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Viewed 1973 Times Published:2010-9-1 The Factory House

The Factory House

 

       The Factory House (also known the British Association House) is an 18th century Palladian building located in the Portuguese wine center of Oporto, Portugal. Constructed in 1790 by the British Port wine shippers, the building served as a gentleman's club and meeting place for the trade organization known as the British Association.The original Factory House opened at another location in Oporto in 1727. Conceived as a meeting place for British shippers to discuss business, the house became a private club for the British where they colluded to consolidate their monopoly over the Port wine industry. Eventually the Factory House moved to the Rua Nova dos Ingleses (The New Street of the English) by the Oporto docks. In 1806, the Portuguese government granted the land upon which the Factory House is built to the British consulate in perpetuity "....from this day and forever The Factory House building is still open today and still serves as a meeting house for British Port shippers though the street has changed it name to now Rua do Infante Dom Henrique

        The first Factory House opened at another location in 1727. The purpose of the Factory House was to serve a meeting house for the foreign British merchants in the Portuguese city. Members of the Factory House became known as "Factors". With their frequent meetings, the British shippers were able collude together on pricing and strengthened their monopoly over the Port wine trade. All business was conducted in absolute secrecy from the Portuguese

Over time the Factory House became a symbol of the British monopoly. Complaints about the business practices of the British shippers and eventually lead to the Portuguese Prime Minister Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, Marquis of Pombal establishing the Douro Wine Company in 1756 to bring more Portuguese influence and control to the Port wine industry. Among the Douro Wine Company's powers was the ability to set pricing for what the British shippers had to pay the Portuguese wine growers of the Douro. The monopoly of the British Factors was essentially over. The British passed on their increased costs by adding them to the price of their Port. In Oporto, the local tavern owners reacted angrily to the price increase which lead to the so-called Tipplers' Riots that broke out on February 23, 1757. Riots broke out across the city, prompting Pombal to send 3,000 soldiers to squelch the rioting. Believing the Factors were primarily responsible for the riots, Pombal dealt out harsh punishments. Both the British and their sympathizers faced large fines, the confiscation of property and jail time. Some were banished to Africa and India,while Pombal had 26 members of the Factory House executed.

In 1790, the current building was constructed. During the Napoleonic Wars, the Factory House was temporarily closed when the French invaded Portugal in 1807. After the war, it was reopened on November 11, 1811, with a lavish dinner and ball.[2] By 1814, the building turned into more of a private gentleman's club among the merchants. During the 19th century, the Factory House developed an air of exclusivity, holding formal balls for the British of Oporto and excluding most of the Portuguese shippers who worked in the wine industry. While sometimes Portuguese dignitaries and government officials were invited, until the end of the 20th century there was an official decree of the Factory House that excluded any Portuguese military officer below the rank of Field Officer from attending.[1] Today, though membership is still officially limited to British-owned Port companies, there are now more Portuguese than British members of the Factory House due to the extensive integration of Portuguese workers into the corporate structure of many of the British Port shipping firms