J. Lyons & Co.
145 Hammersmith Road
It is not known when this building was first used by Lyons but it was probably several years before the start of the Second World War. During the war the church (St Mary's), which stands on the same piece of land between the new Laboratory Building and Edith Road, was destroyed by a bomb (and since rebuilt) and it is likely that 145 Hammersmith Road suffered the same fate. Early maps indicate that there was a substantial property (a school) on the corner of Edith Road and it is likely that this would have been earmarked by Lyons for potential use. Whether or not Lyons acquired the school or just the building adjacent to it is unclear. After the war part of the property seems to have been rebuilt (the school does not show on post war plans) although not to the same size. It was occupied by the Teashop Shopfitting Department throughout the 1950s. This group, under the direction of Len Velluet, were responsible for designing and laying out all teashop refurbishment projects as well as the design of new teashops, including frontage and interior decoration. A further group who were housed in this building were a group of HVAC designers, under the management of W. H. Smith. They designed all the ducting and ventilation systems involved in teashops nationwide. Their purpose was to keep the atmosphere in the teashop sweet and pleasant despite the heavy cooking and frying that was carried out in the teashops. These HVAC designers were housed in the southern part of the building.
The Taste Panel, a section of Operations Research, first occupied the building in 1963. Known officially as 145 Hammersmith Road it was here that many of the company's psychological tests were carried out on new product tastes and sampled by Lyons' own staff for research purposes. This was not strictly an office building where clerks toiled on accounts but rather one of a purposeful function and it had been designed accordingly. The reception room was designed to put possibly shy or nervous tasters at ease. The decorations were bright and cheerful in reds, blues and greys with comfortable seats and a scattering of magazines. Those who attended as tasters, generally on a fortnight routine, came from many departments of the company and were from all age groups.
From the reception area the tasters were admitted into a small cubicle where the taster faced an interviewer through a hatch. Beyond the panellists room were the kitchens where the samples were prepared and cooked. There were four interviewers: Mrs I. Edwards, Mrs M. Spencer, Mrs M. Rodda and Miss J. Cope. The girls also took turns to prepare the samples. Tasters were asked simple questions and were expected to give simple answers. This was so that the psychologists in the section, who assess the results, did not have to sort through a lot of words. Great care was taken not only in the phrasing of the questions but also in the tone in which they were asked. And, because the interviewers must be able to change places with each other, they must have a universal style to prevent their personalities from affecting the results. Having answered all the questions on a product, the panel member moved on to another cubicle and repeated the procedure with a different sample. Sometimes when research into the taste senses was conducted panellists did not always have pleasant things to taste. Colour also plays an important part in a person's preference for food and drink, so if the test was to measure the effect of colour on taste, members were asked to eat samples under different coloured lights. One of the cubicles was adapted for this.
Some 200 staff were regular tasters and the results obtained were passed to a team of psychologists who prepared a report which was then sent to the department who had initiated the study. The Taste Panel were called upon to test the public's tastes on a wide variety of subjects. The problem may have been whether English people liked garlic in their sausages or different kinds of orange in squash or whether a blend of tea will be strong enough. And because, with tea and squashes, the type of water used is so important-and the fact that people in different parts of the country have different preferences, the Taste Panel sometimes had to move around the country to carry out their research.
Mrs A.M. Lynch (centre) of Operations Research receives her card from receptionist Mrs D. Pointer. In the background is Mrs M. Payne.
Checking over and preparing reports from the Taste Panel are (l-r) Research Psychologists Mr P. McGowen, Mr G. Sontal, Mr P. Lynch and Operations Research Manager Dr A. Crawford.