Brompton has celebrated 25 years of full-time manufacturing, with founder Andrew Ritchie sharing a slice of cake on the production line with the firm's 200 plus employees.
The company is still based only a few miles from where the bike was first designed on the Cromwell Rd overlooking the Brompton Oratory Church. Now exporting to over 40 countries worldwide, there has been tremendous growth from the first three employees in an unheated railway arch to over 200 staff in 35,000 sqft modern factory today. In the process Brompton has helped pave the way for resurgence in British bicycle manufacture and culture.
The operations are based on the Great West Road and since the move to the site at Kew Bridge in 1998, there have been many transformations. Stories abound of how a surplus area of the factory was used as a football pitch when the dramatically smaller team first moved in, and how the marketing team were based in what are now the men’s toilets.
Space today is more precious, but it does continue to be redefined; in the past year three departments have moved to a new warehouse about a mile away. The need for the new site arose largely from the rapid growth of the spares and accessories department; with almost 300,000 Bromptons now on roads all over the world, after-market products are a fast growing part of the business. The bikes tell a similar story; production has grown 20 per cent year on year for the past nine years and credit is due to the factory managers, who have adopted lean manufacturing practices to make the most of the space available.
Andrew Ritchie, who designed the Brompton bicycle over 35 years ago, has stayed active in the company as technical director.
As a memento of this celebration, Brompton’s brazers went head to head to create the best brazing for the ultimate anniversary bike. The competition was serious, with brazers new and old wanting their neatest workmanship to be the definitive memory of 25 years of strong manufacturing. The winning frame will be on display at the recently opened retail store Brompton Junction in Covent Garden from January. This will be followed by stints at the other five Brompton Junction stores around the world later in 2014.
Managing director Will Butler-Adams said of the landmark: “It took eleven years just to get Brompton off the ground, but since 1988 there has been no stopping us. Our company is our people, many of whom have remained with us from the early days, as they are the ones who craft, assemble and check every Brompton we make. We celebrated what we have achieved with a tremendous cake and pint or two at the Rose and Crown round the corner. The first hobby horse bicycle was made in London in 1819 on the site of our Brompton Junction shop, we are carrying on that legacy and we are just getting started.”
Look out for an interview with Brompton within BikeBiz's January edition.