British Manufacturing History

My exploration of the story of British Manfacturing

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I write blogs as my research progresses and so the earlier ones relate to my previous project Dunkirk to D Day, although they are linked. The men of whom I wrote had feet in both camps, they stepped up as soldiers in two world wars, but then pursued careers in British manufacturing. I wrote an article on Civilian Expertise in War published in the Historian, the magazine of The Historical Association.

Manufacturing and the Home

The seventy years between the Great Exhibition and the start of the Great War had seen great changes in the way many people worked and travelled. Yet, the way food and homewares were produced hadn’t changed a great deal. The local butcher, baker, grocer and green grocer supplied daily needs. A carpenter might make furniture, […]

HM Queen Elizabeth II and Manufacturing

The Queen’s Award for Industry is perhaps the most visible evidence of Her Majesty’s interest in manufacturing. Somewhat earlier and a good while before her accession she showed a deep interest in the Festival of Britain. This is some of what Princess Elizabeth said to the organising committee: “I would therefore suggest to you, as […]

The British Motor Industry

The British motor industry is one of my earliest memories; my father was a director of the Rootes Group and he was one who definitely brought his work home. To a small boy it was the delight of the brochures for new models but also exotic characters from export markets who would come down to […]

Soldiers and Industrialists

It is chilling to think that many of those men born in the 1890s would serve through two world wars (if they survived) and could also be part of the step change in British manufacturing witnessed in the twentieth century. Ronald Weeks was one such man. He was the first Director-General of Army Equipment in […]

The British Chemical Industry comes of age

In the aftermath of WW2, the British Chemical Industry would have been unrecognisable to a time traveller from the 21st century. Plastics were Bakelite, Perspex was for the windscreens of Spitfires and polythene for the insulation of cables for radar. The chemicals required were derived from the fermentation of molasses from sugar beet, most of […]


Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World in many and connected ways. The steam engine was probably the most significant invention of the industrial revolution. Like the inventions that mechanised textiles, it came about through a creative evolution. I might place Newcomen first with his atmospheric engine to drain coalmines, but then William Brown, James Watt, Richard […]

Obstacles to progress

Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World largely by addressing obstacles to progress. Manchester mills were transporting tons of cotton goods to the port of Liverpool by canal, built by the Duke of Bridgewater, but which took some thirty-six hours and which was expensive. What was needed was a steam railway. George Stephenson planned the rail route […]

Early advances in textile production

British Manufacturing progressed little by little, step by step, each invention building on the one that went before. Famously it was said of the sewing machine that no one person could have created something of such subtlety. Looking at textiles, where it all began, Bury man, John Kay invented the flying shuttle to be followed […]

Engineering links with the Great Exhibition of 1851

I am exploring the companies I came across whilst writing War on Wheels and Ordnance. I have already looked further at many of the people, and this resulted in Dunkirk to D Day. What of the companies? I have found myself exploring some of the earliest machines, but also the economics that drove people to […]

Changes in UK jobs over two centuries help to show what happened to British Industry

The table below was taken from data provided by the Office for National Statistics and shows the number of jobs split between Manufacturing (including Construction) [Orange line] and Services [Blue line] between 1978 and 2019 taking each quarterly return. Service sector jobs increased by 11 million and manufacturing reduced by 4.5 million. Looking at services […]


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