5 Historical UK Companies That are Still Trading Today

(Collaborative post by another author) It’s understandable that a country as old as the UK has a rich and fascinating history, but what you may not realise is just how many companies can trace their own history back hundreds of years too. 

Some well-known organisations may not come as a great surprise: Barclays, for example, was founded in 1690. And though others may not be household names, their fantastic business practices have kept them running for decades, and in some cases, centuries. 

Now, most of the UKs oldest still-trading operations are pubs, which probably says a lot about us as a nation – but here are some of Britain’s other, non-alcohol related oldest businesses that still serve our needs to this day. 

A university graduation ceremony with everyone wearing academic gowns


R. J. Balson & Son 

Founded in 1515, R.J. Balson & Son has served Dorset for over 500 years and has remarkably remained in the Balson family all this time. 

The longest continually-run family business in Britain, this butcher has a history as rich as its meat. 

Cambridge University Press & Assessment 

Founded in 1534, Cambridge University Press is the oldest university press in the world and has published work by a number of renowned scholars from Isaac Newton to Stephen Hawking.

It’s a little-known fact that Cambridge just beat Oxford University to the press, as the latter was not established until 1586.

James Lock & Co

James Lock & Co Hatters is the oldest hat shop in the world, founded in 1676 and as with R. J. Balson & Son, it’s still run by the same family.

This London hat shop has serviced a star-studded clientele over the years, including Oscar Wilde, Charlie Chaplin, Pierce Brosnan, and David Beckham. Lock & Co also hold the Royal warrant as hatter to Prince Charles. 

Ede & Ravenscroft 

Ede & Ravenscroft pretty much owns the market on academic robes, so if you had a university graduation, chances are that you hired your robe from them.

Established in 1689, this historic tailors also produce legal gowns and wigs, and other formal attire. 

As with James Lock & Co, Ede & Ravenscroft also hold a Royal warrant, in this case as official robe maker to Queen Elizabeth II.

Ormiston Wire 

Ormiston Wire was founded in 1793, and like several of the companies on the list, it is still run by the same family. 

While they began as wire makers for wigs and corsets, Ormiston Wire has grown considerably, offering not only their products but their innovative approach to a wide range of industries.

Take a look at their website and discover the incredible projects they’ve worked on, including the numerous sculptures and wire installations they hold together across the UK. They even made the wire for the Thunderbirds puppets in the 1960s!


An honourable mention goes to the large number of banks that have been in operation for hundreds of years. And of course, we can’t forget the Royal Mint, which has produced the coins we use every day since 886. 

Do you know of any historic family businesses? Tell us about them in the comments below! 

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