Reeves factory

Every month CabbieBlog hopes to show you a little gem of a building which you might have passed without noticing.

Tucked away in Ashwin Street in the now so fashionable Dalston Junction.

This building which once advertised the original owner’s proud boast to be at the forefront of artists’ paint technology is now a theatre.

[R]eeves manufactured their artists’ paints here from 1866: This section of their factory was added in 1913 as the print house and is richly decorated with mosaics.

The building stands just behind the ‘Peace Mural’. Unveiled – if that is possible on an artwork covering the side of a building – by the late Tony Banks MP. Depicting the Soviet Union and United States standoff and declaring Hackney as a ‘nuclear free zone’. It seems to have placated both super-powers as Hackney has remained untouched by any nuclear strike.

Reeves were founded in 1766 by William Reeves who opened his first shop on Well Lane, Little Britain near St. Paul’s. In the basement he manufactured his own paints, doing so well he took his older brother Thomas into partnership.

In 1781 William invented the ubiquitous water colour paint-cake by the ingenious process of adding honey to keep the paint moist and give it a gelatinous consistency.

Ashwin Street is really a back lane that has become the focus of much of the arts driven activity of the new Dalston, the catalyst for this was the renovation of the old Reeves building. Lovingly restored, it draws visitors from Dalston Lane with its exquisite external decorative detail including blue and gold mosaic lettering and backgrounds. The building now houses a range of small businesses, a bohemian cafe and the Arcola Theatre.

2 thoughts on “Reeves factory”

  1. What memories you evoke. When I was eight in 1942 the Reeves factory (or warehouse?) was bombed into a pile of rubble accessible only from Ridley Road. Gangs of us kids would dig through the rubble and pull out complete undamaged paint boxes and hundreds of bottles of ‘Indian Ink’ that we smashed against the few walls left standing – they made a wonderful black stain.


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