Factory House

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Factory House, handsome Georgian monument in oporto, standing on land granted in 1806 in perpetuity ‘from this day and forever to the consul of the British nation and his corporation and their successors’, is a testament to the historic role of the British in the port wine trade. The only surviving example of any Factory House, it is possibly the only actual building constructed as a meeting place for a ‘factory’, a body of traders or ‘factors’ buying and selling any commodity in a foreign country. The Portuguese were probably the first to establish such a factory, which they called a feitoria, in one of their earliest West African settlements. The first British factory was established by the East India Company near Bombay in 1613. By the beginning of the 18th century, British factories had been established in all major Portuguese ports, including of course Oporto, from which wine was an important export (see portugal). The Factory House, probably the first and only permanent meeting place for the Oporto factory, was begun in 1786 and finished, under the supervision of the consul John Whitehead, four years later. The cost of the land and the building was paid by the ‘Outward Fund’, voluntarily levied by the British shippers on their own exports of port.