Mill Road Ironworks - Wexford Guide and Directory, 1885

About “Wexford County Guide and Directory,” 1885

George Henry Bassett produced 7 Irish county directories in the 1880s: Antrim, Armagh, Down, Kilkenny, Louth, Tipperary and Wexford. Each provides useful history of the respective counties as well as lists of office holders, farmers, traders, and other residents of the individual cities, towns and villages.

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The directories are naturally an invaluable resource for those tracing family history. However, there are a few points to bear in mind.

  1. This online version of Bassett’s Wexford County Guide and Directory is designed primarily as a genealogical research tool and therefore the numerous advertisements in the original book, many full page, and quite a few illustrated, have been excluded.
  2. The text has been proofed with due care, but with large bodies of text typographical errors are inevitably bound to occur.
  3. Be aware that there were often inconsistencies in spelling surnames in the 19th century and also that many forenames are abbreviated in Bassett’s directories.

With respect to the last point, surnames which today begin with the “Mc” prefix, for example, were often formerly spelt as “M‘,”. For a list of some of the more common forename abbreviations used in the directory, see Forename Abbreviations.

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IN a county in which, proportionately to extent and population, there are so few manufactures, an excess of interest is acquired by an industry like that of Messrs. Philip Pierce & Co. The existence of the Mill Road Iron Works, Wexford, has been known for many years all over Ireland, but its merits were not fully understood until critical judgment at the Dublin and Cork Exhibitions united in the opinion that they should receive the recognition attaching to the award of gold medals.

At the Cork Exhibition of 1883 my first acquaintance was made with the agricultural machinery manufactured by Messrs. Philip Pierce & Co. I was very favourably impressed by the lightness, style, and finish displayed, but I did not associate with these evidences of skill, taste, and discernment, a factory covering acres of ground, machine-shops containing the newest inventions, and 130 hands at work.

On the occasion of my first visit to Wexford, at the end of June, 1884, I was afforded an opportunity of seeing the works, in company with Mr. Philip Pierce, upon whom, with his brother Martin, devolves the active management. And now, for the sake of the reader, I had better mention that the leading manufactures of Messrs. Philip Pierce & Co., are mowers and reapers, horse power and steam power threshing machines, churning machines, horse rakes, and turnip and mangold seed sowers. As the principal parts of such machinery take shape primarily at the foundry, I began to make notes there. The buildings which enclose it are 56 by 100 feet. They are constructed of stone, and have brick facings. Three years ago these buildings were made two-thirds larger than they originally were. The most improved moulding machinery, fitted for steam power, is used, and there are two blast furnaces of very considerable capacity.

Next in order to the foundry is the fettling shed. Here the castings are taken in the rough, and placed, for the purpose of cleaning, in a revolving cylinder, after which they are trimmed by emery wheels driven by steaM.

From the fettling shed the castings are removed to a large store, capable of holding 150 tons. Each kind is carefully placed by itself, so that at a glance it may be seen where renewal of stock is most needed. An idea of the number of castings required for the successful operation of such a factory as that of Messrs. Philip Pierce & Co., may be formed when I mention that in this store there were from 600 to 700 varieties.

Following in the regular order of progress toward the completion of the perfect machine, an uncovered space of several hundred feet had to be passed between the castings store and the fitting shop. This was nearly all occupied with piles of the larger castings, including thousands of mowing machine wheels.

The turnery is the most interesting part of the works. Here are the contrivances of mechanical ingenuity which shape the products of the foundry to the exact sizes required for accurate machine building. It is about 150 feet in length, and has nine sliding lathes, six vertical and horizontal drilling machines, slotting and recessing machines, and punching and shearing machines. Over 200 pulleys were in motion, and certainly not less than 2,000 feet of belting. It took only a casual glance to understand that no expense had been spared in the equipment, and I was not at all unprepared to hear from Mr. Pierce that many valuable improvements in the machinery had been made by himself.

In the erecting shop, which is 80 by 120 feet, the various parts of the machines are put together. In this department the rules are displayed, which apply to all the workmen. They are simple and reasonable, yet full of the force which suggests order and good government. The hours of labour are from six to six, from Monday to Friday, and on Saturday from six o’clock to three. A tramway runs from the erecting shop to the machine store, which is 60 by 120 feet, and is large enough to easily hold from 500 to 600 mowing machines, and 200 threshing machines. In this house there was ample evidence of good taste in finish, and of durability in construction of the various machines. Next to the machine store is the iron store, a building 80 by 40 feet. In this was arranged, with the precision noticeable in every other department, the immense stock of bar, scrap, and pig, necessary for the supply of such extensive operations.

The grounds belonging to the Mill Road Iron Works consist of 4½ acres, and these are largely covered by buildings. One of the open spaces seen from a distance, is so occupied by horse-rakes as to suggest a regiment of soldiers with fixed bayonets.

Not the least important of the divisions of the concerns, which are so admirably calculated, is the part store. This is 80 by 25 feet, and has sections of bins running from floor to ceiling, in which are kept the wearing parts of machines. During the last six years the development of this industry as a whole necessitated an outlay of between £4,000 and £5,000 on new buildings, among which are handsome offices.

There are no special centres for the distribution of the agricultural machinery manufactured by Messrs. Philip Pierce & Co. It is shipped to agents and merchants in every town in Ireland, and latterly has found its way to England and Wales. The Mill Road Iron Works are favourably situated within the borough boundary, have the advantage of a most perfect drainage system, and are at a distance of one-sixth of a mile from the Quay.

The history of the industry which has grown to such proportions is exceedingly interesting, showing as it does what may be done in Ireland when merit is solely relied upon for success. James Pierce, father of the brothers Philip and Martin, who are the active managers of the Mill Road Iron Works, was a native of Kilmore, in the Barony of Bargy. Nearly fifty years ago he removed to Wexford, where his mechanical ingenuity soon attracted public attention. Among his first undertakings of note was the erection of a large conservatory for Sir James Power, Bart. He worked from the plans of Turner, a celebrated Irish engineer, and executed the contract so skilfully and carefully that many orders for similar constructions followed. In the number of his patrons were included Capt. P. M. Harvey, Lonsdale, and P. Breen, Esq., Castlebridge.

In the meantime, Mr. Pierce had given attention to hand-threshing machines, and had turned out a considerable number, when one day, as he walked along the Quay of Wexford, he saw an English horse-threshing machine that had just been discharged from a vessel. Its presence suggested the need of a machine of a similar nature, better adapted to Irish farming. He set about the construction of one, and it is worthy of remark that the improvements he invented were afterwards appropriated by the English firm whose machine he had met upon the Quay.

It was about the year 1846 when he began the manufacture of horse-threshing machines, and they became so popular that he was obliged to take premises in Allen Street. Increased demand soon compelled him to seek larger premises, and he moved to the Folly Mills, attached to which there was a malt-house. In the latter he set up a forge and fitting shop, and the former he used for storage purposes. In these premises, then considered very extensive for Wexford, he bent his best energies to the improvement and development of the ideas of his youth and manhood. Sticking to the threshing machines, he effected improvement upon improvement until his name became well-known throughout the Counties of Carlow, Tipperary, and Limerick.

Branching out from this style of work in 1856, he entered into a contract for the erection of the magnificent bridge, of wood and iron, now spanning the mouth of the Slaney, and connecting the eastern and western portions of the county. The bridge is more than a quarter of a mile in length, and is remarkable for firmness and scientific construction. It is the principal promenade of the people of Wexford, who were quick to take advantage of the invigorating breezes which are wafted to it, either from the harbour, at one side, or from the wooded slopes of Saunderscourt, at the other. The engine by which the foundation piles were driven was designed and made on the premises. Mr. Pierce died in 1868.

Mr. Philip Pierce commenced in 1866 to be associated with his father in the management of the concerns which ultimately spread beyond the limits of the Folly Mill and Malt-house, and became the Mill Road Iron Works of the present day. He inherited his father’s inventive genius, and devoted a great portion of his time to the study of general agricultural machinery, making a speciality of mowing machines. After repeated experiments, always hampered by the difficulties which beset the path of invention where other minds are not working in a similar groove, he at last secured a distinctive place among the great manufacturers, and succeeded in gaining the respect of his opponents in other countries, as well as the confidence and support of the Irish farmers. The gold medal for general excellence in agricultural machinery was awarded to Messrs. Philip Pierce & Co., at the Dublin Exhibition of 1882. Three highest prize medals—the maximum number—were awarded at the Cork Exhibition of 1883, and honorable mention has been made at the various Agricultural Shows in Ireland.

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