Meet the British Manufacturing Boss: Harvey Bowden – Harvey Water Softeners

Harvey and van

Harvey in the early days.

In this week’s blog we’re proud to meet pioneering British manufacturing boss Harvey Bowden of Harvey Water Softeners. In this post Harvey discusses why being a ‘Made in Britain’ accredited company is important to him and what motivated him to make his product here at a time when many would have thought him foolish. Harvey, over to you…

I could have done it cheaper overseas, and that’s plain wrong

Setting up a factory was a strange thing to be doing in Britain twenty years ago. Back then, the heart of the country’s industry was still being packed up and shipped overseas by companies searching for savings at any cost.

I could have done the same. Outsourcing my whole production line abroad would have made things cheaper, sure – I wouldn’t have needed to build a factory for one thing. I wouldn’t have needed to pay engineers, designers or production staff. I could have just imported cheaper products and then sold them on. It would have been much ‘easier’ in lots of ways, and that’s what was so wrong.

You see I didn’t just want to build a manufacturing business for me, and I certainly didn’t want to do it at the expense of my own community or country. Especially when the people I needed with the skills and expertise to help me make the best softeners were all around me here at home.

After selling US-made products during the ’70s and ’80s, I knew through experience that the best way to build products for British homes with British plumbing was to use British plumbing expertise. I was a plumber by trade, and by making our products right here I knew we’d always be able to stay in control of product quality.

Harvey Water Softener - individualI wanted to build the world’s best water softener here in Britain

I’m all for the free market, don’t get me wrong. It can help the best rise to the top. But with that power to deal freely with the world’s markets comes a responsibility, I believe, on the part of the entrepreneur to not make business decisions that negatively impact on their local areas. The place they call home, pay taxes and use public services.

That’s just me, anyway. I knew what I wanted to do; build the world’s best water softener. And I wanted to do it here in Britain.

I had the idea – the world’s first twin-tank softener that would fit underneath a kitchen sink – but it was the people around me who helped turn that idea into a reality over the next two decades and create the business we’ve got today.

We now employ almost 200 people from our local area in Woking, and we’re still growing. The fact that we are a British manufacturer has been great for business, especially over the last five years. To many of our UK customers, where their products come from and how they’re made is more important now, than ever.

Our sales abroad have increased in recent years too. In the eyes of our European customers, our ‘Made in Britain’ accreditation stands for quality, performance and satisfaction, and that’s no accident.

We’ll always make our water softeners here

British manufacturing has come a long way since I started out. Companies now can do things here that were beyond imagination just twenty years ago and the few things that we had to buy from overseas in the early days have since been ‘reshored’. This means that, as of 2014, our softeners are made entirely in Britain – with all components now made on site on in this country too. A long-held wish come true for me.

However, manufacturers still account for less than 15% of the UK economy, so there’s much work still to be done. We’ll carry on doing our part, making softeners here and helping more households to experience the many benefits of soft water; longer-lasting appliances, cheaper bills, fewer products to name but a few.

I’m proud to be making in Britain, and I hope that more companies carry on doing the same.

Harvey Bowden is the founder of Harvey Water Softeners – click on the link to find out more about their three-month water softener trials.

A wine by any other name… The official new name for English Sparking Wine

nyetimberFrance has Champagne, Italy has Prosecco and Spain has Cava… but with the meteoric rise of the reputation of English Sparking Wine there has been a struggle as to what to call it. It seems English Winemakers now how have a solution… or do they?

When you think about Champagne or Prosecco they conjure up images of sophistication, high society and celebration. However, the new official name for English Sparking Wine, as backed by the UK Vineyard Association somehow seems to miss the same mark.

The association are suggesting that UK winemakers begin using the term ‘British Fizz’ on their bottles in order to differentiate it from it’s more established French, Italian and Spanish rivals. But, not everyone is convinced by the new name… myself included.

British Fizz. It just does not seem to have the right resonance. To me it suggests more alco-pop than a refined premium product. That being said, it is easier to criticise that create and I cannot really think of anything too much better.

If you have any bright ideas please comment below.

– James

Review: Sofas by Saxon – Plaid Throw

Just before Christmas we were introduced to a proud Lancashire-based company called Sofas by Saxon. As the name suggest they make sofas but have also expanded inthrowto producing, rugs, throws and cushions… all made in beautiful Bolton. They sent us a fantastic plaid patterned throw which, as luck would have it, looks great on our living room chair.

A family business since 1982, Sofas by Saxon are likely best know for producing Chesterfield-style sofas but have, what appears to be, an endless range of living room furniture in every conceivable colour, and even undertake bespoke work. It is clear that their 75 strong manufacturing team are kept pretty busy.

The throw they sent to us as a sweetener for writing nice things about them (which we would have done anyway… but don’t tell them) is made from 100% British wool and comes in 7 colours. It is fair to say that they are all muted country tones and 5 of them are plaid. This is perfect for us as we are very traditional in our tastes and that’s why, when asked to choose one, we opted for the ‘Blackberry Crumble’ which features olive tones with a hint of purple (check it out here:

Strangely, we have quite a collection of British made throws and at £130 the latest addition is the most expensive. That being said it is the best quality by some margin and well worth the nominal extra spend. It is also slightly larger then the others too, which is an advantage when you need to fit the whole family under it on a cold winter night.

If the throw is anything to go by their sofas, I imagine, are going to be top-notch too. I am a little partial to a Chesterfield and staring at just £729 (sale price so get in quick) I would say that they are a great option for our next sofa.

It is clear that these guys are proud to be a British manufacturer and it is nice to see that they are heavily plugging the British made = quality piece throughout their literature.

So, in short, here we have a great British manufacture making quality stuff in the UK at a decent price. What more can you ask for?

Oh, and here is a video of some sofas being made… enjoy!

Editor's Rating
Value for Money
Total British Family Rating72/100



New Collective of British manufacturers – Initial signs are promising

A new collective of British manufacturers have just met to discuss how they can take more control of the future of the ailing sector. The results were very positive.

Earlier this week the MD of MSE UK, Alex Henderson (a British manufacturer of medical equipment), and I organised a meeting with manufacturers to discuss how we might influence change in the sectors at this time of political upheaval.

Firstly, we were overwhelmed by the response to our invitation to attend (or our call to arms, if you will).  In attendance for the round table event we representatives from, what seemed like, every conceivable sub-sector of British manufacturing and from all over the country.

A far larger number of manufactures contacted me in response to the invitations apologising for not being able to attend but wishing to know the outcome. For those interested, here is a brief summary of the action points to come out of the meeting:

It was clear that, as a collective of manufacturers, our specific priorities differ. That being said, there was consensus that it was an over-arching cultural change in attitude towards British manufacturing that was required. This included in change in consumer buying habits, political rhetoric and in education. It was also clear that we were all keen for the net result of any activities undertaken by the group resulted in increased sales for UK manufacturers both domestically and through export.

There was further consensus that what was required was a well-funded ‘marketing organisation’ rather than a lobby group per-se. There was reference to the activities of the organisations such as the Milk Marketing Board and the Meat Marketing Board who managed to successfully change British consumer culture in the mid-20th century, the legacy of which remains to this day. It was recognised that the formation of a ‘Manufacturing Marketing Board’ would take considerable resource and infrastructure as well as requiring a long-term view but would be a worthwhile exercise.

There was some concerns raised by the group about the number of differing organisations that exist claiming to be working in the name of British manufacturing. It was agreed that there needed to be some push to combine the associated efforts of these dispersed groups. However, it was also acknowledged that the differing priorities of these organisations, the commercial nature of some and the egos of those involved may frustrate a call to arms under one banner.

Ultimately, it was considered that the formation of a formal organisation at this point was currently beyond the reach of the group. That being said we have agreed to a number of first steps in an attempt to put the group in a more powerful position to do so:

  • A Statement of Intent, or mission statement, will be drafted and agreed by those present by the end of the year. Alex Henderson will offer a first draft for consideration.
  • It was clear that, within the room, we have a powerful reach to other manufacturers and other collectives. With that in mind we will reach out to others from within our own networks in order achieve significant backing for the Statement from industry. This could be in the form a 38 degrees campaign. This will begin early in the New Year.
  • Given significant backing a collective approach to government will be made as well as to other manufacturing representative bodies.
  • James Bradshaw will organise some method for ongoing collaboration for the group which will allow for group input ‘virtually’. This could be a forum or another such online collaboration tool.

Personally, I believe that yesterday we achieved consensus on a path to move forward. We certainly had enough passion in the room to make me optimistic that such enthusiasm will be contagious as we approach others.

If you were unable to join us for the meeting but would still like to be involved please contact us directly.


Can battered UK manufacturers keep up with post Brexit demand?

banksyUK manufacturing is on the cusp of a revival say insiders but is an industry that has suffered 50 years of gradual depletion up to it?

The emerging renaissance in UK manufacturing has been driven by the rising cost of overseas production, particularly in China, and an increased need for flexibility in supply chains. And now that the UK has voted to leave the European Union, optimists believe demand for local manufacturing will grow. However, the manufacturing industry has been decimated since the 1970s and 1980s.

The UK fashion industry is expected to be one of the big Brexit winners. Around 100,000 people are now employed by the UK’s clothing and textile industry. This is actually the highest number since 2007, but is still dramatically less than the early 1970s, when it provided jobs for more than 1 million people. A recent report from the UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT) this summer revealed a 7.6% increase in the number of UK companies manufacturing textiles and clothing over the past year. This is clearly a break from a long-standing downward trend but if Brexit does trigger a sudden rise in demand can the much depleted sector keep up?

UK factories no longer have the capacity for volume manufacturing, so meeting any boom in demand will be far from easy.


Calling all British manufacturers – it’s time to be heard!


Alex Henderson MD of MSE with James

Do you own a British manufacturing company and want influence positive change in UK governmental policy affecting the sector?

As a small group of British manufacturers we invite interested and impassioned business leaders to join us for an informal roundtable discussion on the subject of how the UK manufacturing sector can influence positive government change.

Whatever your political opinions, we have a narrow window of opportunity to make our recommendations for the impending Brexit negotiations. We are sure that your hope, like ours, is that leaving the EU will ultimately positively benefit the long suffering UK manufacturing sector rather than continue to stifle it.

Our immediate ambition is to ensure that the manufacturing sectors’ voice is heard during these negotiations and then, beyond, we are well represented in future policy.

We feel that this can be achieved through the creation of a new independent lobbying body set up by industry to represent the voice of its members. On the evening of the meeting we hope to set, by mutual agreement, some positive plans for immediate action and appoint a board of directors.

Important Note: Only a small number of seats are available for this roundtable discussion. If you are not the owner or an officially recognised representative from a manufacturing organisation your application to attend will be refused. However, at a later date we will value passionate supporters and welcome you to register your interest to attend future events to

To register your interest to attend this event please visit:


Download our press release in WORD or PDF

Marmite -V- Tesco – the true cost of Brexit

marmiteMarmite, the salty yeast based breakfast staple, is at the centre of an on-going row between two consumer giants. Unilever are saying that Brexit is responsible for the massive price hike of it’s products and Tesco are saying that they should not foot the bill. Tesco has since gone on to embargo affected Unilever products meaning that stocks of the Marmite are no longer appearing on shelves. However, Marmite is actually made in the UK. So why is it’s price being effected by the falling pound?

Marmite has been exclusively produced in one factory in Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire since 1902. While the exact recipe is a trade secret, its main ingredients include yeast extract, vegetables and spices and was originally produced in the town because of it’s rich brewing heritage. There were once 30 breweries in the surrounding area which supplied the waste yeast as a by-product of beer making to the Marmite factory but now the raw materials come from across the country.

The pound has fallen 17% since Britain voted to leave the EU. Some suggest that these are fantastic conditions for UK manufacturing to grow and thrive and, in any case, why should a UK produced product consisting of all UK produced ingredients suffer from such currency fluctuations. Well, the answer is simple – while the product itself is made in the UK the bottles aren’t. Like many similar products, the bottles are likely to constitute the majority of the value of the finished. Basically, the cost of the container is more expensive to produce than the content. After all, the main ingredient is slurried yeast!

Unilever are asking for 10% price increase in a number of their products and some are suggesting that the increased costs, in real terms, are unlikely to be that high. So are Unilever trying to take advantage of the current political situation? The answer has to be ‘quite possibly’. If successful are other food producers going to try something similar – almost certainly.

With the falling pound it is clear that imported goods will likely suffer a price hike but the majority of UK produced items should remain static. As consumers, in the short-term, we will certainly need to begin scrutinising the location of manufacture of goods far more rigorously in order to get the best deals. This is unless unscrupulous producers begin trying to pull a fast one.

UK manufacturing suffering but it’s too early for Remainers to gloat.

uk-manufacturing-outputs-slight-june-growthThe plunging pound is failing to boost demand for UK exports British factories suffered a worse-than-expected drop in activity after the Brexit vote.

Eagerly anticipated data released today by the Office of national Statistics (ONS) showed a sharp contraction in the manufacturing sector in July of 0.9%. This news comes despite hopes that the Brexit-hit pound might make British made good an attractive proposition for overseas buyers.

However, the figures appear to show a small 0.1% rise in overall industrial production for the same period which seems to somewhat contradict the doom and gloom.

Whatever you politics many sources are using this news as an ‘I told you so’ to underline their stance on the recent Brexit vote. However, if recent history has taught us anything it is that we should be careful not to talk ourselves into recession.

At worst todays news is a mixed message. I believe, that given the right governmental support the UK manufacturing sector could emerge from Brexit stronger than at any other point in it’s recent history, but it will be a long game. It is far too early for ‘I told you so’ and certainly far to early to worry about recession.

  • James

After nearly a century MG cars are no longer made in Britain

1280px-mg_tf_blue_frontThe last MG branded car to be built in the UK has already rolled off the production line. After 90 years of production the Chinese owners of the MG marque have decided to more production… yes, you guessed it – to China.

Shanghai-based SAIC Motor acquired Chinese automaker Nanjing Automobile in 2006 following their purchase of the MG marque and the Longbridge facility (for £53 million) just 12 month earlier.

The British-badged carmaker, first established in 1920, sold 2,300 vehicles in the UK last year. However, SAIC suggest that the move will only cost 25 jobs in the UK.

The low redundancy figure can be attributed to the fact that much of the actual manufacturing was off-shored soon after the initial 2006 deal. The production line in Longbridge, as I understand it, was mainly for screwing on the bumpers and other last fix assembly.

So, the reality is that, if you have bought a new MG in the last 10 years. Its claim to be ‘Made in Britain’ might be considered to be illegitimate.

Ultimately, the latest news is the final nail in the coffin for the manufacture of these iconic British sports cars in the UK.

Evans Lichfield Cushion

20160927_085150We have been lucky enough to have recently been sent a beautiful British made cushion from Evans Lichfield. Utilising the the work of a talented stable of British artists, Lichfield Evans specialise in fabric cushions that would feature wonderfully in any country house.

The company currently employ 50+ people in their West Midlands factory and create a product of outstanding quality (especially considering the price). Their cushions seem to me to be within a pretty reasonable price bracket – between £10 – £20.

The sample we were sent is made from 60% cotton and 40% linen and comes filled with a fibre-filled inner. It is a perfect sofa-size measuring in at 40cmX60cm and features large pink, purple and blue flowers printed to one side. Rather spookily they decided to send us a cushion that seems to fit our home decor pretty well. However, I am unable to find the same design on their website so am unable to tell you the artist.

While on the subject of their website, Lichfield Evans suffer from one of our pet hates – a great British made product underpinned by a poor online offering. Thier own website does not allow you to buy online but after some further investigation I was able to find an Amazon account for them which appears to stock much of their range (click here).

While there range might not suit all tastes, if you are going for a classic British country house look their cushions could be just the thing to finish off your living room.

  • Emily
Editor's Rating
Value for Money
Total British Family Rating60/100
Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On Google PlusVisit Us On PinterestVisit Us On YoutubeVisit Us On LinkedinCheck Our Feed