Drogheda Independent

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Grendons Foundry on South Quay

The first industry of yesteryear on the South Quay was the ironworks of Grendons Foundry, at the end of the now demolished Graves Lane (1982). It was a very prosperous and successful firm which might reasonably be said to produce everything from a needle to an anchor.Thomas Grendons Foundry and Engineering Works was established in 1835 on the South Quay, the Irish Times in December 1921 in an article says: In 1845 when the first locomotive was built by Messrs Grendon and Company, and up to 1885, the Drogheda Foundry was one of the most famed of its kind in the Three Kingdoms, employing between 600 and 700 workers, turning out

On June 22, 1885, a railway engine was shipped from Drogheda on the ‘Leinster Lass’ to Liverpool, bound for transhipping, for a railway in Brazil.

It was one of the only Irish steam locomotives ever built for export and was one of the many built by Grendon’s Foundry for service on Irish railways.

The firm specialised in bridge building and one of these, in wrought iron, spans the Boyne at Oldbridge (the Obelisk Bridge 1869), with the Grendon name inscribed on the bridge parapet. Dominic’s Bridge (1863) was also by Grendon, as were many canal bridges and others sited as far away as Malta.

Other examples of their work may still be seen around town clearly inscribed ‘Thomas Grendon and Sons 1870’, such as street drainage gratings in Magdalene Street, Fair Street and Bolton Square, which had a cattle weighbridge erected for the Corporation by the foundry, while a large water tank at Drogheda Railway Station prominently displays the firm’s name.

Four iron inscribed bollards at the top of Catherine’s Step were never replaced after the steps’ restoration and are accepted as lost.

Mr St George Smith, a partner in Grendons, had a shipyard near the foundry and it was here in 1878 that he built and launched the ‘Mouse’, broadside into the river.

Built from a specific design, its registered tonnage was 60, with a length of 70ft; breadth 16ft and depth of hold 7 ft, and was schooner rigged.

The character of the ‘Mouse’ stated after inspection that her hull, decks, rigging spars, sails, anchors and chains to be a first vessel, fit to carry dry and perishable cargo, for a period of 20 years from the date of launching.

After Grendon the foundry passed to a Scotsman named McCoy, who had risen from the ranks of the workmen, to become foreman, and later the industry declined, it was claimed ‘owing to increased foreign competition’ and it was forced to close. The brochure for the subsequent auction, which attracted buyers from all over the British Isles, indicated the wide range of the firm’s activities.

In 1914 the foundry reopened as the Drogheda Ironworks under Telfer and Taylor, and an extraordinary amount of lighter goods were produced, such as the ‘Congress Range’ (1932) and then during World War Two, the ‘Taylor Turf Range’: window sash weights, farm implement parts, manhole covers, street lamp standards, garden seats and wheels for hay slides. An unusual item was a four pound weight used in cinema tip-up seats, which caused the seat to snap back in position when the sitter stood up. Up until the foundry again closed in 1970 it gave employment to about 70 men.

In 1883 John Brennan, Donore Road, signed an indenture (a contract which binds an apprentice to master) as a boiler maker in the foundry, for a full term of seven years.

The conditions of his apprenticeship may sound quaint today: ‘During the term he shall serve his masters faithfully, keeping their secrets, their lawful commands everywhere gladly do. He shall not waste the goods of his master, nor give or lend them unlawfully to any. He shall not commit fornication or contract matrimony within the said term. Hurt to his masters he shall not do.

‘He shall not play cards, dice, tables or any other unlawful games. Without licence he shall neither buy or sell. He shall not haunt or use taverns, ale-houses, or play-houses, nor absent himself from his master’s service day or night unlawfully, but in all things as an honest and faithful apprentice, he shall behave himself.’

He was to start at 3 shillings per week rising each year to 10 shillings on completion of the seven years, for more or less than sixty hours per week. On the back of the indenture is in handwriting: ‘25th September 1890. John Brennan has served his time to us as boiler maker. During his apprenticeship he conducted himself to our entire satisfaction. Per Thos Grendon and Co, Alex Wilson.’

Next week: Cairnes Brewery