British Manufacturing

British Manufacturing

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Fathers of British Manufacturing

How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World is a book about fathers. It all began with textiles. Richard Arkwright was quite possibly the father of all manufacturing. Many of the books on industries highlight key individuals, so John Brown is the father of Sheffield steel, George Stephenson - father of the railways, Thomas Humber – father of the bicycle, William Preece – father of wireless telegraphy. The British story is not about highly educated people, as it might be in France or Germany, but rather those who learnt their trade on the job. 

The story of British manufacturing is not only about the inventors and engineers, their discoveries needed to be sold and financed. Britain’s export markets were essential; the home market alone would have been wholly inadequate. So we needed men like Joseph Ruston who would sell his steam powered machines all over the world; Thomas Brassey who is said to have built not only one sixth of Britain’s railways but half of those in France. It would though be remiss not to acknowledge the role played by William Cecil, Queen Elizabeth I trusted advisor, for he master minded British patent law which provided protection to those who wished to exploit their inventions here. Many chose Britain in preference to their native land for this reason, although others were attracted by our comparative tolerance. 

We needed people who nurtured relationships, so Oliver Lucas, and Harvey du Cross of Dunlop. We needed entrepreneurs, so William Morris, Billy and Reggie Rootes but also those who sailed close to (and sometimes over) the line Ernest Terah Hooley and Harry Lawson. The role of managers was crucial, from Richard Arkwright through Seebohm Rowntree and Eric Geddes to Ronald Weeks. 

Places were crucial  Derwent Mill near Derby quite probably was a forerunner of Arkwright  Ironbridge was the crucible for iron and steel

How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World is available to preorder from Pen & Sword.  

Joseph Ruston - engineer and marketeer 



Wednesday, April 13, 2022

How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World is now available to pre-order

Phil Hamlyn Williams has completed his sixth book beginning an exploration of British manufacturing. His great-grandfather exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851, and it is through the prism of the exhibition catalogue that he explores the story back to its origins and then forward to the Festival of Britain, one century later. He found that in the late eighteenth century, a remarkable combination of factors and circumstances combined to give birth to Britain as the first manufacturing nation. Further factors allowed it to remain top manufacturing dog well into the twentieth century whilst other countries were busy playing catch up. Through two world wars and the surrounding years, British manufacturing remained strong, albeit whilst ceding the lead to the United States.

He writes of the inventors and the engineers but also the marketeers, managers and entrepreneurs. Looking back through history, there is a grubby British thumb-print on many of the world’s manufacturing industries.

The book is at the printers for publication on 30 June 2022. It is available to pre-order from Pen & Sword by following this link.



Wednesday, February 23, 2022

How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World - images

 We now have a dust cover with images

Now I am making the final choice for the sixteen pages of images in the book.  Here are just some:
This was taken on Shetland - the lighthouse on Bressay
A toy tank spotted in a stately home near Wolverhampton. I couldn't pick it up to see who made it.
Taken in Lincoln Cathedral during the Celebration of Lincoln Engineering. It is, of course, the Lincoln Imp and it is on the motor car that Ruston & Hornsby produced. I love the reflection of the stained glass windows.

The Rootes Archive Trust have made available some lovely images, some of which were in my father's archive. I guess I shouldn't post them on social media!


Friday, January 7, 2022

How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World - my starting point

 Today it seems a brave, or even reckless, assertion to suggest that Britain might have shaped the manufacturing world. Yet, looking back through history, there is a grubby British thumb-print on many of the world’s manufacturing industries. In this book I try to explore the assertion by unfolding what is quite a remarkable story. 

I am not saying that Britain alone created the manufacturing world, but, as I will explain, it almost certainly started a process that would continue over many decades. The role played by Britain diminished as that played by other nations increased, but it didn’t disappear; indeed, it remained strongly influential. 

My interest in the subject was sparked by research I carried out for my books on how the British army was supplied in the two world wars (War on Wheels, Ordnance and Dunkirk to D Day). 

I was bowled over by the wholehearted commitment of all manner of businesses of Britain in support of the war effort. I had to discover who was behind these companies, where they had come from, but also where they went. It soon became clear that the questions, although related, could not be accommodated in the same volume, so this volume began by research into the first two: whence they had come. 



Thursday, December 9, 2021

How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World - announced for publication in 2022

 The peoples of the British Isles gave to the world the foundations on which modern manufacturing economies are built. This is quite an assertion, but history shows that, in the late eighteenth century, a remarkable combination of factors and circumstances combined to give birth to Britain as the first manufacturing nation. Further factors allowed it to remain top manufacturing dog well into the twentieth century, although other countries were busy playing catch up. Through two world wars and the surrounding years, British manufacturing remained strong, albeit whilst ceding the lead to the United States.

This book seeks to tell the remarkable story of British manufacturing, using the Great Exhibition of 1851 as a prism. Prince Albert and Sir Henry Cole had conceived an idea of bringing together exhibits from manufacturers across the world to show to its many millions of visitors the pre-eminence of the British. 1851 was not the start, but rather a pause for a bask in glory. 

The book traces back from the exhibits in Hyde Park’s crystal palace to identify the factors that gave rise to this pre-eminence. It then follows developments up until the Festival of Britain exactly one century later. Steam power and communication by electric telegraph, both British inventions, predated the Exhibition. After it, came the sewing machine and bicycle, motor car and aeroplane, but also electrical power, radio and the chemical and pharmaceutical industries where Britain played a leading part. 

Phil Hamlyn Williams’s great grandfather exhibited at the Great Exhibition; his grandfather was an inventor and his father spearheaded the mechanisation of the British Army in WW2 and then was a leader in the motor industry. Phil has most recently written Dunkirk to D-Day about The Men of the RAOC and Re-arming the British Army. This followed War on Wheels and Ordnance in which he explored the role of British Manufacturing in the two world wars. Building on these, and his studies of the Industrial Revolution and the Interwar period as part of his BA as a mature student in 2008, he now brings this and extensive further research to tell this story.

The book is to be published by Pen&Sword in 2022

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

British soldiers in two world wars as captains of industry

My first has to be Ronald Weeks, first Pilkington then WW2 and finally chairman of Vickers.

Sir Brian Robertson was first MD of Dunlop in South Africa then WW2 and military governor of the British zone before taking command in the Middle East. He then oversaw the introduction of diesel electric into British Railways, whilst chairman of the Transport Executive. 

Brian Robertson in 1934



Thursday, October 21, 2021

How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World - blurb

The peoples of the British Isles gave to the world the foundations on which modern manufacturing economies are built. This is quite an assertion, but history shows that, in the late eighteenth century, a remarkable combination of factors and circumstances combined to give birth to Britain as the first manufacturing nation. Further factors allowed it to remain top manufacturing dog well into the twentieth century, although other countries were busy playing catch up. Through two world wars and the surrounding years, British manufacturing remained strong, albeit whilst ceding the lead to the United States.

This book seeks to tell the remarkable story of British manufacturing, using the Great Exhibition of 1851 as a prism. Prince Albert and Sir Henry Cole had conceived an idea of bringing together exhibits from manufacturers across the world to show to its many millions of visitors the pre-eminence of the British. 1851 was not the start, but rather a pause for a bask in glory. 

I trace back from the exhibits in Hyde Park’s crystal palace to identify the factors that gave rise to this pre-eminence. I then follow developments up until the Festival of Britain exactly one century later. Steam power and communication by electric telegraph, both British inventions, predated the Exhibition. After it, came the sewing machine and bicycle, motor car and aeroplane, but also electrical power, radio and the chemical and pharmaceutical industries where Britain played a leading part.   

Fathers of British Manufacturing

How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World is a book about fathers. It all began with textiles. Richard Arkwright was quite possibly the fa...