Some of Britains Best (and Oldest) Companies

Some of Britains Best (and Oldest) Companies

As well as being one of the greatest countries to do business in within the present day, the United Kingdom has a rich history in being the home of some of the most well known, established companies in the world. Here’s some household names with solid British routes.

1. Aston Martin, Luxury Sports Cars (1913)


Founded by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford in 1913 in a small London workshop, Aston Martin has since grown to become an internationally admired luxury brand. The brand’s credentials are further elevated with its connections to 007, firmly establishing itself in the luxury car world. David Brown, the English industrialist who became owner of Aston Martin between 1947 and 1972, allowed the company to truly flourish under his reign. His dynamism and revolutionary outlook, coupled with a desire to expand business, transformed Aston Martin into a multinational company, racing ahead of local competition.


2. Harrods (1824)


In 1824, at the age of 25, Charles Henry Harrod established a business at 228 Borough High Street in Southwark. In 1849, Harrod took over a small shop in the district of Brompton, on the same site of the current store. Henry Charles Harrod founded it as a grocery store in 1849. The enterprise expanded in the late 1800s, and many new departments were added. Development, taking risks and a taste for evolution allowed Harrods to be recognised globally as synonymous with luxury and opulence. With more than 300 departments and 1.1 million square feet of selling space, it’s also the largest department store in Europe.


3. The Royal Mint (886 AD)

The Royal Mint is the oldest company in the UK and is over 1,100 years old.

The Royal Mint’s story began in 886 AD, in the small workshops of Anglo-Saxon London, progressing through the centuries to be recognised today as the world’s leading export mint.

Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, recaptured London from the Danelaw (the Danes who controlled parts of England). Later that year, he began issuing silver pennies with his portrait.

This triumph and New Age ruling marked the beginning of the Royal Mint.

Technical advances and improvements in standards were made while at the Tower, particularly under the most famously coined Master of the Mint – Sir Isaac Newton. He introduced several measures, which increased accuracy and efficiency of minting, which made it much harder for counterfeit coins to be made. He certainly lived up to his given title, as even till now, the Royal Mint still uses some of the same processes to combat counterfeiting.


By 1279, every function of the Royal Mint was centralised in the Tower of London, where they remained until the 1960s.

This was when history was made.

The late 1960s was the first time the Royal Mint had been moved to a different place other than the Tower of London to perform its functions.

The Royal Mint is a currently limited company owned by HM Treasury in Llantrisant, Wales. It is a government-owned coin mint that produces every single coin in the UK.


4. Cadbury (1824)



In 1824, John Cadbury, a Quaker, opened his grocer’s shop and began selling tea, coffee, cocoa and drinking chocolate in Bull Street in Birmingham, England. Cadbury’s little shop grew in popularity so much that only seven years later, in 1931, he rented a warehouse in Crooked Lane, Birmingham. He began producing cocoa and chocolate there.


In the 1870s, when the company’s former factory got too small, He had a new vision of the future of Cadbury:

“Why should an industrial area be squalid and depressing? Cadbury asked. Why should not the industrial worker enjoy country air and occupations without being separated from his work? If the country is a good place to line-in, why not to work in?.”


The Cadbury business prospered to new heights at its new site at Bournville, and the company became famous for the positive developments in working conditions and social benefits for its growing workforce.

Recreational facilities, worker outings and education schemes became a regular for the Bournville workers. Innovativeness was made prominent in Cadbury more than a century before tech giants made having fun at work famous again.

Another step in innovation Cadbury made, was employing a women workforce.

He began employing women all the way back in the 1850s. Most firms did not hire women to these positions as forewomen before WW1.

When Cadbury moved from Bridge Street to Bournville in 1879, it employed 140 women out of a total of 230 workers.



Cadbury is one of the most popular and sought after chocolate brands in the world. The recipe to Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate still remains a top-secret, held under lock & key by the company.

5. Twinings, (1706)

Twinings is Britain’s oldest tea company. Originally, Thomas Twining was a weaver born in Gloucestershire, but having achieved Freeman of the city of London status at the age of 26, he decided to begin doing business in tea. After learning about the widely popular trade of tea at the time, Twining bought Tom’s Coffee House on London’s Strand.


Due to the fear of drinking contaminated water, people turned to alcohol. Coffee shops provided a great alternative to alcohol, and became all the rage in the late 17th Century. But, Twining soon started selling dry tea, allowing women to drink it at home, revolutionising the future of the tea trade. Thomas Twining opened Britain’s first tea room at 206 Strand in London in 1706, and thus, Twinings was born.




To this day, the company still operates from the same premises. In addition to being an international legacy company, Twinings is also the longest-standing ratepayer in London.

Twinings’ logo also holds a credible history. The logo was created in 1787, and therefore is the world’s oldest continuously used company logo.

6. Barclays (1690)


Barclays traces its ancestry back to two goldsmith bankers, John Freame (a quaker) and Thomas Gould in 1690 on Lombard Street, London. In 1728, they relocated to Lombard Street and adopted the spread eagle logo. In 1736, James Barclay,  John Freame’s son in law became a partner and later, used his name for the company. The name has remained a constant presence within the business ever since.

Barclays has always welcomed change and innovation. They even opened the world’s first cash machine at the Enfield Town Branch!

It is considered a systematically important bank, according to the Financial Stability Board.

Currently, 24 million people use Barclays bank worldwide.




7. BP (1909)

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In 1908, William D’Arcy, a British Businessman, was close to despair. The Australian-British mining magnate, had been awarded a concession from Persia (Iran) in 1901 to explore for oil in the country’s Southwest. Now, seven years later, he was close to financial ruin after gambling a large of his fortune on oil, but suddenly struck luck – literally. D’Arcy’s surveyors struck oil, rich atop a sulphurous patch.  The Anglo-Persian Oil Company emerged from this discovery and stood in command of what was the greatest oil find of its time.

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From the discovery of oil in Persia in 1908, BP has always held value towards its transitions. Coal to oil, oil to gas, onshore to deep water – and now development towards a mix of energy sources to move towards a lower carbon future. BP pride themselves on being adaptable to change – a motive that a lot of these companies depend on to continue to strive this many years on.

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8. Lloyds (1765)

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Lloyds Bank is one of the oldest banks in the UK, tracing its establishment to Taylors and Lloyds, a private bank founded in 1765 in Birmingham by toy manufacturer (enamelled snuff boxes and gilt buttons were his most popular products of the time) John Taylor, and Quaker Sampson Lloyd II, who had inherited the family iron business. In 2009, Lloyds became merged into Lloyds Banking Group, combining Lloyds, Halifax, Bank of Scotland and Scottish Widows. Since this merger, Lloyds has become one of the Big Four banks in the UK. It is the largest retail bank in Britain, with over 16 million accounts and customers.

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9. Sainsbury’s (1869)

Sainsbury’s was established as a partnership in 1869, when John James Sainsbury and his wife Mary Ann opened a shop at 173 Drury Lane in Holborn, London. Sainsbury started as a retailer of fresh foods and later expanded into packaged groceries, such as tea and sugar. His trading philosophy, as stated on a sign outside his first shop in Islington, was: “Quality perfect, prices lower”.


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Sainsbury’s is confidently innovative. They often get credited with being among the earliest adopters and developers of self-service in the 21st Century. They also introduced the modern supermarket concept. This sense of innovation and combating change have allowed Sainsbury’s to become one of the biggest and best supermarkets in the UK.



10. (An honourable mention) Colgate

Although Colgate was technically established in the US, the English routes still run proud within its foundations.

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In 1806, devout Baptist English immigrant soap and candle maker William Colgate established a starch, soap, and candle factory on Dutch Street in New York City, under the name William Colgate & Company.

William followed his goal of prosperity through life, and became one of the most prosperous men in the city of New York. When he established his small business, he could hardly have imagined what it would have become over the next two centuries – a truly global company, serving billions of consumers worldwide.

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As you’ve learnt, most of these business owners were actually Quakers. Quakers could not attend University as they are non-Anglicans. This meant that Quakers would use their time another way. Founding a famously global business isn’t about intelligence or wealth. It is about being innovative, revolutionary and adaptable. Moving with the wave of time and providing solutions that make people remember why you are their first choice – for hundreds of years to come.

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