A comprehensive guide to British made sunglasses

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Polaroid lenses made in the UK

At the weekend the Bradshaw family took their first trip outside of Britain for 4 years. It was only a day trip to Paris but was a well needed day out, made even better by the bright sunshine. That being said it did serve to highlight our collective need to invest in some new sunglasses before the fabulous British summer hits. Now our question is – can we buy British made shades for the whole family?

There seems to be a number of companies producing sunglasses in the UK. However, the vast majority that are truly made in Britain, annoyingly like most fashion items, occupy the top end of the market. After a review of every British manufacturer of sunglasses here is what we found:

Fan  Optics
Rather unusually these guys design their glasses in Holland but actually manufacture them in the UK. They hand make funky retro-inspired designs that look rather striking. However, if you baulk at the £300 price tag for a pair of ‘Fan’s’ I am afraid that things, from a price perspective, are not going to get much better as you work your way through the rest of this list.

Opera Opera
A frame manufacturer for over 25 years, Opera Opera are optometrists first, fashion designers second. There eclectic range tends to be vintage inspired reproducing designs as worn by John Lennon, Buddy Holly and Jonny Depp. Their sunglasses start at a comparatively reasonable £205

Polaroid
Is a British brand that is a sister company of the ill-fated camera manufacturer. Their frames are actually made abroad but they appear on this list because they are the only British based sunglasses lenses manufacturer. With prices from around £50 they are well priced and have a great range. You can also find them on the high street.

Occles - look like a Star Trek character but achieve a line free tan!

Occles – achieve a line free tan!

Occles
A bit of a wild card perhaps but Occles make blackout sunglasses here in the UK. What are blackout sunglasses you ask? Well, basically they block the sun completely while sunbathing while allowing you to tan without the usual white lines traditional sunnies might make. If that is your thing then a pair of Occles will set you back just £22… bargain… but you might get some odd looks on the beach.

Edward Gucewicz
Edward Gucewicz makes a single style of sunglasses out of buffalo horn. They are pretty great looking and I would love  a pair but at nearly £700 they have a very specific audience (which does not include me).

Banton Frame Works
If you are looking for a well priced (around £150), fashionable and British made pair of sunglasses our winner might be Banton Frame Works. With a nice range of glasses to choose from these could be an option for us.

Premiere Optica
If you want to look like your favourite film star Premiere Optica have the specs for you. However, they even offer the option to design your own.

Tender sunglasses
Made from a cellulose acetate derived from cotton pulp, Tender produce a single style of sunglasses in an retro 1950’s design. They admittedly look pretty good but at £445 they may price many out of the market.

Be in good company with C.W Dixey.

Be in good company with C.W Dixey.

CW Dixey and Son
Established in 1777, C.W. Dixey & Son claim to be the oldest independent eyewear company in the world. While not strictly producing sunglasses they produce a variety of frames which also benefit for the patronage of Sir Winson Churchill. It is fair to say that their collection is likely to jar with some modern tastes but I would not mind a pair in the slightest.

Wooden Sunglasses
Yes, wooden sunglasses are actually a thing and there seems to be a number of British based makers. Whether a gimmick or a hipsters dream, wooden sunglasses seem to be here to stay. As far as I am concerned I am undecided. Companies that make them include;

Moats – prices from £200

Barrow & Flux – price unknown

Termite – prices from £180

There you have it – a pretty comprehensive rundown of the options open to you if you are looking to buy British shades this summer. If you have any experience with the brands above or know of any other British made sunglasses please comment below.

– James

The ultimate British made watch guide

Given Britain’s history in watch making, stretching back to the reign to Queen Elizabeth I, the fact that there are so few watches made in the UK is really rather lamentable. As late as 1970’s there were still a number of major manufacturers making large numbers of quality timepieces, including Smiths, Ingersoll and Timex. Today there are in increasing number of passionate watch manufactures left in the UK and while they tend to produce limited edition collectable pieces, for those that can afford it, they should be supported. However, I am going to admit to being a little bit hypocritical here, because the only reason I now own a British made watch is because my Swiss made one is going to take 3 months to service.

I own a Breitling and will admit that this will always be my main watch. This is because it holds a bit of sentimentality for me, as watches have a habit of doing. That being said it has not proven to be totally reliable and so has recently gone in for a service to fix various issues. This means that it gets shipped back to Switzerland and will be gone for a number of months. I could not possibly be without a watch so did a lot of research into an affordable British made back-up, for the times the Breitling is away. I have had personal contact with Robert Loomes and Bremont over the years but, with the best will in the world, I could not possibly justify the expense of these extremely high-end watches.

Noting that I was priced out of modern British made watches, I then starting researching vintage and was amazed to find that you could pick up some fantastic bargains. A 15 or 21 jewel Ingersoll might only set you back £100. These things would have been top of the range in their day and are being sold on Ebay for a next to nothing. In the end I opted for a middle-of-the-range Timex and paid the paltry sum of £30 (inc p&p) for the privilege… bargain! Made in the 1960’s the watch runs like it came out of the factory yesterday [If there is any appetite for it, I might do a review of this lovely old watch at some point]. My advice would be that, if you cannot afford a modern British watch then buy vintage. You will get style and quality for next to no money.

Anyway, I promised the ultimate guide to British made watches. So, here it is:

Modern British made watches

Roger Smith

George Daniels was one of the masters of British watch making. Roger Smith became his apprentice and took over the helm as Britain’s foremost watchmaker. In his small workshop on the Isle of Man he, and his team of around 6 people, produce hand-made pieces in the traditional English style. They make just 10 timepieces per year, hence the £35,000 to £250,000 price tag. A bit rich for most.

 Bremont

The approprialty named brothers, Nick and Giles English, made their first watches in 2007. In this short amount of time they have arguably become the largest British watch brand, producing about 4,000 pieces per year.  The style of their watches are in the modern aviation trend and are generally priced competitively with major Swiss brands like Rolex and Breitling. They are currently the largest manufacturer of watches in the UK producing around 4000 pieces per year. However, it must be noted that they, like many in this list, use Swiss movements and it is only their cases are fully UK manufactured.

Robert Loomes

I visited Robert Loomes a couple of months ago. You can read my blog about my tour of their workshop here>>>. Robert produces, perhaps the only fully UK made watches in mainland Britain. Using a hoard of new/old stock Smiths movements he produces watches entirely from their Stamford workshop.  He makes watches in limited edition runs and prices start from around £6000.

Meridian

Based in Norwich Meridian, use Swiss movements to power their watches. Launched in 2012 and producing just 500 pieces per year, at a cost of around £4000, they have a much more contemporary design than many of the others in this list.

J&T Windmills

The great thing about J&T Windmills watches is they are just about affordable. At a cost of around £700 they undercut all other British makers on this list by some margin. There design is very much towards the traditional, which might be off putting for some, but then they do have a history stretch back to the 1600’s. Once more, they use Swiss movements but their cases are British made.

Dent London

EJ Dent built the clock tower that houses Big Ben, so you might think that there is some real British pedigree here when it comes to horology, but they are actually a relatively new company of a similar name. I know little about this company other than there watches are pretty expensive, starting around £20,000.

Peter Roberts

Peter Roberts produces, in my opinion, one of the nicest looking watches in this list. They are still trying to sell a 2013/14 production run of about 40 pieces and at a cool £20,000 it is not hard to see why.

IWI watches 

IWI produce, what I would call, ‘odd’ looking watches, complete with top mounted crown (rather than side mounted). They are a little too unusual for my taste but with prices starting at around £1000 they are not an unrealistic option if you wanted to buy a British made watch.

Harold Pinchpeck

[Thanks to Tony in the comment section for bringing this one to our attention] Harold Pinchpeck have a heritage stretching back over 300 years but somehow eluded my original research. This is such a shame because they actually become the best value watches on this list. It seems that you can pick up a watch made by these guys for as little as £400… and what is more, they are beautiful. They are simple, understated but solid looking. Simply put, they are great. I suspect I will be a customer of theirs at some point soon.

– James

Review: Dualit Classic Toaster – Hand Built in the UK

IMG_3775Would you spend £150 or more on a toaster? Well, we have and I will tell you why – For us buying a Dualit Classic Toaster seemed to make a lot of sense. It is not that money is of no object but we have learnt that it is always more economical to buy quality and buy it once.

The main selling point for us investing in a Dualit Newgen 2 slice toaster was the concept of being able to renew any individual part of the machine without loosing any other bit. If the filament blows or a knob breaks we can just ring Dualit and they send us the part for us to be able to replace. I am planning for this to be the only toaster I ever buy… Fantastic!

Everything you buy these days has a certain level of ‘planned obsolescence’  built into it. From cars to computers and fridges to phones, they are built to break. The Dualit seems to buck this rather annoying trend and that is something we are happy to support.

A counter argument to this would be that you can buy five £30 toasters for the same price as the Dualit and as such the same sum of money could be used in this way. That is true but what £30 does not buy you is a machine of such a rare utilitarian beauty. There is such a real pleasure in owning it… and we have eaten significantly more toast since buying it.

It is worth noting that it is only the premium range of toasters that Dualit make in the UK. The cheaper ‘Lite’ range are made, well, I imagine in the Far East somewhere. They are about half the price and look similar to the more expensive ‘Classic’ version but up close are not even in the same league. In this case you certainly get what you pay for.

From an aesthetic perspective the Dualit has an understated but functional retro charm. We opted for the fully chromed version, imagining that it would go with any kitchen we ever have. However, the interchangeable end vents come in 16 different colour options meaning that we could change the colour of our toaster in future years if we choose.

IMG_3779Do not be fooled into thinking that for 150 notes you are going to be getting the toaster of the future. There are absolutely no bells and whistles with this machine… I mean quite literally, there is not event a binger on the timer. You are notified that your toast is cooked with a rather un-ceremonial thud of the clockwork timer stopping suddenly. There is no automatic popping up toast either just a simple manual leaver (which actually delivers a rather satisfying action). This is a no-frills, little fuss, gets the job done bit of kit… and that is why we love it!

Editor's Rating
Quality
Value for Money
Functionality
Design
Satisfaction
Total British Family Rating82/100

British grown wasabi…. really?

Wasabi-on-Chopping-Board_377_450_c1In 2013 we were surprised to find both tea and olives grown commercially in Britain. At that point we had assumed that we had uncovered the furthest reaches of UK farming’s diversification.  Then The Wasbai Company comes along and throws us a curve call. British farming, you never fail to surprise us!

Let’s first of all set the record straight – it is unlikely that you have tasted ‘real’ wasabi. The green paste you get at your local sushi restaurant is more than likely common horseradish dyed green. We love Japanese food and so we were really excited to try our first taste of proper Wasabi.

There is nothing simple about farming Wasabi. Wild wasabi grows alongside mountain streams and takes advantage of the abundant supply of nutrient rich water, with a high, dissolved oxygen content.  Optimum conditions for growth require the right balance of sun, shade and water flow at different times of the year.  The Wasabi Company have pioneered a system to mimic these environmental conditions, on their farm in Dorset, using their experience as the UK’s largest producer of watercress.  It is, arguably, their experience growing this other difficult crop that ultimately made them the first people to grow Wasabi commercially in Europe.

However, fresh wasabi is also a temperamental cooking ingredient. If exposed to the air for longer than 15-20 minutes it loses its flavour, it does not store for longer than 2 weeks in the fridge (when wrapped in muslin cloth) and rinsed daily.

Processing the wasabi officially requires a wasabi grater but we simply used the finest part of our common cheese greater. The idea is that you form a really thin paste using a circular motion on the greater and it is this paste that you use in your cooking. Again, you must only process the wasabi if you intend to use it immediately.

The fresh Wasabi is sold in ‘rhizomes’, a green root stem, measuring about 5 inches in length (50g). It comes tightly wrapped in a damp muslin cloth and delivered with some very clear instructions on it’s use. Including delivery, the cost of one rhizome was around £16.00. Yes, this is not a cheap ingredient.

The first tasting

MrsB and I challenged each other to try a thin sliver of the wasabi cut strength from the root. We both expected a nostril burning hit of heat but it was actually quite bearable, more like a hot radish. The flavour is much milder and far sweeter than horseradish but you can tell it is of the same family due to its earthiness.

Our first dish we cooked was a fried salmon (recipe coming shortly) for which we used about half of the root. The remaining root we added to mayonnaise which was recommendation from a follower on Twitter. This we used in a number of meals over the next couple of days, including a rather decadent fish finger sandwich!

So, would we recommend British wasabi? Of course! Yes, it is hard to cook with and store but that is all part of the ceremony of using it and yes, it is expensive but if you are looking to give your food an extravagance on a special occasion it is well worth it.

– James

Addis Super Mop is British Made

HH5471_p72For me, finding useful everyday items made in the UK gives me a real buzz. So imagine my excitement at finding a British made mop!

Addis Housewares are a British company with a long history. Founded in 1780, originally making bone toothbrushes, they moved into the manufacture of general housewares in the early 1800’s.

William Addis, the company founder, could be credited with inventing the modern toothbrush. William was jailed for inciting a riot in 1770 (for reasons I cannot ascertain) and while at His-Majesty’s pleasure fashioned a bristle/bone concoction to buff his pearly-whites. He sounds like quite a character. Eventually his company launched the Wisdom toothbrush brand in the 1940’s, becoming the Britain first mass-produced nylon toothbrush. Sadly, Wisdom toothbrushes are no longer made in the UK. The factory producing them in Haverhill, Suffolk closed in 2009. However, Addis do still make a large number of items in the UK, including my new Superdry mop.

Largely moulded plastic and costing just £12 it is surprising that the Superdry mop is made in the UK. This kind of cheap mundane item is all too often imported. If I was going to review it I would say that it is made well-enough and does exactly what it should. What more can I say…. our floors have never been cleaner.

ADDIS1870_logo_280pxIt should be noted that not all of the products Addis produce are made in the UK though. They also have large factories in Europe and the Far East, so it is worth checking the labelling before buying. Our mop was clearly marked as made in the UK. I will make contact with Addis and see if they can provide a comprehensive list of which products in their range are made in Britain and keep you updated.

– Emily

Editor's Rating
Quality
Value for Money
Functionality
Design
Satisfaction
Total British Family Rating72/100

Not Brown and Out… a saucy review

Those that follow our blog know that we are not afraid to tackle the BIG issues. For our first blog of the year we are going to be talking sauce! Not just any sauce, but the brown variety.

Today the papers have announced that sales of brown sauce are taking a dramatic decline (about 19%). For over 100 years the unlikely mix of dates, tamarind and vinegar has graced the tables of greasy spoons across the nation. Although, it has never managed to take off anywhere else in the world.

HP, perhaps the nations favourite, sauce was created in 1895 by Nottingham grocer Frederick Gibson Garton, who claimed it was being served at the Houses of Parliament. However, the recipe has far more ancient roots dating back to the Romans when it was served as an accompaniment to oysters.

Neither HP nor their nearest rival Daddies Sauce are produced in the UK any longer. Both now being imported from Holland. If you are, like us, a lover of a dollop of Brown sauce on your bacon sarnie then you may be glad to hear that there are British made brands which are far superior. We have tried some of them, so here are our findings:

f6ce197bf01798f69317968860d0b4b9.image.276x240Great British Sauce: Proper Brown 
GB sauce are firm favourites with not just because the launched at the British Family Fayre 2013 but because everything in their increasing range of sauces is FANTASTIC, and their brown sauce is no exception. Subtly spiced and with a very natural flavour they use only the very best ingredients… and it shows. They are quickly winning over foodie fans across the nation.

They are currently stocked in Sainsburys and a 330g bottle will set you back £2.00.

brown-sauce

Stokes: Brown Sauce
Some people love Stokes sauces but I personally struggle with a weird ‘plasticity’ that exists across all of their range, including the chutneys. It is hard to describe but I am simply not a big fan.  Their brown sauce suffers worst of all from this odd ‘mouth feel’, in my opinion. I would love to be more positive, and would love to hear your differing opinions, but I just do not like it.

That being said Stokes sauces are really popular and very widely stocked. A 320g bottle of Stokes brown is priced £3.10.

forces saucesForces Sauces: Brigadier Brown
The major USP for this sauce is that fact that it supports those that have formally served in the British Armed Forces with their profits.  A truly great cause. However, what is the sauce like? Well, pretty darn good actually. The one thing I would say about this sauce is that it is really spicy! This is great on occasion but sometimes it is a little too much for me. If you like a fiery sauce then this is the one to get.

We bought ours from Waitrose but I know that other supermarkets also stock it. At £3.80 for a 500ml bottle it is rather expensive too.

 

 108Wilkin & Sons: ‘Tiptree’ Brown Sauce
The Tiptree Brown sauce is sweeter than the others on this list and sweeter even than HP. That being said it is still a really great sauce that has a very natural flavour. One more thing is that the Tiptree comes out a little thinner than I like personally but that does not stop it being a regular on our breakfast table.

Wilkin & Sons stock in various supermarkets including Waitrose and costs £2.00 for 310g.

 

There, you have it. A quick review of just some of the Brown sauces still made in the UK. If you have tried any others please do let us know in the comments section below.

– James

Review: Snugrugs Sheepskin Slippers

20141007_152810-1We have kindly been given a pair of mens’ moccasins to review by fantastic Kentish business, Snugrugs, and just in time too. The weather has certainly taken a turn for the worse over the last couple of days. That being said, the good people at Snugrugs are not just concerned about our ability to keep warm this winter. They have kindly offered all of our readers 10% off everything online with the promo code ‘BRITISH10’. Get involved!

Snugrugs were started in 2009 by husband and wife team Zoe and David Barnett. They started selling, as the name suggests, rugs and home furnishing made from animal hides. They have since expanded their range to menswear, ladies wear and luggage. They also boast now employing people in the States and in continental Europe.

The moccasins we have to review are made from a light brown soft suede and lined in wool. The best thing about these slippers is the price. At £15.99 they are handmade quality for a high street price tag. We have seen (and bought) similar products at three times the cost that have little perceivable difference in quality.

Originally moccasins were the preferred footwear if indigenous North American people and have seen continued use for about 5000 years. So, while they may remind many of what Granny used to wear or perhaps not fit the tastes of the trend-set they are a true design classic.

I am a size 9 or 10 shoe and I opted for the lower size to ensure a good fit. They are just large enough for my ‘plates-o-meat’ but I suspect they will loosen up over time. I would recommend that if you wanted to wear socks with your slippers that you order a size above your normal shoe measurement.

This is all well and good but surely only real measure of a good slipper is how comfy it is and I am glad to report that there are no issues their either. Would it be clichéd to describe them as ‘snug’? Perhaps but that is what I am inclined to do.

If you are looking for a quality pair of slippers ready for the winter chill then buy your British made slippers here and remember to use the promotional code for your 10% discount.

Editor's Rating
Quality
Value for Money
Functionality
Design
Satisfaction
Total British Family Rating72/100

– James

The best (and worst) places to Buy British online

madecloserThere are lots of websites that specialise in selling British made stuff, and more seem to be cropping up each and every day.  It is clear that the quality of some of these sites differs wildly so we have decided to review some of the best. Strap yourself in, here we go!

MadeCloser

I remember sitting around my dinning room table with the couple that set up MadeCloser when it was still in it’s concept stage. At the time the project seemed exciting but we struggled to see how we could help them. I have kept an eye on their progress since. If you are looking for a British Amazon equivalent then MadeCloser is definitely head and shoulders above the rest. The ethos of MadeCloser is about supporting local producers with ethical buying at it’s core. They are the only such site to have persuaded some really big name manufacturers to be involved and as such have a really good range of products stocked, everything from stationary to televisions.

In short: The Best Amazon alternative

From Britain with love

FromBritainWithLove pitches itself neatly to the design-lead life style market. There is a great selection of quality made home-wares, clothing and gift-wares complete with wonderful photography and descriptions making for a simple and pleasurable shopping experience.  Another great thing about this site is the gifts functionality which genuinely helps you to find inspiration for even the most difficult to buy for (even MrB).

In short: The best for gifts

gbGloriously British

A nice looking and very professionally feeling site but with a limited and often quirky stock. That being said there are some things on this site that you might never find anywhere else (Islay made fire bellows or leopard print storage trunk anyone?).

In short: The best quirky gifts

Brilliantly British

BrilliantlyBritish are the new kids on the block having just launched last week. They are entering an already crowded marketplace and have an uphill struggle to catch up with some of the more established sites. As you might expect for a new venture they currently have a limited stock and you will find many links showing ‘no products’. As such it might be a little unfair to review them too harshly at this point.

In short: One to watch

Vinnie & D

Vinnie&D have a great selection of arts and crafts based goods. They certainly have a design-lead approach to their selection of products and there is a more handmade feel to much of their stock.

In short: The best for arts and crafts

folksyFolksy

Folksy is the big name in British craft trading. I personally love the site and buy quite a bit from it. With nearly 6000 makers/sellers there are plenty of products listed so it can often be difficult to trawl through it all. While not as well known as Etsy this British alternative is truly fantastic.

In short: The largest selection

Made by hands of Britain

A visually awful and clumsy site with a terrible domain name but actually has some pretty interesting things listed and a good range of products.

In short: A mixed bag

Things British

Some really nice handmade products are listed but I find it quite hard to find anything and the site is a little clumsy and glitchy. The interesting thing about this online marketplace is that they also have 2 ‘real-life’ shops in London.

In short: A bit glitchy, so visit the shop

Product Review – Cutagen

20140720_094542A little while ago we were extremely fortunate to receive some Cutagen products through the post. I must admit I am not one for waste and so it has taken a while to crack them open as we still had other products to use up. This morning however, was the day I had waited for as everything else was gone and I was ready to see what Cutagen had to offer. The three products I reviewed were the Gentlecare Refreshing hand wash gel, the Gentlecare Moisturising crème wash and the Gentlecare 24H Hydrating moisturiser.

My first impressions were very good, the packaging is substantial without being too much. The first product called into action was the hand wash. I was really surprised when I took one full pump of the gel and found that it was substantially too much for one wash. This is great news as it means the bottle will last a long time, a little really does go a very long way with this product.  The fragrance was gentle and very much as it’s name suggests, refreshing.

Next up was the crème wash, as into the shower I headed. Having learnt my lesson with the hand wash I squeezed much less than I usually would from the bottle and just like the hand wash this 5p size blob was enough to wash all over with. This product is soap and fragrance free and while this is not something I would ordinarily choose, I have found that my skin has remained really soft and well moisturised all day, a first for me so certainly something to look out for in the future.

Once out and dry the last product to try out was the 24H moisturiser. Again, a little went a long way and it had a really simple but silky texture, nothing gunky or gloopy here. It was fragrance free and felt really natural on my skin and 12 hours later my skin feels just moisturised so I have no doubt that it has really done my skin some good.

I think that for people who are normally irritated by more everyday products these would be really useful and while they are not cheap, they feel luxurious while also being good for you, not an easy balance to find.

To find your own Cutagen products visit their website at www.cutagen.com. Cutagen will also be at our British Family Fayre event this year to fee free to come along and check them out for yourself!

– Emily

Editor's Rating
Quality
Value for Money
Functionality
Design
Satisfaction
Total British Family Rating70/100

British down to our shoe laces

British Feet: Solovair boots, Sockmine socks and red Original Lace Company Laces all made in Britain.

If we told you that our shoelaces were now made in UK you might be forgiven for thinking that we are taking the whole buying only British thing a little too far. However, I can confirm that we now source our laces from the Original Laces Company who proudly produce funky, and great quality laces, in Maldon, Essex.

You might not consider the bits of string that hold your shoes on as all that important, let alone particularly glamorous. The Original Lace Company are set to change your perception of laces – they have mine.

When first contacted to write a review the wares of The Original Lace Company I will admit to being a little underwhelmed by the prospect. How wrong was I? The moment I saw the two pairs that arrived I knew exactly the shoes they would work best with – my brogue-style boots made my Solovair. The Solovair boots are undoubtedly the best boots I have ever owned – comfortable, great looking and exceptionally well made. I thought nothing could make these boots better, but the addition of the red Original Lace Company laces have turned the dial up to 11.

The laces come in a vast range of colours from the traditional to the more outlandish and tipped with a gold metal fluglebinder (whatever those bits on the end of shoe laces are called).

slideshow_2As a man, other than a tie and maybe socks, there are very few opportunities to add personality to a suit. I think these laces can add some much needed glam to a boring old pin-stripe.

At between £10-£12 per pair they are obviously more expensive than ‘normal’ laces but for what you ‘actually’ get I think they are pretty well priced.

– James

Editor's Rating
Quality
Value for Money
Functionality
Design
Satisfaction
Total British Family Rating72/100
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