17th Century Brewery
William Read would not have sold someone else’s ale but would have brewed it himself, as many households did, as it was safer to drink than water. William’ Reads involvement in beer-selling, the first known in the family, has generally been overlooked, but it was also a social turning point, the first sign that the Reads wanted to become involved in a non-farming income.
The Read family, like their cousins the Guinness’s and West’s (the Goldsmiths) were an upwardly mobile family making a name for themselves in the developing commercial opportunities of the times. With William’s hard earned money the Reads began as a small enterprise when in 1670 James Read purchased a knife and sword-making shop, complete with forge, in Blind Quay, Dublin (now re-named Lower Exchange. Its present 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.
The 18th century saw the establishment and rise of the Read family’s cutlery-making businesses, complete with its forge in Blind Quay (near to the Grattan Bridge) and how it would be acquired by James Read in 1719, flourish, pass onto (nephew) John Read 1, and move to 3 Crane Lane c. 1762. In 1764 it would expand through to the frontage in Parliament Street, as this was widened mid-century by the Wide Streets Commission and became a more fashionable address leading to the splitting of the business even into College Green and Portsmouth in the UK towards the end of the century. In 1749 Thomas Read was elected into the St Luke’s Guild that comprised several other trades and when John Read 1 died in 1776 and his second son, Thomas, took over the business to great acclaim, especially between the years 1776 and 1808 when he (latterly) became Read & Co.
Reads Cutlers originally manufactured knives, razors, cutlery, swords, corkscrews and surgical instruments. It has the distinction of being Dublin’s oldest shop, one of Europe’s oldest brands and is reputed to be the oldest cutlers in the world; the two buildings have remained largely untouched down through the years.
1670 Supposed start of Read family cutlery business in Blind Quay and the year of the formation of the Cutlers’ Guild as part of the Guild of St Luke the Evangelist of Dublin (Chas II. 4thOctober 1670 until its disestablishment by Act of Parliament in 1841). It was also the year (maybe or 1673) that the unknown cutler, for whom James Read worked, started trading as a working cutler.
1670/1673 Presumed start of (unknown) cutlery business in Blind Quay to be taken over by James Read in c. 1720-173? presumably funded from his earnings/savings and his Father’s farming and beer businesses
c.1695 -1700 Presumed birth year of James Read (possibly 1698 as he would have been 14 in 1712 and of the correct ‘apprenticeship’ age.
1712 James Read journeyed from Oughterard, Co. Kildare sponsored (presumably) on the success of his parents’ small beer business. He becomes apprenticed to James Fox, Dublin Cutler in xxxx (??) Street (tbc).
1714 Michael Read (not listed on Read pedigree) becomes freeman of Dublin Goldsmiths’ Guild.
c. 1716 James Read qualifies as a cutler on completion of his apprenticeship (Guinness interview).
1717 James Read’s nephew (William Read 3’s second son) John Read 1 born.
1719 James Read elected as member (freeman) of Cutler’s Guild of St Luke the Evangelist. The Cutlers’ Hall in nearby Capel Street.
c. 1720-1730 James Read takes over the existing cutlery business (since 1670/1673) where he has been working for some years, in Blind Quay (now Lower Exchange Street) most likely following his employer’s demise at that time and his widow wanting to sell. He would presumably have managed this purchase on his combined (small) earnings with savings from his fathers’ businesses. He begins trading as (presumably) James Read Cutler.
1726 William Read 3’s third son and younger brother to John Read 1, Edward Read born.
1735 – 38 James Read elected as City Common Councillor. Warden of Cutlers’ Guild in 1735.
1743 Edward Read elected as Cutlers’ Guild member (at age of 17).
1744 James Read dies and business passes to John Read 1.
1749 Thomas Read elected to Cutlers’ Guild. John Read 1 elected as warden of the guild.
1750 Thomas Reed (sic) 1 baptized on 27th of May, presumed to have died in infancy.
1752 John Read 2 baptized at St Werburgh’s Church to John Read 1 and Ann (nee) Hall.
1753 John Read 1 elected to Cutlers’ Guild.
1754 William Read 4 born to Edward Read but did not follow into cutlery trade.
1754 Thomas Read 2 baptized on 7th of July.
c. 1760 John Read 1 purchases 2 Crane Lane and moves business to this premises.
c. 1760- 1762 Edward Read sets up his cutlery business in 11 Skinner Row (yet he was a Guild member c. 17 years earlier).
1762 Read family businesses now well established and acknowledged for the quality of their cutlery products.
1764 John Read 1’s business expanding and he purchases the frontage to the Crane Lane premises for £750 16/8d from the Wide Streets Commission – 4 Parliament Street.
1767 John Read 1 opens Parliament Street shop. Edward Read becomes Master of the Guild and John Read 1 is commissioned by the Guild of St. Luke to report into its own rules and bye-laws, the first since it’s foundation by Royal Chapter. The person entrusted with the task was John Read, who was widely praised and respected for his efforts to ensure that high standards of practice and excellence remained at the heart of the Dublin Cutlery trade.
1776 Both John Read 1 and Edward Read die. Thomas Read 2 inherits the Parliament Street business. Presumably both he and his brother John 2, work at these premises together.
1790 William Read 5 born to John Read 2.
c. 1790 John Read 2 opens more prestigious premises in 8 College Green and was well established at time of uprising (1797) as a sword and surgical instrument cutler. Thomas Read 2 diversifies production further – razors and corkscrews. Both Read businesses (as sword cutlers) supplying army, navy and nobility with high-quality weaponry.
1792 John Read 2 moves to his Uncle Edward’s premises in Skinner Row following death of his Aunt Esther (John Read 1’s wife).
1796 Thomas Read 3 baptized to parents Thomas Read 2 and Sophia.
1798 John Read 2 becomes Master of the guild. Year of the Uprising.
1803 John Read 2 dies and (presumably) leaves College Green premises to John 3 his son (born or was he born to Thomas Read ??) William 5 = 12-13 years old.
1808 Thomas Read becomes Thomas Read & Co.
1810 John Read 3 listed as sword cutler at College Green. Thomas Read ditto at Parliament Street.
1813 Ditto but Thomas now listed as surgical instrument manufacturer in addition to knife and sword cutler.
1817 Ditto but John now elevated to High Sheriff knife and sword cutler.
1818 John now Sheriff peer knife, sword cutler and SIM, Thomas as before.
1819 Idem but John now listed as John and Sons.
1821 Idem but now Thomas Read granted Royal Charter to supply cutlery and surgical instruments to the Royal Household and to his Majesty’s forces in Ireland.
1841 Thomas takes on John Millikin as partner.
1847 Thomas Read now cutlers to Lord Lieutenant of Ireland with Millikin and Millikin opens showrooms in prestigious Grafton Street but as Milliken (may be printing error).