Some time ago I featured the Carreras cigarette factory in the Ugly pages. Since then this accolade has been downgraded with the construction of Central Saint Giles which must rank as London’s most preposterous building. Giant pussies adorn the entrance to Greater London House, opposite Mornington Crescent Underground Station, the one-time cigarette factory built in 1928; just six years after Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun.
[A]t that time the fashion for Art Deco and all things Egyptian was at its zenith, so thought a cigarette manufacturer. Why not?
Ironically its architect, Marcus Collins, specialised in building synagogues had designed a Neo-classical front but changed his mind and decided to include Bastet the feline goddess of warfare to guard the doors, incorporate massive columns, copies of Akhenaten’s tome in Lower Egypt, a solar disc to the sun-god Ra, and for good measure studding the façade with black cat silhouettes.
The factory produced two of the biggest selling brands of cigarette – Craven A and Black Cat. The locals, who in all probability could only afford Player’s Weight, lost their local communal garden area to a Russian-Jewish philanthropist who clearly did not extend his charity to the local populace when building his monstrosity.
When the factory was opened Mornington Crescent was covered with sand to replicate the deserts of Egypt; cast members from Verdi’s opera Aida formed a procession; and a chariot race was held on Hampstead Road.
Carreras moved out in 1959 and much of the Egyptian adornment was lost. Now restored with replica black cats once more on guarding the doors; and ironically, considering the detrimental effects caused from smoking, today a gym is to be found in the basement along with The British Heart Foundation offices.