If you know anything about Birmingham, you will probably be aware of it’s manufacturing history. The city has always been associated with industry, be that manufacturing, retail or business. While this reputation has been on the decline in recent years, it’s still the cities’ calling card to this day. And it’s a reputation built off of launching big name, successful companies in multiple industries. Here are a few you may not have known have their origins in the city.
Lloyds Banking Group
Now one of the “Big Four” banks, alongside Barclays, HSBC and RBS, the Lloyds Banking Group was founded in Dale End, Birmingham by steel merchant Sampson Lloyd II in 1765. The firm was relatively small scale to begin with, only opening it’s first branch (in Oldbury) in 1864. Interestingly, HSBC also has ties to the area - they took over the Midlands Bank in 1992, phasing them out entirely by 1999.
The egg-free custard powder, made because founder Alfred Bird’s wife was allergic to eggs, was born in Birmingham. Although they no longer manufacturer the powder in the area, their former factory in Digbeth has gone on to find a new life as The Custard Factory, and arts and media production centre.
A far reaching cultural touchstone since World War II, the hair product has it’s origins in the area. It’s stranglehold on the industry has loosened thanks to modern hair gel, but none of those brands can claim to have a movie named after them!
Did you know the UK is the 5th highest consumer of tea per capita in the world? Perhaps a few more people besides Typhoo creator John Summer Jr. would have got into the industry in the early days had they known this! Summer Jr. was informed of the relaxing effects of tea by his sister, and decided to create a blend to sell in his shop in Birmingham. The name Typhoo derives from the Chinese word for doctor.
Named for the stream that passes near their base in Harbourne, Chad Valley were once a toy making powerhouse. A decline in the 1970s started a chain of events that eventually lead to the company becoming part of the Woolworths group, where they stayed until Woolworths went out of business in 2009. They were subsequently sold for £5 Million to the Home Retail Group, and the brand is now an exclusive of Argos.
We may be stretching the concept of “brands you may not know are from Birmingham” here, as Cadbury’s is as iconic a Birmingham brand as it gets. In 1842, John Cadbury began selling tea, coffee and drinking chocolate from his shop on Bull Street. The brand was incredibly successful, allowing for big expansion in 1878, when they brought 14.5 acre estate that would later become the village of Bourneville. Yep, not many other cities can claim to have a company so successful they built their own village! The factory on the site is still the main production base for the brand, which is now the second biggest confectionary brand in the world, behind Wrigleys.
The Jewellery Quarter
While not strictly a “brand”, the Jewellery Quarter area of Birmingham is so well known as a producer of quality jewellery that it may as well be. It is responsible for 40% of the UK’s jewellery manufacturing output, and many famous pieces were crafted in the area. The Wimbledon’s Ladies Singles trophy was made in the area, as was the original FA Cup. Acme Whistles, the world’s largest whistle manufacturer, have their HQ in the area. They made the first football referee in 1878, and the first police whistle in 1883. They even provided whistles that were used on the Titanic!
This is a little tenuous, as the original reciepe for HP Sauce was created in Nottingham by Frederick Gibson Garton. However, the recipe was sold to Edwin Samson Moore in 1903, and he subsequently launched HP in Birmingham. It stayed in it’s factory in Aston until 2007, when parent company Heinz moved production to the Netherlands.