The historic Abercorn factory was first built in 1880 by two Scotsmen James Stewart and Arthur McDonald. They had the bricks shipped from Scotland to Derry. Four ships were chartered to bring the bricks into Derry. They were called "The Joseph", "The Hope", "The Furness Bus" and "The Countess of Morley".
The canal basin in Strabane was very convenient to the site of the new factory, so much so that the builders labourers were able to wheel the bricks to the builders in iron barrows.
The building of the new Abercorn Factory progressed rapidly and by April 1885 machines were installed. (One of these machines can still be found in the factory today).
The Abercorn factory's first manager, also a Scot was Mr. James Gourley, and his residence was built behind the new factory. It is known to this day as Gourleville.
There were 16 cottages built alongside the Abercorn, called 'factory row', and these were occupied by skilled or key workers. These houses were what was known as tied cottages. The occupants were not allowed to work anywhere else while living in them.
Mr Gourley recruited some skilled workers from Derry and Strabane and at the same time employed a large force of learners, who were paid the considerable sum of 3 shillings per week of six full days. When less than a decade had passed these young girls were themselves skilled workers and so Mr. Gourley took on more learners.
The Abercorn Factory was now producing shirts and collars for the wide market of the Gay 1890's. A young local man by the name of Paul Gallagher was serving his time in the factory about this time. He proved himself to be a very conscientious worker and he became manager about the turn of the century.
Mr Gallagher married a Castlederg lady, Miss U. Egan, and formed a company which took over the Abercorn factory, trading under the names of Gallagher and Egan and Co. (1901) Shirt and under-clothing manufacturers.
This company made an addition to the factory. It started the production of hand-made and hand embroidered under clothing. The bulk of this specialised work was undertaken by women in their own houses throughout the town of Strabane and it's neighbouring villages as far as Donemana and Glenmornan. (Interestingly our production director John Quigley has proudly lived in the village of Donemana all his life). Many women walked nine to ten miles for this work and to return the finished products.
Over 100 years has now passed and Grosvenor Shirts are still producing specialised work in the Abercorn Factory. The unique designs in our Signature and Designer collections require skilled techniques to produce specialised garments of the highest quality.
The Abercorn Factory had by now acquired contracts for the supply of shirts to government departments, thus enabling them to have added to their trade advertisement’s contractors to His Majesty King Edward vii's Government.
The factory continued to employ large numbers of women and some men and with part time and home workers there were upwards of 250 workers. In 1922 after the introduction of the Irish Free State, and the six counties of Northern Ireland under a parliament in Stormont, the business was removed to Lifford and the Abercorn factory was vacant for a time. The Army took over the building in 1940 and occupied it for the remainder of World War Two.
Mr.Jack Sweeney owned the Abercorn factory for a short time until it was bought by Mr. H. G. Porter in 1943. His father Mr. Hugh W. Porter was established in the shirt industry in Derry since 1907. The Abercorn factory was now known as Porter and Company and for a number of years specialised in making men's and boy's pyjamas, which were sold to outlets in the United Kingdom, Scandinavian countries and the Middle East.
The decline of the textile industry did not deter Porters happy workforce of 100 employees working full time in the intimacy of a family business. The Porter family ran the company for 55 years, the longest of all the Abercorn factory's occupants. However with the insurgence of clothing manufacturing being produced in the far east Porter closed its doors in January 1998.
In Early March 1999 Mr. Karl Dunkley and Mr. John Quigley launched a new brand called Grosvenor Shirts and proudly took over the historic Abercorn factory. With an experienced, highly skilled and hardworking workforce and some refurbishments to the office space and warehousing area, the first season of shirts were put into production. The First ever Grosvenor Shirt is framed and hangs in the head office. (See Below). Abercorn factory is a building which stands tall in the town of Strabane which it's self has a rich industry heritage. "There is something very nostalgic about working and operating in a historic building such as the Abercorn factory which has been part of the clothing manufacturing industry for nearly 140 years" - Mr. John Quigley.
Fast forward to 2018 Grosvenor Shirts are now in their 20th year. They are still going strong and see a bright future ahead as they move into the digital age. "Our passion remains the same as day one - Design and produce exceptionally high quality, British Made luxury shirts to the world" - Mr. Karl Dunkley