British Made Umbrellas, Walking Sticks and Shooting Sticks.
An umbrella (or brolly) is used to keep off the rain or the sun. A parasol more often than not is a term used for an umbrella designed to shade people from the sun and unlike a rain umbrella may not be waterproof. Umbrellas are widely used in the UK, Japan and elsewhere. You can get full sized umbrellas, folding umbrellas, travel umbrellas and the larger golf umbrellas.
It is generally recognised that London has been the home of the best umbrellas and walking sticks and to some extent that tradition is carried on today, although the majority of umbrellas sold in the UK are made in China nowadays.
It is sadly the case that to the best of my knowledge there are no umbrellas made entirely in the UK any longer. There are companies like those below claiming to sell “Made in the UK” umbrellas, but actually all the umbrella frames (the key component of any umbrella) are manufactured in China. One might take the view simply attaching a canopy or handle (neither of which are of UK origin in some cases) in the UK does not make it genuinely “Made in the UK”.
You might consider getting a vintage British umbrella from somewhere like eBay, a charity shop, an antiques shop or a car boot sale but these are often in need of rather lot of work before they might be presentable. There is a buoyant and sometimes expensive market in secondhand English umbrellas on eBay.
The following are the UK manufacturers of umbrellas that I know of:
Royal Warrant holders Fulton are the largest supplier of umbrellas in the UK today, but their umbrellas are made in China nowadays. In the past they used to make 100% of their umbrellas in the UK, but sadly this is no longer the case. These days Fulton just have some mens walking length models (Consul, Commissioner and Minister) where they attach Italian wooden/leather handles and perform a final quality check in the UK. I thought the plastic see-through fulton Birdcage umbrella used by the Queen sometimes might be made in the UK but seemingly not.
London Undercover sell a few rather nice British made umbrellas. I’m not sure who makes their British umbrellas. As of September 2013 just a few of their £95+ range of umbrellas are UK made. They also sell a made in the UK umbrella stand.
Swaine Adeney Brigg umbrellas are all made in the UK. Solid stick mens (including one with a flask and one for travel), ladies (including a travel umbrella) and golf umbrellas. The canopy can be made of silk or nylon. 20″ or 25″ or 27″ or golf. Retail in their shop or on their website or specially made for your club or organisation. Swaine Adeney Brigg hold a Royal Warrant for supplying umbrellas to the Prince of Wales and the Brigg umbrella is world famous. Made by hand at their workshop in Cambridge. Here is a quote from the company on the provenance of their umbrellas:
“All Brigg umbrellas are made in our own workrooms in the UK.”
Here is a good video about Brigg Umbrellas:
Quite who made the umbrellas used by John Steed (Major The Hon. John Wickham Gascoyne Beresford Steed MC, OM – the debonair gentleman fictional character and the central protagonist in the popular 1960s British spy series The Avengers and its 1970s sequel The New Avengers, played by Patrick Macnee in both) is not entirely clear and it is likely he used more than one make of umbrella in the series in any case. Swaine Adeney Brigg talk about Steed’s Whangee Umbrella on their website. According to Wikipedia, the swordstick umbrella featured in the title sequence was made by James Smith & Sons. Fox Umbrellas also state that they made the John Steed umbrella in the Avengers.
John Steed rarely, if ever, used the sword of his swordstick umbrella or for that matter a gun in the Avengers, however Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was killed by poison dart filled with ricin and fired from an umbrella in London in 1978.
Umbrellas might make a good improvised self-defense tool, can contain hidden hip flasks and can be used for support but what they are best at is keeping off the rain and the sun!
Here’s a good satirical article on how to be like John Steed on the Pall Mall Club website. I don’t think Bond ever carried an umbrella in the films (perhaps he did in the books?) but anyway here is another such article on how to be like James Bond.
James Smith and Sons on New Oxford Street still have a manufacturing facility in the basement of their beautiful shop where they make umbrellas from British and foreign components, however the vast majority of the umbrellas they sell are foreign made. You will have ask whether the umbrella or walking stick or parasol you want is made in England or have it custom made for you. Check carefully because most James Smith and Sons products are foreign made.
Fox Umbrellas Ltd. (formerly T Fox & Co. Ltd.) handmake all their umbrellas in England. Their factory and showroom is now in Shirley near Croydon and they have an online shop. Also, wholesale and custom made umbrellas. They also do an umbrella repair service. Fox make umbrellas, walking sticks and seat sticks. Walking sticks are made to the required length. The components parts of their umbrellas are mostly foreign made.
Here is their answer to my question about the provenance of Fox umbrellas, walking sticks and seat sticks:
“I confirm that all our umbrellas and seat sticks are made in England. The walking sticks are sourced from wherever we can obtain the raw material and they finished here in our factory in Croydon. The component parts for our umbrellas are sourced from all over the world and we do not make the ribs ourselves as we do not have a steel foundry.”
Fox Umbrellas was founded in 1868 and manufacture tube, stick and solid umbrellas for gents and ladies, including traditional full length umbrellas, golf umbrellas, telescopic umbrellas, travel (packable) umbrellas, custom made umbrellas and they do an umbrella repair service.
Globally renowned customers of Fox Umbrellas include Alfred Dunhill, T M Lewin, Fortnum & Mason, Hackett, Harrods, Turnbull & Asser, Ralph Lauren in the UK, Mitsukoshi, Isetan, Sogo and Tomorrowland in Japan, Paul Stuart, Rain or Shine, Barneys in New York and many others all over the world.
Fox have also supplied to the English and Japanese Royal families, also the late President of the USA J.F. Kennedy. Fox also make for film companies, television and stage, notably the John Steed umbrella in the Avengers (see above).
There is an interesting and well written article about Fox Umbrellas on the Once was England website, with some nice photos.
And another here from America on The Fedora Lounge website which has some nice pictures and also discusses the writers frustration at the plastic runner on his Fox umbrella. I should point out here that Fox Umbrellas have tweeted me and said that “we have not used plastic runners on our GT range since 2007″.
According to the Fox Umbrellas website Mr Thomas Fox, who founded Fox Umbrellas, was no relation to Mr Samuel Fox. Samuel Fox is credited with introducing steel frames for umbrellas. Samuel Fox and Company continued making umbrella ribs until they stopped making frames in this country around 2003 and ceased trading in 2008.
Samuel Fox’s Fox Umbrella Frames Ltd. was founded in 1842 and their u-shape ribs were called “Paragon”. William Hoyland Ltd. founded in 1875 produced the patented “Flexus” frame as an alternative to Fox’ “Paragon” frame. Samual Fox went on to become the largest umbrella frame manufacturer in the world and one of the largest steel makers in UK before being nationalised by British Steel. In 1987, Readicut International bought William Hoyland and Co. Ltd. One year later, Hoyland acquired Fox Umbrella Frames Ltd. and established Hoyland Fox Limited. The Activa Group acquired Hoyland Fox Ltd in 2008 and transferred the brand name, patents, technology, tools and machinery to its China factory ending 166 years of Sheffield tradition. The information in this paragraph is from wikipedia.
Tube, stick or solid umbrella? – click here for information on which is which.
The PEERLESS Umbrella Company – http://www.britishumbrellas.com (Peerless of London) has been producing umbrellas for more than 100 years. As far as I can gather from their website, they use foreign components and hand finish their umbrellas in the UK, in Liverpool. They also make walking sticks and shooting sticks. Umbrellas offered include traditional tube walking length umbrellas (manual, automatic and their fox classic; all with a wide variety of handles available), traditional walking length solid umbrellas in various woods, folding umbrellas, golf umbrellas, custom made umbrellas, colourful umbrellas and umbrellas with custom printed logos on them.
A quick search on the net for promotional umbrellas “made in the UK” gives many companies claiming to sell branded umbrellas that are made in the UK. Most seem to be made by The Umbrella Company (trade only) who according to their website have a factory in Sheffield employing 60+ staff. I note that they are also distributers for foreign made umbrellas and many of their umbrellas are made in China, but they do have a good range of UK made umbrellas and those that are made in the UK are clearly labelled as such on their website.
Another promotional umbrella company manufacturing in the UK apparently is Go Promotional who state on their website that “in 2013, our factories in the UK remain one of the few remaining fully integrated umbrella manufacturing plants outside China”. Most of their umbrellas are foreign made though but it does say on the website which are manufactured in the UK. For example, their Bedford golf umbrella, their classic square wooden parasol (garden umbrella), the fibrestorm golf umbrella (made by the Umbrella Company I think). Non of their telescopic (folding) umbrellas or traditional umbrellas appear to be UK made.
British made promotional umbrellas would be a great way to promote your company, but please check country of manufacture and what they mean by made in the UK before ordering.
Drake’s London sell a couple of British made umbrellas. Not sure who makes them.
Garden umbrellas – There are British manufacturers so please seek them out.
Deans Blinds and Awnings manufacture in the UK – Patio awnings, sun awnings, garden awnings and canopies, sun awnings for both the commercial and domestic markets.
AEL Solutions also have a UK manufacturing facility. They state on their website “We are proud to have a factory in the UK where we produce many of our products”. They sell giant umbrellas, garden umbrellas, awnings, and other garden accessories (like bins) for outdoor areas in public gardens, cafes, pubs and the like and for the home garden. It is hard to tell from their website what is made in the UK, so please ask.
Classic Canes – Some of their rustic, country walking sticks are grown and manufactured in their own Somerset woodland using ash, hazel and blackthorn among other traditional hardwoods. Stockists are listed on their website and and they are available on the Love UK Made website.