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J. Lyons & Co. Cadby Hall

Building  From 1873  To 1983

Categories: Commerce, Food & Drink

From our picture source: "In July 1894 Lyons bought two acres of land, occupied by a former piano showroom with its manufacturing buildings, known as Cadby Hall." That very informative site goes on to describe how Cadby Hall was originally built by the piano manufacturer, Charles Cadby, in 1873. When he died in 1884 the business moved elsewhere and the Cadby Hall site was used by a variety of businesses until Lyons moved in. They developed and extended the site until it occupied the whole of the block between Hammersmith Road and Blythe Road (in its current position). Plotting the history of the site is made difficult by the fact that Blythe Road has been moved. It used to run where Lyons Walk now is (see this map). "It became one of the largest food factories in the country, eventually covering more than thirteen acres." After WW1, having reached the limits of this site Lyons bought land in Greenford, and by 1983 this Cadby Hall site was demolished and redeveloped.

For some information about the design of Cadby Hall see our page for the 9 lost 9 keystone heads.

2019: We read the splendid Legacy by Thomas Harding published by Heinemann, a history of the family that built the J. Lyons empire. Below are our notes from that reading (augmented by the Oxford House listing).

The Gluckstein family arrived in London in 1843-7, bringing their trade of selling tobacco with them, and settled in the East End.

In partnership with Joseph Lyons they opened their first Lyons teashop at 213 Piccadilly in 1894. {This was part of the site 212-214 Piccadilly; 21a, 22 and 23 Jermyn Street; and 3-4 Eagle Place; developed c.2015 and now occupied by a building clad in, mainly, white ceramic}. More Lyons tea shops were opened and it became the first respectable chain of restaurants, selling consistent food at consistent prices, catering especially to women who had not previously been addressed. No alcohol was available, food was served by women in maids’ uniforms and there were women-only areas.

In 1894 Lyons acquired Cadby Hall, an old piano workshop, which they turned into their factory producing standardised, consistent products for their restaurants. There they had their bakery, offices, stores, and could manage the delivery to the shops, each run by a family member. Cadby Hall went on to be developed and was soon baking products for sale over the counter, and to restaurants run by others.

In 1896 they built the Trocadero at Piccadilly, a restaurant and bar complex.

Around 1900 the Glucksteins were said to be the largest retail tobacconists in the world and in 1902 they sold that side of their business to Imperial Tobacco. This enabled the members of the family (the Glucksteins and the Salmons) still living in Whitechapel to move out and they settled in West Hampstead, Kensington and Hammersmith.

The first Lyons Corner House was on the north-west corner of Coventry Street and Rupert Street and opened 1909. The second was in the Strand between Charing Cross Station and Trafalgar Square, now demolished. The Oxford Corner House was built 1926-7 to the design of F. J. Wills. It has 3 elevations: one on Hanway Street (of no interest) and two splendid frontages at 14-28 Oxford Street and 3, Tottenham Court Road. When they decided to move into hotels they built the Strand Palace Hotel (opened Sept 1909). In 1911 they opened a large factory in Greenford and also helped fund a new synagogue, the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, {in Hill Street W1 during WWI, it moved to St John’s Wood Road, into an old chapel, in 1925}.

At the end of WW1, to ensure they could continue to innovate with food products, they created a large, modern, food laboratory at Cadby Hall (where, between WW2 and her marriage, Margaret Thatcher worked as a chemist). This enabled them to develop a new product for them, ice cream, which was manufactured at Cadby Hall. Lyons were the sole caterer at the 1924 British Empire Exhibition, where they ran over 100 restaurants, bars, etc. 1924 Lyons registered ‘Nippy’ (the term used for their waitresses) as a trademark.

By the Depression of the thirties there were over 60 Lyons restaurants all over England. Lyons was the official baker to the royal family and catered for the Buckingham Palace garden parties. By the start of WW2 they were described as the largest restaurant business in the world.

In 1938 some senior female members of the family converted a building in Kentish Town which had been a Lyons tea shop into ‘The Haven’. This housed 23 children, members of the Kindertransport, which the women collected from Liverpool Street station.

Based on their tremendous organisation skills Lyons were asked to manufacture bombs for the war effort, and in response they built and ran a factory at Elstow which, by the end of the war had supplied one seventh of the bombs dropped on Germany.

The company’s response to the fast food revolution was the Wimpy chain of restaurants, the first two being at the Corner Houses on Oxford Street and Coventry Street, 1954 and ’55.

The company had always promoted the scientific approach to business, such as decimalisation, adding machines, microfilm, so their early move into computing was to be expected. The world’s first business computer, LEO, was developed at Cadby Hall.

The company’s business acumen finally failed in the 1970s. Lyons chose to expand internationally by borrowing large sums of money just before the pound was devalued. The family lost control of the business and it was sold to Allied Breweries in 1978.

One discreditable aspect of Lyons business is the way in which women were treated. In the early days Lena Salmon (neé Gluckstein) worked in the business and had a powerful influence but she was the last. Welcomed as customers and as lowly-paid staff (the Nippies, for example) women were never allowed on the board. Most glaringly discriminatory was the exclusion of female family members from the Fund. This was created in 1873 by Montague Gluckstein and all male members of the family could join when they reached 23. From the moment they joined all members received the same financial rewards from the business (adjusted for age and family size). Female members of the family were not allowed in the Fund. Instead, it was a tenet of the Fund that it would ensure all female members of the family were looked after. The Fund was a unique entity intended to minimise financial discontent within the family, but it also had tax advantages. The Fund’s chief assets were properties in Central London and it survived the end of the business. It was eventually wound up in 1991 and the assets distributed.

Notable members of the family include: Gluck (1895 - 1978), the extraordinary painter, who lived for a time in Bolton House, Hampstead. Also: George Monbiot and the politicians Keith Joseph and Nigel Lawson.

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J. Lyons & Co. Cadby Hall

Information Commemorated at

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