Like many ex-servicemen returning from the Great War in 1918, Victor Tyrie found a very different world from the one he left when joining up. Millions of men returning home discovered that finding a job and forging a career was a difficult task following the upheaval of the previous four years.

So he took advantage of a government-sponsored training programme in cabinet making and then joined Castles Shipbreakers. Joining a ship-breaking company may seem unusual but at the time they were making a good business out of manufacturing garden furniture from teak rescued from battleships. 

As a very dense, stable wood, full of natural oils that prevent rot, teak was used extensively by boat builders and Castles were one of the first companies to realise its potential for domestic use. 

When Tyrie met Barlow

During the year he worked there, Tyrie met Frederick Barlow and they decided, with two other ex-servicemen, to set up their own company manufacturing various products.

After their two partners left in 1920, Tyrie and Barlow concentrated on making good quality teak garden furniture for general retail and councils. Based in Leytonstone, east London, one of their most famous products was the 'London Bench', a design that has become the iconic seat found in public parks even today.

Frederick Barlow died in 1959 and in 1968, when Victor Tyrie retired, his son Peter became Managing Director. He was an accountant, only 24 years old, but despite his youth and inexperience would transform the firm into an international group with companies on three continents.

The only way is Essex

The sixties was a decade of exciting change everywhere you looked. Certainly, Barlow Tyrie were moving with the times when, to increase production, they relocated to the post-war new town of Basildon in Essex. 

Peter Tyrie was then quick to see the market potential in North America and started to distribute products from Pennsylvania in the 1980s.

Just over the horizon though there was a problem looming. Indonesia, the source of their teak, banned exports of rough sawn timber. The company was quick to respond to this challenge, setting up a manufacturing facility in Java, where most of the furniture is made today.

Third generation

Continuing the family tradition there is now a third-generation taking the company forward with Peter's sons, James and Mark, on the board specialising in sales and design.

Mark is keen to emphasize Barlow Tyrie's environmental accountability, he says

'We adhere to the EU FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) action plan that aims to halt illegal logging that has such detremental environmental and social effects. To have truly green credentials a company has to prove that it can track the movement of stock through all the production processes to the finished product. This process is called the chain of custody. Barlow Tyrie was one of the first 100 companies to commit to this standard.'

Fast approaching its 100th birthday, Barlow Tyrie is already the oldest manufacturers of teak garden furniture in the world. They regularly win awards and their brand represents the highest standard of quality and service.

One of the greatest advantages of a family firm is continuity. The new generation understands the culture of Barlow Tyrie but will bring their own innovative ways of working, driving the company forward using contemporary ideas, new materials and cutting edge design.