Best of British Exports
Best of British: The manufacturing industries keeping tradition alive in modern Britain
Our factories and workshops employ 2.5 million people, making us the world’s 11th biggest manufacturer – here are the best of them
With Made in China labels on everything from smartphones to your kids’ toys, it may sometimes seem like British manufacturing is a thing of the past.
In fact it’s thriving in factories and workshops all over the country, employing 2.5 million people and making us the world’s 11th biggest manufacturer.
Yesterday we told how Britain’s foremost watchmaker Roger Smith is keeping the dying art of building watches ticking in the Isle of Man.
And Roger, whose hand-crafted timepieces sell for upwards of £80,000, isn’t alone – here we take a look at just some of the products that are still proud to be Made in Britain.
Triumph have been building their famous motorbikes in the UK since 1902. Over the years their bikes have gained a cult celebrity following with fans including Marlon Brando, James Dean, Elvis Presley and Steve McQueen for whom the company named a special edition of their Bonneville motorcycle.
The company went into receivership in 1983 and its future was in doubt until the name and manufacturing rights were bought by John Bloor. He funded the building of a new factory in Hinckley, Leicestershire and in 2012 the company employed 1,600 staff producing around 49,000 motorcycles.
The sport of curling captured the imagination of the world during the Sochi Winter Olympics, with Team GB scooping silver and bronze medals.
And the only two places in the world to manufacture curling stones are in the UK. The stones are made of granite and weigh between 17.24kg and 19.96kg.
The granite comes from only two sources – the Scottish island of Ailsa Craig and the Trefor Granite Quarry in Wales. Stones for Sochi were manufactured by Kays of Scotland who have been making curling stones since 1851 and have the exclusive rights to the Ailsa Craig granite.
There are still four British-owned car companies, Bristol, Morgan, Caterham and McLaren, and many more firms manufacture on British soil, even if some of our of our most famous names from Aston Martin to Bentley are foreign-owned.
BMW builds Minis in Cowley, Oxfordshire, while Honda builds the Civic, CRV and Jazz in Swindon.
Toyota builds the Auris and Avensis in Derbyshire, and Nissan builds the Juke, Qashqai, Note and Leaf at their Sunderland plant, even exporting cars back to Japan.
Norfolk-based Lotus are Malaysian-owned, whilst Aston Martin in Gaydon, Warwickshire, is owned by two Kuwaiti companies. Bentley Motors in Crewe is owned by Volkswagen, and Rolls Royce are still built in Goodwood, but are owned by German BMW.
Jaguar/LandRover are built in the West Midlands and in Liverpool, but are actually owned by the Tata Motor Comapny of India. MG Motors at Longbridge, Birmingham, are owned by SAIC of China, while Vauxhall Motors are part of US firm General Motors, and build Astras at Ellesmere Port, and the Vivaro van in Luton.
Despite the Far Eastern stranglehold on the home entertainment market, it is still possible to buy a British-made TV set.
Cello Electronics is a UK-based company which does have offices around the world. But all its tellies made for the UK market are manufactured at their plant in County Durham.
If film is your thing then Sony still manufactures broadcast video cameras in Wales.
James Bond is one of Britain’s most famous exports, so it may be no surprise that the UK’s 007-style spy gadget business is booming.
Spy Equipment UK design and manufacture products including listening devices, trackers, hidden cameras, and spy phones from their base in Coventry.
The future of trainmaking in Britain has just been secured with the announcement that Derby-based Bombardier has won a £1.3billion contract to provide 65 trains for the new Crossrail line in London.
The future of the 175-year-old works was in doubt in 2011 after the firm lost out on a contract to make Thameslink trains. The Crossrail deal has secured 760 jobs.
Hitachi also has a plant in County Durham which finishes off the shells of train carriages once they have been made in Japan.
Sunseeker in Poole, Dorset, produces some of the world’s finest yachts. The company started out in the 1970s moulding and fitting out boats from a small factory. But a chance meeting with an Englishman selling boats in the South of France changed everything.
He suggested a few design changes that would suit the Mediterranean market, and and the modern luxury super-yacht was born.
The yachts are still hand-built and can cost millions of pounds.
Norfolk is now the home of the Banjo. The Great British Banjo Company is based in the county and last year launched The Shackleton – the first British-made Banjo for 60 years.
Airbus aircraft fly on wings designed, engineered and produced in the UK. The engineering and design takes place at Filton near Bristol, while the wings are manufactured in Broughton, North Wales. Each site employs more than 6,000 people.
The UK space industry is booming. Surrey Satellite Technology builds and operates small satellites, working with the UK Space Agency.
While last year, Europe’s largest ever telecommunications satellite was successfully launched into space after being built in Stevenage and Portsmouth.
You may think that sugar can only be grown in sub-tropical areas such as Brazil, Australia and Peru.
But Silver Spoon produces the only sugar home-grown and packaged in Britain. Instead of producing sugar from sugar cane, they use sugar beet which is grown in the fields of East Anglia, and then processed in four plants in the East of England and the East Midlands.
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