David Coton was recently invited to the exclusive launch of Grange's new products for 2018, the result of significant investment that the garden structures and fencing firm have received from their Polish parent company.
Barlow Tyrie are now known throughout the world as designers and manufacturers of high quality garden furniture made from top grade teak. They are still a family firm, run by direct descendants of the company's founder and have a fascinating history.
Like many ex-servicemen returning from the Great War in 1918, Victor Tyrie found a very different world to 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 gaden 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.
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 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.
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 '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 are 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 understand 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.
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