. A barracks was established in Newbridge to train soldiers and war horses for overseas activity.
War horses and soldiers were sent from Newbridge to fight in the Crimean and Boer wars as well as World War 1. The presence of the barracks created a strong local economy in Newbridge. The Barracks provided employment for local craftsmen as there was a need for Wheelwrights, Blacksmiths, Farriers and Saddle makers. In 1922, after the formation of the Irish Free State, British Forces withdrew from Newbridge and the Barracks lay idle for 12 years. Newbridge became an economic black spot, which led to mass emigration and great poverty. Local craftsmen were redundant.
In 1933, a local Politian, Senator Cummins formed a committee to consider opportunities to create industrial activity in the vacant Barracks. He had the foresight to see that the old buildings, metal working tools and furnaces could be used to make cutlery and general tableware. Senator Cummins made his way to Sheffield, home of the world’s largest cutlery industry. He encouraged 5 craftsmen and their families to re-locate to Ireland and to transfer knowledge to local workers.
Early days of Newbridge Cutlery
In 1934, Cummins succeeded in raising necessary funding from the State and prominent businessmen. A portion of the old army barracks was allocated to the business, old furnaces and machinery were renovated, and 25 local craftsmen were retrained as cutlers.
Notable Irish Businessmen and politicians made up the first board of directors. They included Joseph McGrath, the first Minister for Industry and Commerce. McGrath was a close ally of Michael Collins and he was a member of the team which negotiated with the British Government to secure Ireland’s independence. William Norton, the first leader of the Irish Labour Party was also a director. By the 1940s The Newbridge Cutlery Company employed over 600 people. It produced quality tableware for domestic and catering use. The Irish government protected and encouraged the business to grow by imposing duties and quotas on imported competitor products. The company was at the brink of closure many times during its history but somehow managed to survive through innovation and ingenuity. During the Second World War, when raw materials were scarce, the company relied on recycled old Dublin tram tracks to stay in business.
In 1973, Ireland joined the EEC. The Irish Government could no longer control the importation of certain products. This led to serious international competition from other countries including Japan and Sheffield. Newbridge Cutlery was severely threatened by this turn of events and was on the verge of closure.
A group of local businessmen pooled their resources and bought the company. Dominic Doyle, father of Newbridge Silverware’s current CEO, William Doyle, was one of those businessmen. The new owners decided to focus on the upper end of the tableware market, manufacturing quality silver-plated and sterling silver tableware only. The new direction proved to be a success and the company once again prospered for a time. Dominic Doyle bought out the other business men and became Managing Director in 1978. William Doyle took the helm in the late 1980s.
In 1993, the company was faced with another crisis. Style preferences changed and consumers were less interested in formal dining. Newbridge Cutlery’s products were now seen to be old fashioned and demand fell to the point where the company was once again about to close. There was a need to for a dramatic change. Through research and development a discovery was made. The craftsmen could make jewellery. They had the skills and the equipment was available. Scrap material left over from manufacturing tableware could be recycled into jewellery. They experimented but had no initial success. Then by chance, an Irish TV presenter, Barbara McMahon learned about the company’s attempt to break into the jewellery business. She told the story on her fashion show “Head2Toe”, which had a huge viewership at the time. The publicity made the difference and Newbridge Silverware was born.
Cutting edge design and acclaimed photo shoots with supermodels such as Sophie Dahl, Yasmin le Bon and Naomi Campbell, enhanced the company’s brand image. Another milestone for the company was the opening of the Museum of Style Icons in 2007, which now houses one of the world's greatest collections of style, fashion and popular culture artefacts.
Newbridge Silverware is now associated with many famous names including Princess Charlene of Monaco, Maureen O’Hara, Bill and Hillary Clinton and many more. The Queen of England used the company’s Celtic pattern tableware when she dined at Dublin Castle during her historic first visit to Ireland in 2011. Joan Collins sought rose gold plated Newbridge Silverware tableware for her daughter on the occasion of her marriage.