Made in London dives into the city’s rich collection of 21st-century factories

Made in London is a photographic journey through the capital’s surprisingly rich and diverse manufacturing scene, capturing everything from aircraft interiors to cardboard boxes, and everything in between

Kaymet has made aluminium trays in South London since 1947 (photograph by Carmel King)
Kaymet has made aluminium trays in South London since 1947.
(Image credit: Carmel King)

Made in London is a photo essay that will confound urban pessimists. Its subject is London’s manufacturing scene, not 50 or 100 years in the past, but now, in the present day. Shot by photographer Carmel King, with an introduction by Mark Brearley and texts by regular Wallpaper* contributor Clare Dowdy (opens in new tab), Made in London travels the length and breadth of the capital to find makers big and small from a rich diversity of industries. Brearley – professor of urbanism at London Metropolitan University and a former head of design for London at the GLA – is also owner of Kaymet, a south London manufacturer of spare and simple aluminium trays and trolleys. 

Pages from book, Made in London, featuring the London factory of Kaymet, maker of aluminium trays

Kaymet has made aluminium trays in south London since 1947.

(Image credit: Carmel King)

It’s this kind of niche business that still excels, whether it’s making paint tins for Farrow & Ball, crafting glass eyes for the NHS, meticulously shaping ballet shoes, growing salad, or brewing beer. 

Pages from Made in London book, showing Jost Haas handmaking glass eyes in his front room in Mill Hill

Jost Haas handmakes glass eyes in his front room in Mill Hill.

(Image credit: Carmel King)

Although the capital is visibly scarred by the remnants of former industry, both heavy and light, pockets of manufacturing still exist.

The book contains 50 businesses in all, ranging from tiny cottage industries like Jost Haas’s glass eye workshop in Mill Hill to the thriving Brompton factory in Greenford, which makes 75,000 folding bicycles every year. 

Pages from Made in London book showing The Vinyl Factory in Hayes

The Vinyl Factory in Hayes has benefited from the boom in record collecting.

(Image credit: Carmel King)

Brearley notes in his introduction that London’s 32 boroughs contain around 4,000 different manufacturers, so this book is necessarily a very small sliver of what’s out there.

As you might expect, there’s a concentrated dose of high-end luxury, in the shape of tailoring, taps, fine stone, hand-printed wallpaper and art glass. But there are also everyday items like tin cans, wire, paint, and even treacle, the last produced at Tate & Lyle’s massive 50-acre site in Silvertown, which makes half of all sugar sold in British shops. 

Pages from book showing packaging being made at W MacCarthy & Sons, a London factory

W MacCarthy & Sons is a fifth-generation family business making high-end packaging.

(Image credit: Carmel King)

Often, these case studies are tales of perseverance against the odds. Changing tastes, changing demographics, and – most crucial of all – the ever-escalating cost of London real estate, have conspired against all but the hardiest small business.

The survival of these 50 firms, and the diversity of their output, is testament to the shifting focus of modern manufacturing, and the ongoing importance of industry to the life of a major city.

INFORMATION

Made in London: From Workshops to Factories by Carmel King and Mark Brearley with additional texts by Clare Dowdy

£40, Merrell Publishers, MerrellPublishers.com (opens in new tab)

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.

With contributions from