Allen & Hanburys

While I’m on the subject of converted industrial buildings, I walked past the old Allen & Hanburys building just to the west  of the Cambridge Heath Road a week or so ago.   It’s another old established East End firm, bought up in 1958 by GlaxoSmithKline, with the factory closed some time in the 1960s.   It was founded by a Welsh Quaker, Silvanus Bevan, in 1715.   The eponymous William Allen joined the firm in 1792 and his second wife was a Hanbury.   They made those blackcurrant pastilles in a tin box which used to be sold under the name Allenburys, but are now made in Switzerland;  also, cod liver oil and weighing scales:-


People forget that London was full of small, and larger, scale manufacturing.


3 thoughts on “Allen & Hanburys

  1. As well as manufacturing of surgical devices (Spitalfields Life shows images from the A&H catalogue of surgical appliances []) and pharmaceuticals, medicines and preparations and I believe the Bethnal Green facility was also the location for what we would now call research and development (the company was finally acquired by Glaxo Laboratories Ltd []), as well as for administration. Apparently, during the War it was also a site for the manufacture of penicillin, and Alexander Fleming visited the factory.
    You are right that we forget the manufacturing history of London, and it appears the Allen & Hanburys site was much larger (see Wellcome Collection image [] from, I guess, the nineteenth century). Mark Brearley at The Cass, who is also co-owner of London-based manufacturer Kaymet, has done some good work documenting modern manufacturing in London.
    The remaining, core building is now the Pill Box run by Workspace (, a somewhat pricey (co-)working space with open workspaces all the way up to large closed offices and studios, with tenants from estate agents to digital video artists.
    Also, are you aware the neighbouring site, the old LEB HQ and showroom on Cambridge Heath Road (more recently used by Tower Hamlets Council as offices) is subject to a proposal by Telford Homes to build a residential development with commercial premises and new public spaces ( The proposal also includes opening up the arches for commercial use. The architecture is typical of modern East London architecture, but on balance looks like a good development, though some space for small-scale manufacturing would be valuable.

  2. The old LEB HQ is very dilapidated, but it’s interesting Bethnal Green was chosen at its location. Bethnal Green Library, opposite, is also opening up new spaces – upstairs and either side of the front entrance – for co-working, events, and other activities. Between the two developments, there could be a lot more interesting activity in the area.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s