Surprising Things London Still Makes

By James FitzGerald Last edited 8 months ago
Surprising Things London Still Makes

Wherever you are in London, chances are that it's not been long since you last used an old factory of some sort. Perhaps you drank coffee in one, perhaps you had a dance in one, perhaps you even live in one.

There's no clearer — or, perhaps, more poignant —- sign of how Britain and its capital city have changed over the past 50 years or so than the gradual loss of heavy industry, and the repurposing of the buildings that came with it. Manufacturing is in London's past, right?  

Actually, although London today has the nation's smallest proportion of employees working in this sector, it's wrong to assume that nothing gets made here. A surprising array of products is made here for global markets, and each should be celebrated.

The industrial cycle

Designs by South London Saddles.

Take the Brompton folding bike: a London design classic; almost half a million of them have been made since 1976. Brompton's newest base is in Greenford. But this is a city full of both cyclists and cycle-makers. South London Saddles, for instance, specialises in funky upholstery.

Dunkalicious

By Biscuiteers of Kennington.

Some of your McVitie's Hobnobs and Digestives are still made in Harlesden by United Biscuits at a factory — the largest of its kind in Europe — said to output 25 million biscuits a day. Meanwhile the likes of Biscuiteers in Kennington make luxurious, iced alternatives.

Racing along

BIZ Karts are based near Enfield.

Employing over 2,000 people, the Ford plant in Dagenham is one of the world's powerhouses of diesel engine production. Another business driving London is BIZ, which began 200 years ago as a sheet metal business and now manufactures different types of go-karts near Enfield.   

London's heart and sole

Mudlark & Co's sandals are made in Leyton.

London's had a shoemaking industry for centuries. But did you know that Hackney is home to dance-footwear specialists Freed — who sell to professional ballet dancers and to amateurs in 50 countries — or that Mudlark & Co craft their sandals in Leyton?

Catering for all tastes

A Kaymet tray.

From a factory in Bermondsey, Kaymet makes aluminium trays and trolleys, and counts Harrods among its stockists. Proprietor Mark Brearley also happens to be the pioneer of the Made in London project (a rather handy resource for compiling this article).

Bristling with quality

Handover have a brush-making base near Finsbury Park.

Paintbrushes are one of life's essentials for creatives and home-refurbishers alike — both of whom abound in a city like this — and the likes of Handover supply that need from Finsbury Park and other locations. Buckingham Palace and Parliament are among their customers.

A rainy-day business plan

On the Ince Umbrellas production line. Photo by Chris Hill-Scott.

You're never far from a drop of precipitation in London, and a number of umbrella-makers exist here. Like Lockwood in Haggerston, Fox Umbrellas in Croydon, and the wholesalers Ince Umbrellas, of Bethnal Green — who for 200 years have relied on the nearby market of the City.   

Music to our ears

Paxman make French horns in Southwark.

London's music industry has taken a thrashing in recent years. While AS Potter are still able to handmake instruments from Deptford, David Antony Reid performs repairs in Battersea but was forced by finances to move guitar-making out of the city. But Paxman, a French horn-maker in Southwark, actually moved its manufacturing here as recently as 2012.

Great designs, on tap

A Perrin & Rowe product takes shape at Rainham.

Perrin & Rowe claims to be the UK's largest kitchen and bathroom brassware manufacturer, making taps, showers, and the like. What's intriguing is that a business like this is hardly even 'out of town' by today's standards: it’s well within the M25, at Rainham.

'Doner' underestimate the range of products London makes

Some of Archway SM's kebab machines.

Based in north London as the name implies, Archway Sheet Metal Works specialises in stainless steel products and was set up 50 years ago to try and cater for an expanding ethnic community. One of its top sellers? The kebab machine.  

And there's more

Like beer, bells, boats, bread, ceremonial hats, guns, macarons, mannequins, pipes, sugar & syrup

Last Updated 14 March 2017