An Art Deco building in London—guarded by two moggies

Just some lagniappe from reader Jonathan, who sent me this photo today with the note:

Thought the attached might appeal to you.  It is of the cats guarding theentrance to the Carreras Cigarette Factory Building at Mornington Crescent in London.  The building, which is now used for other purposes, was built in the
1920s in Egyptian-themed art deco style.  My picture, which was taken with my phone from the top deck of the number 29 bus as it drove past, does not really do the building justice but you can find more info and photos about the building on-line.

And of course I did. I love Art Deco, and of course I love cats. What a pleasure to find them together!

First, Jonathan’s photo:


And indeed, there’s an extensive Wikipedia article on the building, constructed between 1926 and 1928 and restored in 1996. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in London, much of it in Camden Town, and I can’t believe I didn’t know of this building’s existence.  Here’s part of what Wikipedia says (indented):

The Carreras Cigarette Factory is a large Art Deco building in Camden, London in the United Kingdom. It is noted as a striking example of early 20th Century Egyptian Revival architecture. The building was erected in 1926-28 by the Carreras Tobacco Company owned by the Russian-Jewish inventor and philanthropist Bernhard Baron on the communal garden area of Mornington Crescent, to a design by architects M.E and O.H Collins and A.G Porri. It is 550 feet (168 metres) long, and is mainly white.

The building’s distinctive Egyptian-style ornamentation originally included a solar disc to the Sun-god Ra, two gigantic effigies of black cats flanking the entrance and colourful painted details. When the factory was converted into offices in 1961 the Egyptian detailing was lost, but it was restored during a renovation in the late 1990s and replicas of the cats were placed outside the entrance.


Dominating the entrance to the building were two large 8.5-foot (2.6 m)-high bronze statues of cats, stylised versions of the Egyptian god Bastet (or Bubastis, or Bast), which had been cast at the Haskins Foundry in London. The image of a black cat was a branding device which Carreras used on the packets of their Craven A range of cigarettes. The building had thus been conceived as a “temple” to Bastet, and the architects’ original drawings reveal that it was to be named Bast House (the name was dropped due to unfortunate similarities to derogatory words in English). [JAC: Is this some British term I don’t know?]


Why a cat on the logo? The post “London Cats” (if you’re a London ailurophile, be sure to read it) gives the answer:

The Carreras company logo had been a black cat ever since 1886 after customers at the original tobacconist’s in Wardour Street grew accustomed to the sight of the shop cat curled up in the window. The black cat logo is also a repeated feature across the front of the building.

And here is the repeated feature:

The cats stood guard over Arcadia Works until 1959 when Carreras merged with Rothmans of Pall Mall and moved to a new factory in Basildon, Essex. The cats were removed from the building and separated; one was transported to Essex to stand at the Basildon works, the other exported to Jamaica to stand outside the Carreras factory in Spanish Town.

This photo from Wikipedia is labeled “The biggest cats in London.”:







  1. David Harper
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    “The building had thus been conceived as a “temple” to Bastet, and the architects’ original drawings reveal that it was to be named Bast House (the name was dropped due to unfortunate similarities to derogatory words in English). [JAC: Is this some British term I don’t know?]”

    I’m guessing that the building was actually meant to be called “Bastet House”, which would sound rather similar to “Bastard House”.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted June 23, 2016 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      And yet they were OK with calling their product “Craven”.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted June 24, 2016 at 12:22 am | Permalink

        “Craven” is a district of North Yorkshire in the vallys of the rivers Ribble, Aire and Wharfe. Bounded to the NW by the Ingleborough hill range and … to the S and SE, I’ve never felt the need to look. (Ingleborough is full of caves. And quite bonny on the fossil-hunting front too.)
        Perfectly respectable name. I’d have to research to find out where the association of “craven” and “cowardice” came from. nothing to do with the people of the Craven district.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted June 24, 2016 at 12:17 am | Permalink

      As the saying goes, “ya bas!” (“you bastard!”)

  2. HaggisForBrains
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    How do you get to Mornington Crescent? 😉

    • Dominic
      Posted June 23, 2016 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      No one who does not listen to Radio 4 will understand that! 🙂
      I walk past this frequently…

    • Dominic
      Posted June 23, 2016 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      New series starts 6.30 Monday!

    • Posted June 23, 2016 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      Is that still going? Wow! (Been gone for nearly 25 years now, but apparently little change to the Radio 4 lineup – assume the Grundy family is still in trouble too)

    • bric
      Posted June 23, 2016 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      Well it’s complicated, but N F Stovold’s ‘Mornington Crescent: Rules and Origins’ is highly recommended; just don’t attempt Trumpington’s Variation until you have complete familiarity with the basics.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted June 24, 2016 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      BTW, the correct answer to my question is, “I’m sorry, I haven’t a clue”

  3. Hempenstein
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Those moggies would be in good company with the Carlsberg Elephants in Copenhagen. If you pay them a visit sometime, the Carlsberg Laboratories are nearby, where many early advances in enzymology were achieved.

  4. Andrew West
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    I just came to post that I walk past this ten times a week. That is all.

  5. rickflick
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Love it!

  6. bric
    Posted June 24, 2016 at 3:56 am | Permalink

    The Met in New York has a nice bronze bastet

  7. chrism
    Posted June 24, 2016 at 4:48 am | Permalink

    Here’s some trivia for you. The author of Peter Pan, J M Barrie, wrote an encomium to pipe smoking called ‘My Lady Nicotine’ in 1890, and just as non-opium eaters might want to read De Quincey, this book is an enjoyable read even if you don’t smoke a pipe. In the book, the narrator talks of a mythically sublime blend of pipe tobacco known as Arcadia Mixture, and after much speculation it was determined that this was Barrie’s favourite (confirmed by him in 1897), the Craven Mixture from Carreras. Such was the influence of the book that Carreras used his endorsement in their advertising and named their new factory ‘Arcadia’ in 1928.

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