Sunday, 26 December 2010


A recent article in This England magazine (a title firmly rooted in nostalgia and unashamedly so) focusses on Cussons, the soap manufacturer beloved by middle England housewives for its Imperial Leather bars.

This then led us to looking further in to the history of Cussons' presence in the UK. Sadly the old premises (in Kersal, Salford) were demolished earlier this year but the company has replaced this with a state of the art (read bland/soulless from the exterior) building in nearby Agecroft, according to the Salford Star. The new factory and innovation centre is Cussons' only remaining manufacturing premises in the UK, the company having had a presence in Nottingham until 2005.

Image of Cussons' soap factory from Stephen Broadhurst on flickr
Cussons' Lather Shave Cream advert from Paul Carrington on flickr

Saturday, 25 December 2010


Merry Christmas to all of our readers, we really appreciate you visiting the site. We're looking forward to 2011 and have some interesting pieces coming up, including; a field trip to a factory, an interview with the chief of the British Fashion & Textile Industry and a first look at some newly produced ties made in Britain.

Royal Mail Mint Stamps from Christmases past, images from CollectGBStamps. Top: 1990, middle: 1977, bottom: 1970

Friday, 24 December 2010


A nice little piece by Kate Watson-Smyth in The Independent today on the Ercol Butterfly chair. Here's the pick of the quotes:

'Ercolani had perfected the technique of steam-bending wood into curves as well as drying elm with steam so that it wouldn't warp. These methods allowed him to produce both the classic Windsor and curvy Butterfly.'

'Lucian was always fiddling with the designs and the boardroom is full of prototypes that didn't quite work or didn't last very long.' (Edward Tadros, Ercolani's grandson)

Interesting to note that the Butterfly went out of production in the 1980s and it was not until, in 2000, Margaret Howell spurred the resurgence in popularity of the design by stocking it in her shops.

'Thanks to her, sales of the Butterfly went up again and so we put it back into production.' (Tadros)

Image from eBay

Monday, 20 December 2010


Over the last few months M&I has had several conversations with people involved in UK manufacturing - from heads of trade bodies to factory owners to designers. Time and again the same issue arises; if the UK is to play a strong role in the global economy then more support is needed from the government.

'For small, medium and large enterprises, there has been little reform to boost manufacturing, training and growth in the UK since the General Election,' Ian Williamson of The Midland Manufacturing Group, told The Kenilworth Weekly News.

'There has also been a significant trend regarding the sale of our larger companies to overseas competitors. The UK is now reliant on them for ensuring the research and development of high-value, high-skill jobs remain in the UK.'

'If we lose our manufacturing base we are never going to get it back,' warned Williamson. 'The West Midlands is the heartland of our manufacturing and we need trading conditions to allow it to prosper.'

The Midland Manufacturing Group includes industrialists and professional bodies and is seeking to reverse the trend of job losses in the area. Members include Automotive Products in Leamington, and Arden Products, Clarke Clulley and Norgren Martiner in Kenilworth, as well as the region’s automotive industry.

Williamson also told The Kenilworth Weekly News that he is in talks about holding a debate on reform needed in Midlands manufacturing in early 2011 - we look forward to hearing more about this.

Illustration of Mini & 1100 engine from Austin Memories

Thursday, 16 December 2010


'The UK needs to rediscover its talent for making things.' Sir James Dyson, 2010
(from Dezeen)

Sunday, 12 December 2010


We recently came across this excellent case study on Anglepoise, courtesy of the Design Council:

Anglepoise is run by father and son team, John and Simon Terry. By 2001, the pair realised that if Anglepoise was to survive it was time to make a few harsh decisions. The most straightforward option, and one chosen by many UK manufacturers in recent years, would be to stick to the same products and distribution channels but move all production overseas – probably to China.

But the Terrys could see that this strategy might easily erode one of the company’s key remaining strengths – its reputation for precision design and engineering excellence.

‘Our margins were very small, and shrinking fast,’ explains Managing Director Simon Terry. ‘But we had a strong name, as well as our flawless design and engineering credentials. We wanted to find a way to reinvent the business to capitalise on these assets – not undermine them.’ There had to be another way.

The answer turned out to be a much more radical overhaul of the entire business. Anglepoise would start again, in a new location, as a high design, premium priced brand addressing an international marketplace.

Image from the excellent looking John's Adverts

Saturday, 11 December 2010


A recent short article in The Economist highlights the all too familiar issues surrounding the production of Fair Isle garments. Here are a couple of choice quotes:

'Only 70 people live on Fair Isle itself and only four of them knit. Each sweater takes about 100 hours; the island's annual production is about 30 sweaters, 200 hats and 30 scarves. These are sold only in the island shop, which is cleared out when the summer's first cruise ship calls, says Mati Ventrillon, a French-Venezuelan who runs the craft co-operative.' (The Economist)

'My ladies are in their 70s and 80s. They learned it from their grandmothers, but no one is learning from them.' (Ms. Teresa Fritschi, an American who runs a Scottish luxury-goods website and believes the island's knitters could earn much more if Fair Isle products enjoyed the same legal protection against imitation as Harris Tweed.)

Image from Reel Knitting

Thursday, 2 December 2010


An enjoyably positive story to kick off December here. The Highgate Brewery in Walsall has been saved (for the time being) and is hoping to benefit from customers drinking at home over the Christmas period after a surge in demand for its five litre festive cask ales.

The wonderfully named Joanne Toon, spokeswoman for Highgate, told the Birmingham Post, 'It is keeping us afloat after a traumatic time, but we are determined to be able to supply everyone.'

A quick online search for a retailer selling the festive ale proved fruitless. However, there's some nice merchandise available here on the Friends of Highgate Brewery site.

Photo from Express & Star