London – Manufactures

We discovered this interesting article on the history of London manufacturing – the article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

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London Manufactures

The manufactures of London are in proportion to its commerce; and notwithstanding the advanced rate of living, and the high price of house-rent, coals, and every thing that can affect the artisan and mechanic, the manufactures of London are great and flourishing, surpassing in quality those of any other part of the country, so much, that any article warranted “town-made” is certain of obtaining an advanced price. In the silk trade alone 50,000 persons, or one-sixtieth of the whole population, are employed in London, and in most of the light manufactures the number is proportionably great. It is no disparagement to the rest of the country, that London excels in its manufactures, since where the best price is paid the best workmen will be attracted; and it is due to the country to say, that to it is London constantly indebted for a succession of artists and mechanics, by whose ingenuity she is not only rendered celebrated but enriched.

Many years ago Sheffield, justly celebrated for its cutlery, challenged London to a trial of skill, by sending a knife of a very curious construction to the Cutlers’ company, with an insertion on one of the blades, defying competition. The London cutlers, ambitious for the honour of their trade, made a penknife, containing one well-tempered blade, in which was introduced a piece of straw. On the blade were some lines, stating the fact; and the Sheffield cutlers, who might well feel incredulous, broke the blade, and found the straw entire and unsinged; a piece of ingenious art for which they acknowledged themselves unable to account; and yet Sheffield was celebrated for its cutlery so far back as the time of Chaucer, whose monk “a Sheffield whittle bore he in his hose.”

In the more scientific manufactures, such as machinery, optical and mathematical instruments, London has always been celebrated. It was in the metropolis that Mr. Penn made his celebrated burning glass, of such power, that iron, steel, flint, stone, and even the diamond itself yielded to its almost magic power; and here Dollond carried into effect, if he did not originate, that most important scientific discovery the achromatic glasses; and a Mudge, an Arnold, and a Brock bank, made chronometers, which seem to have approached perfection as far as it can possibly be attained.

It is highly honorable to the operative mechanics and artists of the metropolis, that amidst all the fluctuation of trade “such a thing as a journeyman, tradesman, or any of his family begging is almost unknown, and may with certainty be pronounced as one of the rarest of contingent events.”

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery


Further reading and external links

Sholto and Reuben Percy