Sites of 1916: Jacob’s Biscuit Factory
Dr John Gibney
The biscuit making firm of W. & R. Jacob's were one the largest employers in the Dublin of 1916, and their factory was seized on Easter Monday by perhaps 100 members of the 2nd Battalion of the Dublin Brigade of the Irish Volunteers under Thomas MacDonagh. The factory itself was an enormous and formidable Victorian edifice located on the 'block' enclosed by Bishop St, Bride St, Peter's St and Peter's Row, and between St Patrick's Cathedral and St Stephen's Green. Its seizure helped to complete a loop of building cross the south inner city; the factory had two large towers that could act as observation points, while its location was very close to both Camden St and Patrick St: natural routeways for troops entering the city centre from Portobello Barracks in Rathmines and Wellington Barracks on the South Circular Road.
There were only a few staff present in the building when the Volunteers broke into it; a number of smaller outposts were established in the area around the factory. While the garrison saw some fighting early in the week, their principal enemies proved to be boredom and the locals: the factory was surrounded by tenements, and the Volunteers were attacked and abused by residents, many of whom were Jacob's workers themselves. The families of servicemen were also quite hostile, but there may have been another reason for this hostility: Michael O'Hanrahan, who was in Jacob's, expressed his concern that the choice of location might endanger local residents if the British chose to attack. As it happens, the factory was largely by-passed, though it was fired upon intermittently throughout the week by troops in Dublin Castle and elsewhere. MacDonagh surrendered in nearby St Patrick's Park on Sunday 30 April; some of the factory was looted after the Volunteers had left. Three members of the Jacob's garrison were executed.
Most of the factory was eventually demolished, though fragments of the ground storey and one of the towers are still visible on Bishop St between the DIT campus on Aungier St and the National Archives of Ireland.