The Menier Chocolate Factory, London SE1

Image: The Shard, Borough Market, and Southwark Cathedral are five minutes’ walk from Southwark Street.

“The Menier Chocolate company (French: Chocolat Menier) is a chocolate manufacturing business founded in 1816 as a pharmaceutical manufacturer in Paris, France, at a time when chocolate was used as a medicinal product and was only one part of the overall business.

In 1816, Antoine Brutus Menier founded the Menier Hardware Company in Paris. Although not trained as a pharmacist, he began preparing and selling a variety of powders for medicinal purposes. The business grew rapidly but for the first few years the company’s production of chocolate was very limited, as its primary usage was as a medicinal powder and for coating bitter-tasting pills…

Under the leadership of the founder’s son, Emile-Justin Menier, the company concentrated solely on the manufacturing of chocolate products. In 1864 he sold off the pharmaceutical manufacturing part of the business and began a period of expansion that made the Menier Chocolate company the largest chocolate manufacturer in France. Under Emile-Justin Menier, the company purchased cocoa-growing estates in Nicaragua along with sugar beet fields and a sugar refinery at Roye in the Somme in France. Beginning in 1860, Emile-Justin Menier oversaw the addition of several new buildings then, after constructing a factory in London and a distribution center in New York City, in 1872 he initiated a major expansion that saw the construction of the most modern production facilities in the world…

Following the death of Emile Justin Menier, in 1881 his sons Henri and Gaston assumed control of the business.

…As part of its sales strategy, Menier introduced small dark chocolate sticks to be inserted into a piece of bread. To raise their profile and sell more product, on sidewalks in towns and cities all over France, the company set up “chocolate kiosques”. Their hexagon shape and peaked roof became the standard for newspaper kiosques. Such was their popularity that for children, the company made plastic model kiosks as toy dispensers filled with tiny chocolate bars…

World War I marked the beginning of the decline of the Menier Chocolate company…

Gaston Menier died in 1934 and the onset of World War II five years later exacerbated the company’s problems to an even greater extent. Run by Hubert and Antoine Menier, neither had the capacity to deal with the problems…

In the early 1990s, all production ceased at the Noisiel facility but in 1996, Nestlé France opened its headquarters in the main building while other buildings in the complex are now part of a chocolate museum with tours open to the public. The Menier Chocolate Factory building on Southwark Street in London is now (since 2004) a popular arts complex that incorporates an art gallery, restaurant, and theatre.

Today, Menier continues to sell a limited range of chocolate that can be purchased online through their official website and affiliated retailers.”

From Historic England entry of 16-Apr-1996 for 51 and 53, Southwark Street:

Warehouse. 1865-1874. Stock brick with stone dressings. Roof hidden behind brick and stone bracketed cornice. Rectangular plan with curved corners to returns. EXTERIOR: 5 storeys, 8-window range, tripartite windows to corners except for top floor where they are quadripartite. 3-window ranges to returns, the centre of each a hoist bay. Most openings are segmental-arched, doubled and round to top floor; side lights to tripartite corner windows are also round-arched. Many windows retain their original sashes: 1×1 to top floor, 3×3 to 2nd and 3rd floors, and 6×6 to 1st floor. Some 2nd-floor sashes are missing. Ground-floor windows were boarded over at time of survey. The ground floor has a stone cornice supported by rusticated brick piers with stone capitals. The side entrance on the curved east corner has a segmental keyed head and round-arched windows to either side. The centrally placed entrance on the main elevation has 2 doorways with segmental heads; they are flanked by Peterhead granite colonnettes with Corinthian capitals. All three 6-panel doors under segmental fanlights are original. Lower brick structure to the rear with segmental-arched openings. INTERIOR: not inspected. Tender mentioned in the “Builder” of 1865, but the structure does not appear to have been occupied until 1874. Forms a group with No.49.”

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