Investigative Journalism and Independent Analysis (Established 2009)


City of Makers


The Industrial Revolution transforms London.

Capital investment and labour turns London into a centre of diverse manufacturing (see below list of London manufacturing areas). writes Paul Coleman. London’s 21st century streets still mark the city’s former manufacturing processes, such as Threadneedle Street, Ironmonger Lane and Wood Street.

London’s industrialisation comes at a price. Capitalists and workers reguarly struggle against each other over profits, wages and working conditions. But they mutually need each other again after World War II. Bombs had destroyed swathes of London’s labour-intensive industries. Capital investment enables working Londoners to replace London’s factories and workshops with new manufacturing plant.

By the end of the 1950s, factories employ one-in-three working Londoners. Londoners form 20% of Britain’s engineering workforce – and make almost half of the clothes worn by British women. London’s seven docks employ 30,000 people – mainly men – in the early 1960s.

UK manufacturing centres outside London and foreign imports caused the 19th Century decline of some of London’s traditional industries, such as silk weaving in Bethnal Green and Spitalfields. Railways, coastal steamships, and electric telegraph rendered London factories and workshops less advantageous to large industrial firms.

In the 20th Century, land, property, fuel and raw materials also became more expensive in London compared to the Midlands and north. Manufacturers leave central London in the 20th century as London’s suburbs expanded thanks to arterial roads, like the North Circular Road and Great West Road. Cheaper spaces lead to large factories – Firestone tyres, Gillette and Hoover – being situated on the ‘Golden Mile’ on the Great West Road. Industrial estates with factories for lease or sale grow at Park Royal and along the Lea Valley and the A13 ‘corridor’ out to Dagenham and further east.

But during the 20th century – and despite two world wars – other forms of manufacturing industry arise, survive, flourish and expand in London. ‘Made in London’ means a quality product in the 1960s and 70s.

In 1970, manufacturing represents 30% of UK gross domestic product and an astonishing 16.3% of total world exports. Manufacturing in London and throughout Britain generates 4-6% annual trade surpluses for the UK. Manufacturers employ 35% of UK workers.

However, oil price rises and recession in the 1970s, global competition from Hong Kong and the rise of a neo-liberal ideology begin to destroy the vast bulk of these industries in the 1980s.


London and manufacturing


  • Acton: electrical equipment, bus lighting, thin wall engine bearings, cars, racing cars, sausages, pies, ice cream (Wall’s)
  • Albert Embankment: meat
  • Aldersgate: printed paper, books
  • Aldgate: clothing, bells, glass, cigarettes
  • Bankside: gas, electricity, hydraulic power, glass panes, printed books, papers and journals
  • Barking: fertiliser
  • Battersea: electricity, candles, chemicals, river boat steamers
  • Beckton: sugar refining (Tate & Lyle), gas, coke
  • Bermondsey: leather harnesses, saddles, shoes, hats, gloves, furs, coach lining, chair covers, bookbindings, paper-making machines, tin cans, water wheels, printed books, beers (Courage), biscuits (Peek Frean), jam (Hartley), vinegar, pickles, piccalilli, Worcestershire sauce, tomato ketchup, salad cream (Crosse & Blackwall)
  • Bethnal Green: clothing including silk, footwear, furniture, pharmaceuticals, surgical instruments, starch, flour
  • Blackfriars: river boat steamers, furs
  • Blackhorse Lane: buses
  • Blackwall Yard: merchant and naval ships
  • Borough: glass
  • Bow: matches (Bryant & May), gas, resin, nickel silver, soap, paper, horse-drawn carriages, railway carriages
  • Bow Bridge: porcelain
  • Bow Creek (Thames Iron Works): glass, steamer and naval ships, iron
  • Brentford: beer, gin, windscreen wipers, potato crisps (Smith’s)
  • Brick Lane: beer (Truman and Hanbury), clothing, gas, chairs
  • Bromley-by-Bow: citric acid, tartaric acid, paper, spirits, flour
  • Brook Green: electric lamps
  • Cable Street: dyes
  • Camberwell: beers
  • Camden Town: flour, spirits
  • Canada Water: hydraulic power
  • Canning Town: business stationery
  • Charlton: glass, telegraph cables, telephone cables, insulation
  • Chelsea: fine porcelain, beers, gin
  • Chiswick: high-speed naval vessels, beers
  • City of London: glass, candles
  • City Road: chairs, cigarettes
  • City Road Basin: hydraulic power
  • Clerkenwell: clocks, watches, precision instruments, jewellery, telegraph cables, beers, gin
  • Colindale: Leather trunks, fridges, illuminated neon signs,
  • Covent Garden: coaches, high quality furniture, cabinets, paper, beers
  • Cricklewood: cars (Bentley), airplanes (Handley Page), potato crisps
  • Cubitt Town: ships
  • Curtain Road: furniture, lime juice
  • Dagenham: cars (Ford motor works)
  • Deptford: naval ships, naval ship engineers, anchors, pumps, electricity, water, copperas (used in ink and as dye), chemical fertilizer
  • Eastcheap: printed books
  • East Smithfield: coins (Royal Mint)
  • Edgware: airplanes
  • Enfield: flintlock muskets, swords, rifles,
  • Erith: pottery
  • Euston: tube making machinery, printer roller moulds, camera stands, violin case moulds, gun boring machines, tea packing machines, gas engines, musical instrument parts
  • Farringdon: printed books
  • Finsbury Park: clothing
  • Fleet Street: clocks, newspapers, mathematical and scientific instruments
  • Fulham and Hammersmith: sugar refining, gas, electricity, pottery, river boat steamers, tapestry, beers, biscuits (United Biscuits), ice cream (Lyons)
  • Great West Road: tyres and rubber (Firestone)
  • Greenford: synthetic dyes, bicycles
  • Greenwich: telegraph cables, dock crane treadmills, Isle of Dogs windmills
  • Hackney: toys (Matchbox cars), footwear
  • Hackney Wick: plastics, rubber capes and groundsheets, resin, dyes, oil refining, silk, confectionery, jam
  • Haggerston: clothing, gas
  • Hampstead: water
  • Harlsden: biscuits (McVitie), baked beans (Heinz)
  • Hatton Garden: bank notes, thermometers, barometers, telescopes, rain gauges
  • Hayes: helicopters, electronics
  • Hendon: aircraft, aerated drinks
  • Holborn: dog biscuits, aerated water, mineral water
  • High Holborn: watches
  • Homerton: knife handles, brooches, cable insulation, paint
  • Hounslow: candles, biscuits
  • Hoxton: wardrobes
  • Ilford: chemicals
  • Isle of Dogs: torpedo launches
  • Isleworth: soap (Pears)
  • Islington: rubber
  • Kennington: pickles, gin (Beafeater)
  • Kensal Green: gas
  • Kentish Town: false teeth
  • Kings Cross: varnish
  • Lambeth: water, vinegar, wine, frames, engineering (Maudslay and Field), steam hammers, screw-cutting machinery, printing machines, marine engines and boilers, bullets, cars, pottery (Royal Doulton), Coade stone reliefs, river boat steamers
  • Lea Valley: furniture, engineering
  • Lewisham: gun barrels
  • Limehouse: lead, soap, ships, lifeboats, river boat steamers, rope, beers
  • London Bridge: water, paper
  • Mayfair: guns
  • Marylebone: pulley block making machines
  • Mile End: brushes, beer (Charrington)
  • Millwall: telegraphic cables, merchant ships, fertilizer, liquid metals for coins, river and sea ship engines, jam, flour
  • Minories: insulated conductors, electrical apparatus, glass
  • Mitcham: varnish
  • Mornington Crescent: cigarettes (Carreras)
  • Mortlake: tapestry, beers (Watney)
  • Nine Elms: gas, river boat steamers
  • Old Kent Road: gas
  • Old Street: beers
  • Paddington: milk
  • Park Royal: baked beans (Heinz), beer (Guinness), bus bodies, Pepsi Cola, Schweppes
  • Pall Mall: clocks
  • Peckham: pickles
  • Petticoat Lane: clothing (DAKS, later Simpson’s)
  • Perivale: vacuums (Hoover)
  • Pimlico: vinegar, wine, gas, hydraulic power
  • Plaistow: sugar refining, disinfectant
  • Poplar: ships, dog biscuits
  • Poultry: watches
  • Putney: candles
  • Ratcliffe: glass
  • Regent’s Park: cognac brandy
  • Rotherhithe: ships, including steamships
  • Royal Arsenal: cannons, guns, gun carriages, munitions, rope, steam locomotives
  • Royal Victoria Dock: flour
  • St Giles in the Fields: high quality furniture
  • St James’s: boots
  • St Martin in the Fields: high quality furniture
  • Shadwell: water, paint, brushes, cigars and cigarettes, biscuits
  • Shoreditch: gas, boots and shoes, cigars
  • Silvertown: sugar (Tate & Lyle), telegraphic cables, sulphuric acid, rubber, oil lubricants, soda crystals, caustic soda, soap, marmalade
  • Spitalfields: silks
  • Soho: cabinets, beers, light industrial goods
  • Stepney: clothing, footwear, furniture, vinegar, wine, beers, crystallised sugar
  • Southall: buses, electronics (Thorn EMI)
  • Southwark: water, beer, vinegar, wine, gin, leather, coaches, silk, furniture, clocks, watches, pottery, water pipes, lead sheets and pipes, pavement lights, coal hole covers, iron staircases, wirebound hoses, nails, utensils, steam engines, printed books and paper, animal medicines, sausages, pies
  • South Kensington: candles
  • Spitalfields: clothing (including silk), footwear, furniture
  • Stratford: railway locomotives, sulphuric acid, borax, copper carbonate, arsenic sulphide, ether, soap, matches
  • Stoke Newington: boots and shoes
  • Temple: water
  • Thurrock: cement
  • Tilbury: container docks
  • Tottenham: pencils, motor cycle engines, copying machines
  • Tottenham Court Road: beers
  • Tottenham Hale: furniture
  • Twickenham: sulphuric acid
  • Upper Thames Street: beer
  • Vauxhall: gas, candles, vinegar
  • Victoria Park: brushes (toothbrushes)
  • Walthamstow: combs, hair pins, tooth brushes, shaving brushes, toys
  • Wandsworth: graphite crucibles, paper
  • Wapping: soap, hydraulic power, newspapers
  • Wealdstone: glass
  • West Ham: chemicals, gas, calico, rubber
  • Westminster: gas, printed material, river boat steamers
  • Whitechapel: beer, bells, clothing, telegraph cables, glass, crystallised sugar
  • Woolwich: naval ships, submarine telegraph cables, monoplanes, biplanes


Sources: London’s Industrial Heritage: Geoff Marshall, History Press, 2013. Museum of London.


© London Intelligence 2018.