UK’s Manufacturing Industry – A Short History

Friday, January 11th, 2019

manufacturing image

Invention and innovation has always been at the cutting edge in the Uk which is why the manufacturing industries have always been so important and whilst we saw a shrinkage during the mid 20th century it has still remained and important part of the UK’s economy.

The Early Days

With the advent of the industrial revolution came mass production and as more people moved away from farming into factories we saw massive growth within the manufacturing sector.

In the United Kingdom, the development of industry and innovation has led to the development of the factor, systemization and mass production. This also includes the growth of the transportation of materials and goods, first by steamship and railway all around the Globe.

Moreover, the Industrial Revolution and the Manufacturing Industry itself have helped the UK develop relations with the Americas, Asia, and all of Europe which meant an incredible growth for UK’s economy.

During the early days, the main sectors of the UK’s manufacturing industry were iron and steel making, textiles, shipbuilding, and engineering. At the beginning of the 19th century, specifically between 1809 and 1839, the export value of the UK grew exponentially – from 25 million pounds in 1809 to 76 million pounds in 1839.

Only ten years later, the export value had reached 124 million pounds. This was the time when the UK was deemed as the most technologically advanced and largest manufacturer in the entire world.

The Second Industrial Revolution

Towards the end of the 19th century, the period known as the Second Industrial Revolution, the United States and Germany (which relied on the American system of manufacturing), caught up with the UK and eventually overtook it. The first two mentioned countries were the largest manufacturers in the world at the beginning of the 20th century.

However, things were still going well for the United Kingdom. In 1948, roughly 48% of the country’s economy came from manufacturing – especially from oil and gas extraction and utilities.

After the two world wars, manufacturing and heavy industry began to see an ever-increasing rate of decline. Instead more modern services began to as technological advances , cultural and lifestyle changes saw not only more importing taking place but an overall shift towards service industries, many of which had never existed before.

The latter years of Manufacturing

Manufacturing is still here and an incredibly important part of the UK economy, but we now see lots of smaller companies specialising in specific areas rather than the massive scale of prior years. And whilst the overall market had shrunk over the years, there is the appearance of a shift back to well made UK products rather than the mass import of cheaper and lower quality items that had been so popular before.