It is over 100 years since Barlow Tyrie started as a specialist manufacturer of teak wood outdoor furniture. We are known and respected worldwide, having progressed from humble beginnings in an East London stable, to be the oldest remaining manufacturer of this very traditional English product.
Here is our story
Victor Tyrie joined the Royal Marines as a drummer boy in 1912, aged 14 years. This studio photograph was taken just before he deployed to the Western Front in 1917. Victor was eventually invalided from the service in 1919 following the loss of his left thumb, still clearly evident here.
In 1919 following service in the First World War, Victor Tyrie and Frederick Barlow were employed by The Castles Shipbreaking Company on a government subsidized training scheme making outdoor furniture from Teak, which was sourced from the breaking of old timber ships, the foundation of the teak outdoor furniture industry. This employment ceased when the subsidy finished after one year. Further interesting information is available on the Castles Shipbreaking website, in particular chapter 8.
In 1920 Victor and Frederick together with a few others started their own business in London, initially in Walthamstow and shortly afterwards moving to a small horse stable no longer required behind a terrace of Victorian houses in Leytonstone.
In the early years our outdoor furniture was made almost entirely by hand with the only machine being a saw-bench we made ourselves from an electric motor, steel shaft, bearings and with a wooden table. Production, including planing the teak and cutting the mortice and tenon joints was all performed using hand tools and it took the most efficient worker at least a full day to make one teak seat.
The business prospered based on a quickly earned reputation for quality and value. The following pages from our catalogue in the 1920s shows the Rothesay and London design seats that we still make today. The retail prices shown evidences the inflation since that time of more than 200 times.
Being handmade, it was easy to produce special items that enhanced our reputation for craftsmanship and quality. An example is the special memorial seat shown below, based on the Norman design seat shown on the second catalogue page above. This seat was in memory of Evelyn Paget Graves, a member of The Royal Flying Corps, precursor to the RAF, who was killed during combat in 1917.
We have supplied special seats to many memorial sites that include Hiroshima, The Falkland Islands and Dunblane in Scotland. A memorial seat combines a dedicated tribute with the advantage of somewhere to sit in contemplation.
On the outbreak of The Second World War we ceased making outdoor furniture and Victor Tyrie together with other employees too old for active service worked on the repair of London bomb damage and the installation of blackout in public buildings.
A few years after the war when the supply of timber came off licence, we resumed production, initially using home grown timber to produce rustic outdoor furniture.
As soon as teak became available again we reverted to our tradition of using only the best and produced in teak for supply to the fashionable and exclusive London stores at that time, which included Harrods, Maples, Heals and the Army & Navy Stores together with many other outlets across the country.
Barlow Tyrie & Co. was incorporated as a limited company and in 1959 Frederick Barlow died. Victor Tyrie retired in 1968 and died in 1985 aged 88 years.
Victor’s son Peter Tyrie, then aged 22, joined the Company and a year later took over its management following his father’s retirement.
We moved from Leytonstone where we had been for nearly 50 years to the old market town of Braintree in Essex. This move benefited from a scheme run by The Greater London Council in several designated Expanding Towns that included Braintree. The scheme provided housing for residents of London prepared to move from areas being redeveloped at that time and included three of our employees.
We started to distribute our products to the European market with the following leading retail and mail order companies, Van Valderen in Holland, Tectona in France, Garpa in Germany and Teklassic in Spain. Although these companies are no longer our distributors, they still occupy a leading position in their national markets and copies of our products can still be found in their ranges.
We moved to a new and larger factory in Braintree to enable us to expand our production and we enlarged this factory further to 90,000 sq.ft. in 1991.
The Company opened an office and warehouse in the USA to serve its increasingly important market in North America.
We opened a factory on the island of Java in response to a decision by the Indonesian government to stop the export of Teak, which we started to source from there in the early 1980s when the supply of Teak from Burma, the traditional source, became unreliable. Following purchase, we redeveloped the factory and expanded it over several years with the addition of a sawmill and kilns to approximately 300,000 sq.ft. in area.
Peter’s two sons Mark and James joined the Company and hold positions today in product design and management. James is increasingly taking responsibility from his father who now works part time.
We added to our exclusive, traditional production in Teak with outdoor furniture made from Weave, Stainless Steel and Aluminium in response to the rapidly increasing cost of Teak and the consequent changing fashion in outdoor furniture.