Greater London House (Former Carreras Tobacco Factory), London NW1

From 8build.co.uk:

“Greater London House is an Art Deco building located within the Borough of Camden and opposite Mornington Crescent tube station. The building was originally built in 1926 for the Carreras Tobacco Company and fronts Hampstead Road and Mornington Crescent.”

From: manchesterhistory.net:

“Architects: Marcus Evelyn Collins & O. H. Collins with A. G. Porri (1928).

The “House of Carreras” started its tobacco business in London in the 19th Century. It was a small business at that time selling various tobacco products like cigars, cigarettes and snuff, out of shops, first near Leicester Square and later on Regent’s Street. Apparently it was common for a local cat to curl-up and sleep in the window of the shop near Leicester Square and it was known informally as “The Black Cat Shop”. The concept stuck and the black cat was later adopted as a brand symbol.

With the advent of the cigarette making machine, the business required a factory and  in 1907 production moved to the Acadia Works on City Road in East London.  However, further expansion led to the construction of this building on Hampstead Road in Camden Town.

As you can see, the black cat theme was prominent on the building including a row of cat faces complete with wire whiskers.

A pair of cats, based on the Egyptian god Bastet, sat on either side of the entrance. The original cat sculptures were in bronze and when the factory closed the cats were relocated. When the building was refurbished in the 1990s the cats were replaced with replicas.

At the time the building was designed, the World was fascinated by all things Egyptian, following the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. So it has a number of “Egyptian features” the most prominent being the brightly coloured columns with capitals that look like of a cluster of papyrus flowers.

It also has a rather attractive railing around parts of the building with an Egyptian motif.

Continuing the Egyptian theme, I gather that the opening was marked by a procession of actors, from a production of Aida, in costume and chariot races on Hampstead Road…

(Wikipedia): “Isma’il Pasha, Khedive of Egypt, commissioned Verdi to write an opera for performance to celebrate the opening of the Khedivial Opera House, paying him 150,000 francs. The premiere was delayed because of the Siege of Paris (1870–71), during the Franco-Prussian War, when the scenery and costumes were stuck in the French capital, and Verdi’s Rigoletto was performed instead. Aida eventually premiered in Cairo in late 1871. Contrary to popular belief, the opera was not written to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, for which Verdi had been invited to write an inaugural hymn, but had declined.”

…The building may have “harked back” to an earlier time but it was in all other respects a modern structure. It was built of Atlas White Cement which the Atlas Portland Cement Company describes as follows,

“…a White Non-Staining Portland Cement that could also be used for decorative purposes…..It is white in color, non-staining and a true Portland Cement. Its chemical composition is practically identical with that of our Atlas Portland Cement, except that it is free from those elements which cause the dark color in commercial Portland Cements. The strength of Atlas-White, both in tension and compression, is equal in every way to that of our other product.”

Inside, the building featured air conditioning and a dust extraction plant.In 1959 Carreras merged with Rothmans and this factory closed down when production moved to Basildon. In the 1960s the building was converted into offices and many of the art-deco features were removed to make it look more contemporary. It was at this point that it became Greater London House. In the 1990s the building was acquired by new owners and they commissioned the architectural practice of Finch Forman to restore it to its former splendour. Today, it is home to a number of organizations including the British Heart Foundation.”

From Wikipedia:

“The building features in the BBC comedy television series W1A as the offices of Fun Media.”

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