Carreras Cigarette Factory

London, England

Carreras Cigarette Factory lost much of its former beauty after it found a new purpose as business offices.

Carreras Cigarette Factory 6
- Chris Beckett

Rediscovering Carreras Cigarette Factory

Take a stroll through Camden Town in North London and it won’t be long before you stumble across the Egyptian Revival meets Art Deco, Carreras Cigarette Factory. But it didn’t always look like this!

Carreras Cigarette Factory fell into a bleak state after being converted into offices in 1961, when much of its Egyptian detailing was lost. After a renovation at the turn of the 21st century, the lost Egyptian-inspired motifs were restored. Today, this Grade II listed building (still housing offices and businesses) is truly breathtaking and kind of unexpected. It reminds onlookers of London’s fascination with Egyptology, sparked by Howard Carter's discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, in 1922.

Carreras Cigarette Factory 9
- Chris Sampson

Origins of Carreras Cigarette Factory

In the wake of World War I, the Carreras Tobacco Company, like many others, experienced a surge in demand for cigarettes. In response, the company, under the ownership of the Russian-Jewish inventor, Bernhard Baron, relocated from their Arcadia factory in City Road to Carreras Cigarette Factory in Mornington Crescent, opening as Arcadia Works in 1928.

Spanning 550 feet the factory was designed by architects Marcus Evelyn Collins and O.H. Collins, along with Arthur George Porri. The building's bright white design, ornate reliefs, and hieroglyphics, were heavily influenced by the contemporary Egyptian revival in Art Deco architecture popularised by displays at the 1925 Paris Exhibition and Hollywood portrayals of Ancient Egypt.

Carreras Cigarette Factory 3
- Tim Ellis

Among the exotic details were two statues of black cats, inspired by the Egyptian goddess Bastet. These cats became the branding for Carreras' Craven A cigarette range. The entrance had a carved Horus of Behdet, flanked by cow-horned Hathor lamps and inside, there were serpent handrails, papyriform columns, and a winged disk depicting the Sun-God Ra.

When it was finally ready, the Carreras Cigarette Factory's grand opening ceremony lent further into the Egyptian theme with actors in Ancient Egyptian costume, opera singers performing Verdi's Aida, and a chariot race held on the streets outside the building.

Carreras Cigarette Factory 5
- Nandy P

Beyond the ancient theme, the Carreras Cigarette Factory was built using cutting-edge technology for its time. The building was constructed using pre-stressed concrete, making it the largest reinforced concrete factory in the UK at the time of its completion. It was also the first British building to have air-conditioning and a system for dust extraction, earning it the moniker of the "Hygienic Wonder Factory."

Carreras Cigarette Factory 2
- Steve Way

Changing Purposes: Carreras Cigarette Factory into Offices

Following Carreras' merger with Rothmans and relocation to Basildon in 1959, the Camden Arcadia Works underwent a transformation into offices, 1960–62. The Egyptian decorations were removed, and the building was renamed Greater London House. However, in 1996, the building was purchased by Resolution GLH, who decided to restore it to its former appearance.

Working from the original designs, architects Finch Forman and Munkenbeck and Marshall restored 80-90% of the Art Deco features, including replicas of the iconic black cat statues. After the project was completed Carreras Cigarette Factory won a Civic Trust Award, a Camden Design Award, and was reinstated as a cultural landmark.

Carreras Cigarette Factory 1
- Børre Ludvigsen

Carreras Cigarette Factory Today

Today, the building has long forgotten its factory roots and hosts a mix of commercial spaces, including offices, retail shops, and cultural venues. But thankfully, with careful preservation and thoughtful renovations, the Carreras Cigarette Factory retains its original appearance for everyone to admire… so go admire it!

Carreras Cigarette Factory 7
- Chris Sampson

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