Reads, Cutlers Sword and Instrument makers since 1670 at No 4 Parliament Street and No 3 Crane Lane are being restored.
Reads is the home of Ireland’s oldest shop and one of Europe’s oldest brands with a unique Irish family history. Its location at No 4 Parliament Street was built by John Read in 1764, the site having been purchased from the Wide Streets commission for the princely sum of £750 16s 8d. The new house backed onto Read’s previous workshop at No 3 Crane Lane.
In 1753, following the plans of the Wide Streets Commission, Essex Bridge over the river Liffey was widened from one lane to two and (heading south) the block of buildings that effectively stood in the way was cut through to form a new street linking Essex Bridge to Dame Street and directly to Dublin Castle. This was the new Parliament Street, resembling a wide, chic London Street this presumably encouraged business further.
The two buildings have remained largely untouched down through the years. The shop retains its original 18th century fittings, including wall glazed display units, counters, and a cashier’s enclosure. The mahogany display cabinets have survived with their elaborate swan neck pediments and delicately glazed tracery doors. Reads Cutlers represents a tradition of craftsmanship in Dublin, not only in terms of the almost perfectly intact 1760s shop and domestic interiors, but Reads Shop and House represent the almost unique survival of 18th century architecture incorporating a house and shop in these islands.
Remaining in the Read family until 1990’s it then lay neglected and closed for almost 20 years until the private purchase of the building in late 2011. The buildings, fittings and contents are presently being conserved and restored with the roof of No 4 Parliament Street already fully repaired and the exterior and interior of No 3 Crane Lane nearing completion. Of equal importance are the contents and the rich family history and this detail continues to be assembled and assessed including the following:
· The appointment of a world renowned author to investigate and write on the history of the Read family, their business interests and the shop itself, which is now completed,
· A senior archivist was appointed to archive thousands of the products and materials found within the building which now complete,
· All works to date including the archiving have been photographed and filmed for future publication which is ongoing,