London's Manufacturing Industry

London was a major manufacturing centre in the 19th and 20th Century. Although high cost of operations has led to the closure of many industries over time, London retains a strong manufacturing presence.

Today about 250,000 residents of London find employment in various manufacturing industries. The figure is however down from 1,500,000 people employed by manufacturing industries in 1960. At present only 2.8 percent of London's populace depends on the manufacturing sector. This makes London the region in UK with the least proportion of the population dependent on manufacturing activities.

Many thriving industrial hubs of the past have now undergone redevelopment. For instance, Croydon's once famous car manufacture and metal working industries have made way for office blocks and the Whitgift shopping centre. Similarly, most of the gas works in areas such as Southall are now housing and commercial blocks.

Sector Overview

At the turn of the 19th Century, London was a major centre of shipbuilding, submarine cables, aerospace engineering, vehicle manufacturing, electronic and communication equipment, pharmaceutical and food industries. Of these, London still has a strong presence in electronics, communication equipment and food industries.

The closure of the world famous Thames Ironworks & Shipbuilding in the aftermath of World War I heralded the end of the centuries old shipbuilding activity in London.

Many pharmaceutical manufacturing industries still exist, but of the major ones, Aesica at Ponders End closed in 201.

Industrial Areas

Enderby's Wharf
Enderby's Wharf is a historic industrial site on the South Bank of the Thames in Southeast London. It was the leading site in the world for the manufacture of submarine communication cables until the factory shifted to Southampton. Now the major industrial activity in this area is the manufacture of optical repeaters and amplifiers, Alcatel is the major establishment here.

Erith shot into fame as the hub of guns and ammunition manufacturing units during the World War I. The landmark industry was Erith Iron Works established in 1864. This became British Insulated Callender's Cables (BICC), and eventually Pirelli that closed partially in 2003. What remains is now Prysmian. Another major factory here is the Erith Oil Works that processes seeds into vegetable oils

Silvertown in Newham borough is a major industrial district of long standing repute. The major factories here are John Knight ABP and Tate & Lyle sugar refinery.

Greenford in Ealing borough is famous its chemical factory where William Perkin discovered the world's first aniline dye in 1856. Another world famous factory here is J. Lyons and Co, manufacturers of electronic machines and computing equipment. The area is now redeveloped as Lyon Way Industrial Estate, one of many light industrial, commercial and office space options in Ealing.

Business Improvement Districts

The Greater London Authority and The Society of London Manufacturers promotes Business Improvement Districts (BID). BIDs are designated areas inside which member-establishments contribute additional levy for the maintenance, development and promotion of the district. The prominent BID's in London are:

Garratt Business Park - Wandsworth Kimpton Industrial Park - Sutton Willow Lane Industrial Estate - Mitcham South Wimbledon Business Area (SWBA) - Wimbledon

Several other industrial estates such as the Kimpton Industrial Estate house small to medium manufacturers.

Factories and Manufacturing Units

Ford Dagenham is the world's largest diesel engine plant and one of the few heavy manufacturing industries that still operate out of London.

The major food-manufacturing companies in London are Warburtons in Brimsdown, Fuller's Brewery in Chiswick, Nestlé's chocolate manufacturing unit in Hayes, Tate & Lyle sugar and syrup refining unit in Silvertown, Alara Wholefoods, Associated British Foods, Cadby Hall and Tilda United Biscuits, among others.

Among customer electronic manufacturing units, Alba stands out. Another noteworthy unit is of Racal Electronics plc, once the third-largest electronics firm and the parent company of Vodafone. WestVision is a world leader of luxury hi-fi electronics.

Decca Radar of Brixton manufactured the first marine radar in August 1949. Following Northrop Grumman's acquisition of the plant, it now manufactures the latest VisionMaster FT series of marine radars.

The London Plan envisages a comprehensive development of the metropolitan area caters to identifying the key industries and works on a redevelopment plan for each area.