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J. Lyons & Co.

Manufacturing

At one time J. Lyons & Co. were one of the UK's largest food manufacturers. The firm's head office was officially 66 Hammersmith Road, London, which comprised Cadby Hall, Lyons' sprawling factory and administration complex from 1899-1983.

Cadby Hall

Cadby Hall's history can be traced back to 1873 when the piano manufacturer, Charles Cadby, bought 8.5 acres of the land along High Road (later Hammersmith Road), known as the Croften Estate, where two houses had been demolished to make way for his new factory. When Charles died on 22 October 1884, he left the bulk of his estate to his third wife, Harriet Mary, and eight children. The factory and its stock including 170 pianofortes were sold on Charles Cadby's instructions. Charles Henry Cadby, the oldest male heir, inherited a share of the business after its sale and, because he suffered poor health, he moved to the warmer climate of South Africa on the advice of his doctor. On taking over the premises the directors decided to retain the original name of Cadby Hall, pretentious though this may have sounded for a factory complex. Nevertheless the name became widely known, especially by people in west London. In time it became one of the largest food factories in the country, eventually covering more than thirteen acres. 

The nomenclature adopted to identify the factory buildings subsequently occupied and built by Lyons seems idiosyncratic and remains puzzling. Equally bewildering is the sequence of land acquisitions as the business expanded. It started from a central point, the original Cadby Hall, spreading in all directions but mainly along the Hammersmith Road in an east-ìwest direction. Because Lyons occupied the site for some eighty years, old buildings were modified or demolished and new ones erected to accommodate new food-processing mechanisation and to meet increasing consumer demand. Regrettably, no known complete plan or delineation of the factory buildings from 1894 has survived. From available data it appears that the first block brought into use was the original piano-manufacturing block known to Lyons as A Block. It housed the early bakeries when production moved from Olympia as well as a basement kitchen and a top-floor tea-packing department.

 

The old mill block, 40 feet to the north-west and identified as C Block, accommodated a variety of departments. Initially providing storage for the Hire Department, it came to be used for boiling hams and then for clerical staff from the Checking Department in 1896 before they moved to Addison Mansions and eventually Spike House (once the home of Edward Latymer, founder of Latymer School). In 1899 Blocks E and F replaced what is believed to have been B Block, originally used as stables between 1894 and 1899. Cadby Hall itself, the old piano showrooms, became known as J Block and remained largely intact until the factory's demolition in 1983.

A teashop opened in 1903 providing an important frontage onto Hammersmith Road at this time. Buildings on the western side of Cadby Hall numbered N, O, P and Q were built in 1910-12 together with the roadway that connected with the old yard in 1914. In 1928 a large factory and dispatch (a central reporting point for loaded vehicles entering or leaving the factory area with goods) with offices above was erected on the northern side of the estate, replacing four earlier blocks known as H, T, L and M. Built to a high standard for factory use and having a large ground-floor dispatch, the new block, numbered WX, became offices for a number of departments as well as the administrative headquarters of the company. This building was the only one identified by two letters, W for the factory part and X for the clerical. In 1928 the original street-level administrative offices, situated in the eastern part of the old Schweppes Mineral Water Works, were demolished to make way for a larger yard and garaging.

 

Buildings belonging to St Mary's Roman Catholic Training College became part of Cadby Hall in 1925, and one of the two-floor stable blocks nearby was knocked down to make a second road connecting with the main factory estate. Blocks T, U, V, F(1) and T(1) were constructed at this time. R block, which housed the ice-cream department, was built in 1913 and R(1) in 1936/7.

Within twenty-five years of taking over the piano factory and its showrooms, Lyons had progressively acquired properties in the immediate vicinity whenever they came on the market, including shops, private houses and apartments, laundries and in one case a seminary. This allowed for the rapid expansion of the factories as the business grew; and the complete block of land along the Hammersmith Road between Blythe Road and Brook Green (and beyond) soon became one vast heterogeneous manufacturing enclosure where over 30,000 workers toiled twenty-four hours a day 365 days a year. Some parts of the organisation never closed. No. 219 dispatch (a small clerical office, so called because of its telephone extension number, providing a focal point for urgent and private orders, mainly family) and the telephone exchange, for example, were always manned so that any call from any part of the world could always be taken.

After 1894, the factories at Cadby Hall had been progressively enlarged to satisfy the phenomenal expansion of business in all departments. However, by the end of the First World War there was little scope to extend facilities at Cadby Hall sufficiently to cope with demand, and management's plans for a massive increase in production were threatened. Accordingly a decision was taken to purchase a large piece of land at Greenford in Middlesex, where a new tea, coffee and confectionery factory was built to alleviate the pressures on Cadby Hall. Nevertheless Cadby Hall remained an important food producing factory and became a household name throughout the first half of the twentieth century, and beyond, when it appeared on all the food labels of the Company as well as the thousands of letters and envelopes which left head office. The name was so synonymous with J. Lyons & Co. that three further Cadby Hall's were named across the World for the Company's overseas operations. There was one in Toronto, Canada, another in Natal, South Africa, and a third in Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harari, Zimbabwe).

 

Cadby Hall in London has also earned a place in history as being the birthplace of the World's first business computer developed here between 1949-1951 specifically for clerical tasks.

Mary Playford (descendant of Charles Cadby), and her husband Mark, have contributed some of the material recorded here. If anyone reading this has information of Cadby pianos please contact Mary or Mark on playford@northkent.com.

Courtesy Peter Bird. January 2005

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The site owned and operated by Lyons is outlined in blue. You can see the Lyons vans in the yard at point A. The large curved building to the top right is Olympia, the exhibition hall and the impressive building behind the Lyons site (marked in red) is Blythe House, originally built as the headquarters of the Post Office Savings Bank.  

 

The building at location B is St. Mary's College, used to train teachers. This moved in 1925 and Lyons acquired the college site to significantly increase their available space.

 

At point C you can see the original Cadby Hall, tiny compared to the rest of the site. Addison Mansions is located at point D and the building opposite (point E), once demolished, became WX Block. (Courtesy Britain From Above, aerial photo taken 1921)

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