The Fairey Aviation Company Limited was founded in 1915 by Charles Richard Fairey (later Sir Richard Fairey) and Belgian engineer Ernest Oscar Tips on their departure from Short Brothers, the company first built under licence or as subcontractor aircraft designed by other manufacturers. The company was based in Hayes in Middlesex and Heaton Chapel and RAF Ringway in Lancashire. Fairey designed a number of important military aircraft, including the Fairey III family, the Swordfish, Firefly, and Gannet, it had a strong presence in the supply of naval aircraft, and also built bombers for the RAF.
After World War II the company diversified into mechanical engineering and boat-building. Following a series of mergers and takeovers, the principal successor businesses to the company now trade as FBM Babcock Marine Ltd, Spectris plc, and WFEL (formerly Williams Fairey Engineering Limited), the latter manufacturing portable bridges. In 1959 Fairey Aviation Ltd was reorganised following a proposal to concentrate aircraft and allied manufacturing activities in the United Kingdom into a new wholly owned subsidiary called the Fairey Aviation Co. Ltd. The company's name was changed to the Fairey Co. Ltd, and the general engineering activities of the Stockport Aviation Co. Ltd were rebranded Fairey Engineering Ltd. The Ministry of Defence saw the future of helicopters as being best met by a single manufacturer so in 1960 the aircraft manufacturing arm was taken over by Westland Aircraft.
In 1977 the Fairey Group went into receivership and was effectively nationalised by the Government. The Government organised a rescue scheme and after various changes of ownership Fairey Engineering Ltd ended up as part of Williams Fairey Engineering Ltd.
During the 1990s this company concentrated on expanding its electronics business, acquiring a number of companies and disposing of the electrical insulator and hydraulic actuator businesses. The reshaping of the group was marked with the change of name from Fairey Group to Spectris plc in May 2001.