J. LYONS & CO.: KINGS OF THE LONDON JUNGLE

As mentioned in our previous post, The Strand Palace Hotel was first opened in 1909 by tea, catering company J. Lyons and Co. But just how did such a conglomerate come to open what is now one of the oldest and most historic hotels in London?

Founded in 1886, by Joseph Nathaniel Lyons and his brothers-in-law, Isidore and Montague Gluckstein, Lyons began its life as a catering company and their glowing reputation soon spread as far as Paris. Eight years after it was first established, Lyons was incorporated as a public company, basing its head office and factories out of Cadby Hall in Hammersmith, where they specialised in the production of tea. They opened their first teashop in Piccadilly in 1894 and continued to open stores all around London- like a nineteenth century Starbucks! Expansion was so great, in fact, that the company was forced to relocate its factories to larger premises in Middlesex in 1920, becoming the largest tea-packing plant in the world.

Lyons came to be pioneers of a range of products in a multitude of different industries. For instance, during the Second World War, they developed FROOD, which was, at the time, a revolutionary frozen cooked food process. This period also saw them open a munitions factory and in the early 1950s, they established LEO (Lyons Electronic Office), producing the world’s first computer capable of commercial work. After acquiring a number of diverse businesses both here and abroad, Lyons sold off its various parts and the head office eventually closed in 1995.

Writing Room At the Strand Palace Hotel

The most relevant subsidiary to our story was Strand Hotels Limited. As well as owning and managing the Strand Palace Hotel, J. Lyons & Co. were in charge of the Regent Palace, Cumberland, Kingsley, Park Court, Windsor, White’s and lastly, the Tower London Hotel. Incidentally, this is the very hotel where our Head Chef Martin Lynch worked previously! We love how in this respect, the Strand Palace Hotel has almost come full circle. In this same vein, the current management are taking steps to restore some of the hotel’s remaining original Art Deco features. Indeed, the large, marble bathrooms on the basement floor are listed and give you a glimpse of the rich history and splendour of this remarkable establishment.

Join us next Thursday for our blog on the pioneering architect affiliated with J. Lyons & Co., Oliver P. Bertrand.

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