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Silver Cross Balmoral Factory Tour

I wonder if, when William Wilson finished manufacturing his first perambulator in 1877 he ever imagined that some 135 years later, a development of his design would still be in production?

31st July 2013
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Kelly Walker
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News
factoryentrance

We recently spent some time at the Silver Cross Balmoral factory with owner and you might argue, custodian of Silver Cross, Alan Halsall, and Nigel Roberts who is responsible for successfully running and more importantly, keeping the historic UK production alive.

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Believe it or not, the Silver Cross Balmoral is the only pram that continues to be manufactured in the UK, something Silver Cross are rightly proud of. Everything is produced from the original tooling which Silver Cross believes is between 75 and 100 years old.

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As classic as it can get, the Balmoral is the picture many draw when you ask them to sketch a pram. At a nondescript factory in Keighley, Yorkshire, Silver Cross still manufacture 650 Balmoral prams every year. Considered old fashioned in some quarters, there is currently an 8 week waiting list. Vintage is back in fashion and so is the Silver Cross Balmoral.

When you walk into the Balmoral factory, it is far removed from the production line factories of the Far East. It is immediately clear that Balmoral production is very hands on using processes requiring the craftsmanship and skill a person can only develop over many years.

We started our production tour at the fabric tables where the Balmoral fabrics are cut and then prepared for welding. The fabric itself is actually woven and dyed in the building next door.

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It's already very clear that Silver Cross are not resting on their laurels and rolling out the same designs for years to come. Here we found some exclusive development fabrics. Time will tell exactly who this is for, but it is great to see development even on a historic product such as the Balmoral.

Once the fabrics are prepared, they are either sent to the high frequency welding station for production of the bed units, or sent across to the sewing section where they create the Hood, Apron and Braid parts.

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The distinctive Chassis of the Balmoral is manufactured using the original tooling which is almost 100 years old. We watched as one of the 'springs' was produced. Not one for those with low upper body strength, each chassis ‘spring’ is hand bent around a tool into the distinctive shape required to form the Balmorals unique suspension giving chassis.

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The Body and Chassis each have 3 coats of Dupont paint as used by such prestigious names as Aston Martin, McLaren and Lotus. Between each coat, the paint is rubbed down and cleaned to ensure the final product has a perfect smooth hardwearing covering that will last for years to come. Each part is carefully spray painted in a sealed paint spray booth similar to those used by car paint sprayers.

As you move on in the process you come to a part that typifies Balmoral production, the fine line detailing. You will see that on each Balmoral, there are two fine curved lines on the side of the pram body. Now, it would be very easy to add these thin contrasting lines using vinyl or a stencil. This is not the case. Every line is drawn on each pram body by hand, a process that is by no means easy as Alan proved when he had a go!

Final assembly is of course completed by hand including final assembly of the hood and completion of the rest of the fabrics.

When everything is painted, stitched and welded every Balmoral is given a 'pre-pack' final clean and polish before packaging up ready for shipping across the world.


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