No Light at the End of the Tunnel

tunnelAfter 2 weeks of relentless searching and even pleas for help on national TV, radio and in the press we can now announce the conclusion to our quest to find a British made light bulb. Unfortunately, that last lamp factory in the UK closed 4 years ago, thus bringing an end to a long history of production.

We were about ready to call an end to our search earlier in the week but then a little light at the end of the tunnel presented itself (sorry about the pun), when I found a UK based lamp manufacturer. They produce LED based bulbs and more conventional bulbs and are based up north. I excitedly called their customer service number and asked them the question. I was told that there bulbs were manufactured ‘all over the place, including the Far East’. I asked if any of their bulbs were made in the UK and I was told again ‘They are made all over the place’. I tried to press further saying that if she could tell me what of the range they made in the UK I would be able to buy them. The customer service rep began getting a little testy at this point and flatly refused to be drawn further on the issue.

However, I have also had some recent contact with an industry insider (how very Panorama) who claims to have worked for 3 out of the big four lamp manufacturers in his time. He knew this company very well and confirmed what I expected to be the case – they actually produce no bulbs in the UK at all. Their production is all from China and Germany.

The reaction that we got from this company appears to mirror the reactions that we have had from a number of British companies that do not actually manufacturer here. There seems to be unwillingness by some of them to readily admit that they manufacture abroad. Almost as if they are embarrassed or that they are worried that it will lead to negative press attention. This often means that the reactions we get are, at best unprofessional and, at their worst quite rude.

Light bulbs, along with batteries, are now firmly on our extinction list. So, as we wait for our last remaining bulbs to blow, and plunge a British family into darkness, we busy ourselves by looking for a living British alternative. Oil lamps anyone?



  1. I’m going to quote your own rules at you:

    “Ideally, any goods or services bought by us will be produced or manufactured in the UK by a British company.” – OK, lightbulbs/batteries have failed on this count.

    “However, failing this items produced by a British brand will be acceptable.” – is there a British brand producing lightbulbs/batteries, even if not manufactured here? How about the British company manufacturing in Germany? Or another British company manufacturing elsewhere in Europe?

    “If no options exist under these rules we will either find a substitute which does meet our required level of “Britishness” or live without.” – on grounds of safety, I don’t think anybody would force you to live by candle/oil/gas light…

  2. Usually when a bulb “blows” it’s the filament breaking… With a little care it is possible to take apart a light bulb, and replace the filament metal. There are filament manufacturers in the uk. A little extreme, but certainly has a whiff of British ingenuity and resourcefulness about it!

    • Don’t the filaments live in a vacuum. If you dismantle the bulb you lose the vacuum. That is based on my limited knowledge of light bulbs so I could be wrong.

      • yes, indeed it is! But dont let that put you off some mild experimentation. I found this text on an old forum:

        “[You need] a couple of things found in any well equipped household; namely, a gas torch and vacuum pump.

        Just use the torch to heat an area of the bulb to the point of softness,
        make a hole in it, remove dead filament and insert new, use pump to suck out
        as much air as possible (makes the filament last longer) while sealing hole
        with a syrupy glass rod.”

        Like I said, extreme, but with potential!

  3. I’ve had that same defensive reaction so many times, when trying to source British-made fabrics and supplies for my business, as well as everyday items. There’s an awful lot of rudeness out there ! Companies are happy to talk about their products until I mention country of origin. They normally ask why I want to know, as though I’ve asked them a really personal or offensive question. I can now tell them that there’s increasing demand for British-made products etc etc

    At least you know you’ve done your absolute best with the lightbulbs ! Keep up the good work.

  4. How often do your bulbs blow?! Don’t you have energy savers? They last for years!
    I think you should go for it with candles and oil light. You will save a small amount of money and a little of the environment 🙂

  5. If they’re so embarrassed to admit it then that says they’re doing something they’re not comfortable with so should stop doing it.

  6. Michelle Hudson says

    I’m with Amanda. Please don’t compromise the safety of your family over light bulbs. Same goes for needing to change the batteries in your smoke alarm yearly. British or not British.

  7. I found a similar reaction (though not rude) when trying to buy a present from an ‘Edinburgh wool mill’ shop, there are no labels stating country of origin & when I asked was told they mostly sourced from British suppliers but they didn’t necessarily supply from British Makers. Unless it proudly states Made in Britain then it most likely isn’t.

    Maybe there is someone out there with the skills & know how to start a business making British light bulbs & batteries…but the truth is most likely down to being priced out of the market.

  8. I’ve found the same thing when searching for all the companies that we put on the Kimwetu database. Like you, I had to ask most of the companies if their products were actually made in the UK. Most weren’t – and particularly annoying were those that emblazoned everything with the Union Jack but shipped it all in from the far east.

    Oddly, there seem to be some geographical locations that are really proud to be making their own products – Cornwall, Wales and Scotland. There are even some websites that proudly name that their goods are made in a particular town, but don’t mention Britain or UK – which is great, until you’re trying to search for a product on the internet….how are you supposed to know that they make those products in that particular town?

    I’m fairly sure that there aren’t any companies making lightbulbs on the Kimwetu website – but if you find any then please let us know – we’ll add them on and spread the word!

  9. We went to a trade show and were treated like Martians when we asked the exhibitors if their products were made in UK. Most of the reps could not understand why we would want to buy from UK makers. It would seem that their is an automatic assumption that you get your products made “Out East”, so no one even considered UK production. It winds me up when you put in a Google search for local manufacturers and the first on the list is a Chinese site.
    I to searched for UK made light bulbs and think I may have found the one you did, I trawled the wording on the website which was a little evasive. It wasn’t till I found a news Item listed that I found out that the factory had closed and was now just a distribution centre for foreign bulbs.

  10. I’d be inclined to save what lightbulbs you have left until the winter and enjoy the delightful atmosphere of candles (how safe is that with a small sword-brandishing knight in the house?). I don’t know what street lighting is like in your area, but I’ve found that I don’t actually need to use the bathroom lightbulb to see what I’m doing to brush my teeth.

    As said above, though, please do break the rules if necessary to ensure your fire alarm is fit for purpose!

    It makes one wonder what the nation in general would do if our trade routes were suddenly cut off again. Hopefully that’s only hypothetical pondering, of course, but it certainly makes me think.

  11. At least the summer days are on their way now – just go to bed when it gets dark and sleep through it all then!!

  12. Should you ever find your UK-manufactured lightbulb and you want to celebrate with a new lampshade, take a look at Quincy Lampshades – made in Bristol.

  13. Now this might seem a time consuming bit of advise but many second hand and charity shops stock items cleared from houses and you may just find an old lamp with an old made in England bulb still in a lighting fixture………and hopefully still working, so providing the light is UK made you might just be in luck, or do a deal for just the bulb !.

  14. I do not know if this will work but you could try reusing your old bulb, check out this site
    I know the site is .com but there maybe a uk equivalent.

  15. low pressure sodium lamps and fluorescent lamps. Are made by Philips in Hamilton but have shed jobs

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