Saturday 20 August 2022

The Saturday List #356 - Manufacturing in Mill Hill

 What do you think of when you think of Mill Hill? Leafy streets, parks, cafe's on the Broadway? It was not always thus. Mill Hill has a rather interesting history of manufacturing, which seems to get completely overlooked. Here are a few of the companies that used to make things in Mill Hill.

1. Rawlplugs. The Rawlplug factory was just off Hale Lane NW7. There is a great image of the site from the air in 1926!

2. The United Kingdom Optical Company. Carl Zeiss opened an optical works next to Mill Hill Barracks in Mill Hill East, it later became the United Kingdom Optical Company. Lens etc were produced here. It is briefly mentioned on the Barnet Council website. In 1988 the site was taken over by the Watchtower Society and is now a film studio!

3. Boat Builders. Until around 1977, there was a boat builder called "Negus Marine" operating in Bunns Lane Works. It was run by a chap called Frank Negus and his nephew Brett Dingwall. They moved to premises by the Welsh Harp, Brett now operates from Bricket Wood. They produced racing boats and their boats would feature in the Fastnet race. Brett recently wrote a fascinating article on the Fastnet disaster for Yatching Monthly

4. Kitchen furniture. Lyn Products used to be based in Bunns Lane Works, Mill Hill. They produced kitchen furniture for local authorities. The factory shut around 1992 when the owner Jack Franklyn retired. It has a small claim to fame in that the kitchen in the flat of Withnail and I was a Lyn Products kitchen. I recognised it as we had exactly the same one in our kitchen.

5. Precision Engineering. In the 1960's and 1970's, there was a precision engineering company called Blake Engineering based on what is now the Flower Lane Industrial Estate. It was run by a rather colourful chap called Norman Blake. His son David took over and they moved away. Sadly there seems to be no real records of this. There are some interesting stories, but I can't share them here.

6, Metal Fabrication. We still have a manufacturing business in Mill Hill, as our neighours on the Bunns Lane Works Industrial Estate. Barnet Welding make fences and security products. 

7. Blacksmith. Until the early 1930's, Mill Hill had a Blacksmith at the Old Forge on Highwood Hill. The family still own the property. There's some nice pictures of the Old Forge here. The Matthews Family were owners of the Forge and when The last blacksmith, Mr Matthews died he was buried in St Paul’s cemetery. An anvil commemorates this


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