The UK’s Oldest Businesses

The UK has been the home of a number of thriving businesses over past years, but how long have some of the oldest ones been trading for? It may be hard to imagine, but a number of businesses have been present for hundreds of years – so what are they and how have they managed to stand the test of time?

Old businesses are an important part of the British culture and a number of long-trading establishments form the backbone of our personal identities. Some of the oldest businesses in the UK have been trading for over a hundred years, proving that business ventures really can be fruitful.

Brooke’s Mill:  1541

Brooke’s Mill was established as far back as 1541 as a wool cloth mill. The Brooke family founded the mill and it is thought to be the oldest family business in the UK.

Length of Trade:  Still trading today, the Brooke’s Mill has been around for an astounding 470 years.

Owners:  The original owners of the business were John Brooke and sons. The mill has had a number of owners over the years but continues to function under the Brooke & Sons business name, with five generations continuing within the business.

How have they lasted? The Brooke’s Mill has managed to survive the test of time through diversification and expansion. Embracing new technology, such as the steam engine in the late 18th Century and power looms in 1836, enabled the business to continue to thrive and stay ahead of the competition. The family-run business also focused on the community element of their business, helping to build a local school and church in 1835 and 1848 respectively. Nowadays the Mill has ceased to be an area of textile manufacturing (after a closure in 1987) and has become a heritage park. The Oxford Heritage Park houses a number of businesses including one of the largest independent film studios and an art gallery.

Whitechapel Bell Foundry:  1570

Entered in the Guinness Book of Records, Whitechapel Bell Foundry stands as Britain’s oldest manufacturing company. It was established in 1570.

Length of Trade:  The foundry has been in operation for 441 years.

Owners:  Numerous people have owned the foundry including Robert Mott, the son of John Mott.

How have they lasted? The Whitechapel Bell Foundry has continued to manufacture bells and their associated fittings for a number of years. Dedicating themselves to meticulously high standards of work, the business gained fame for producing world renowned bells such as the Liberty Bell and Big Ben.

London Gazette:  1665

The London Gazette was established in 1665 following two key historical events: the Great Plague (1665-1666) and the decision of Charles II to move his court, and effectively the government, to Oxford. The London Gazette was originally published as The Oxford Gazette, changing its name in 1666 when the King returned to London.

Length of Trade:  The gazette has been trading for an impressive 346 years, although in a different capacity to its original format.

Owners:  Over the year, the paper has had multiple owners and writers, with famous scribes such as Lord Byron and Charles Dickens acknowledging the newspaper in their work. The first owner was Henry Muddiman.

How have they lasted? The London Gazette has managed to survive by diversifying with growing trends. Originally a private publication sent to subscribers, the gazette has now become a well-known newspaper publication.

Rachel is a freelance blogger and entrepreneur, always on the lookout for businesses for sale.

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