Shirt making was established in Derry by the local Scott family in the early 1830s. It proved immensely successful which encouraged outside industrialists to set up factories in the city in the 1850s. The shirt-making industry quickly became one of the most important employers in the region. By the 1920s, when industry growth reached its peak, shirt factories employed about 18,000 people (90% of these women) from the city and the surrounding district.
The city is dotted with large, and now mostly abandoned, nineteenth-century shirt-factory buildings, many of them constructed in elegant and varying architectural styles as their owners tried to outdo each other. However, some have found new life beyond shirt making and are being re-used with little change to their fabric or architectural styles.
The Welch Margetson factory, erected in 1872 on Carlisle Road, for example, is a fine example of industrial architecture, now housing a government department back office. Hogg and Mitchell’s, built in 1896 on Great James Street, is a five-storey factory building which now leases ground-floor spaces to different businesses while the remaining floors have been converted to apartments.
Likewise, other well-known factory buildings across the city have been given new lives as apartment blocks (Star Factory), or arts, education and business spaces (City Factory).
Unfortunately, many of the city’s most iconic factories, storehouses and retail / public premises have disappeared over time through natural causes (dilapidation and condemnation), urban regeneration or as a result of conflict during the Troubles.
The following images illustrate just some of the many architecturally significant buildings which have called the city home throughout the decades.