Clothing: Smyth's of Balbriggan

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  • Life in Fingal in the Past

Balbriggan is a small seaside town about 30 kilometres north of Dublin city centre. At the turn of the last century, the town was known far and wide. In fact, Balbriggan was famous for its textile products.

Smyth & Co. was founded in 1780 by Baron Hamilton. At that time, there were already many people in Balbriggan and the surrounding areas involved in producing fine silk stockings. It was a cottage industry and kept Dublin's wealthy supplied with expensive stockings.

Smyth & Co.'s reputation began to grow. The company used up-to-date machines to make the best possible stockings. Soon the smaller manufacturers could not compete. Their skilled workers were taken on by Smyth & Co.

By the early 1800's, Smyth & Co.'s stockings were known all over the world. During the nineteenth century, at exhibitions in cities like London, Paris and Vienna, Smyth & Co. won the top prizes for hosiery.

So well regarded were the products that came out of the town that the word 'balbriggan' can be found in the dictionary. It describes a type of knitted fabric used to make stockings and underwear. Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1834 until 1901, wore Smyth & Co. stockings.