Office Index


Original buildings


Original buildings 1928

Elms House Laying Flooring.

Elms House 1970

Open plan office

Kiosk staff

Elms House staff restaurant 1959

LEO staff at the staff restaurant

Elms House (Glacier House)

Elms House was situated on the west side of Brook Green a few yards from its junction with Hammersmith Road. It was built in 1936/1937 to house the increasing number of clerical staff and took its name from the large house that previously occupied the site. It was designed to house 1,000 clerks who initially were from the Accounts Department, the Stock Department, Cost Offices staff and Clerical Research staff. In 1965 an additional annex was built on the north side. From the outset careful planning went into the building of Elms House and it claimed to have many new design features making it one of the most modern office buildings of its time. Everything possible was done to promote comfortable and efficient working conditions. Cloakrooms were provided with special drying apparatus enabling staff to dry their coats and hats if they arrived wet in the morning. Each member of staff was provided with a coat hanger and hat shelf for this purpose. A tea-room was provided for morning and afternoon breaks but later a restaurant was installed. Windows were designed to prevent draughts (but not double glazed) and contained patterned glass to stop staff from idly gazing outside! The window ledges were slopped to prevent papers and other items from being placed on them. Drinking fountains were placed on each floor. Special interview rooms were set aside and a private telephone booth was installed enabling staff to make private calls at reduced rates. The electric lighting was indirect to alleviate glare. Heating was under-floor and thermostatically controlled. Shelf-backed desks were provided to allow individual filing. The open plan offices were treated with sound absorbing material. Rubber aisle-ways and hollow block flooring, finished with teak parquet helped to reduce noise. Power points were installed at each desk station (which were lined up in regimental rows) so that new office equipment could be installed as and when required. The colour scheme was originally deep cream, green and mahogany which was considered to be restful on the eyes. Two lifts operated to all five floors. This arrangement was in stark contrast to later office ideas when screens, pot plants and coffee machines ruled. Nevertheless it was considered one of the most modern offices in its day and was probably one of the first open-plan ones. John Simmons, who would later drive the computer project, was an expert on office systems and had taken a keen role in its design.

\During the war years it was not used as office space because of the large number and size of the windows, which were consider a hazard in the event of bombing. Packing materials were stored there following the destruction in the Blitz of one of the company's warehouses.

In 1957 Elms House was chosen to house the LEO II computer (LEO I having been installed in WX Block). It was installed on the second floor and with its engineering and support staff it occupied half of the second floor area. By 1963 a LEO III computer was also installed to complement LEO II and later a LEO 326 computer was also installed. Thus by 1966 the whole of the second floor, and part of the third floor, was taken up by computers and support staff. Other computerised devices were installed including mark reading machines and a laser printer. A serious fire occurred in 1967 which almost destroyed the computers but its effect was reduced due to the fire-proof materials used in the computer room construction. Nevertheless there was serious disruption to the company's computerised activities.

Since the company's formation in 1887 there had been no concerted effort to maintain its early artefacts and documentation. As offices moved, or were closed, much of the company's history was thrown out. This can now be seen as 'clerical vandalism' because little remains for historians or other researchers to study. However, in 1957 two employees, A. J. Johnston and W. J. Gibson of Office Management Committee, decided that something should be done to address this deficiency and they set about gathering documents and equipment to start a company museum. This was opened in the foyer of Elms House on 27 June 1957. Items such as the bar results from the Franco-British Exhibition 1908, pictures of the Checking Department in 1902, old typewriters and wine measuring sticks were all on display. As the years passed and people retired little interest was shown in preserving these artefacts and nobody seemed to have responsibility for them. Over time they were lost as more changes were made to Elms House.

On the ground level, and it is not known if this was designed from the outset, was a tray-wash. The trays were used to transport bakery and other goods to the teashops in specially designed vans. On their return to Cadby Hall small electric trucks would carry the soiled trays across Brook Green, into the tray wash, and return the clean trays for reuse. This process was carried twenty-fours a day; the ground floor was like Dante's inferno with steam and hot water everywhere. By the 1970s Lyons had re-appraised its computer policy and decided to install an IBM computer and so the ground floor of Elms House was converted to a computer suite and the tray-wash was closed.

It was not until 23 February 1959 that Elms House had its own clerical restaurant. This, like the Clerical Cafeterias in WX Block, Spike House, Addison Mansions and St Mary's College were the responsibility of the Clerical Department. The kitchens, decor and serving arrangements resulted from the combined efforts of members of staff from many departments of the company. The Catering Manager for all the Clerical Staff Cafeterias was L. O'Brien who was mainly responsible for the Elms House project. He had been with the company for 30 years, training as a Manager then Supervisor of the Teashops. During the war he had served with the RAF returning to the company to take charge of the Teashops Bread Unit Allocation and eventually became Assistant Divisional Supervisor of Teashops. In 1952 O'Brien joined the Industrial Canteens Advisory Service under Douglas Gluckstein and in 1958 took over as Manager of the Clerical Staff Cafeterias. The task of drawing up the original plan was entrusted to A. H. Steele and E. J. Barber of the Engineers' Drawing Office who were both widely experienced in the design of catering establishments and indeed, had previously worked together on several occasions. These included the staff restaurant at the Lyons Maid factory in Greenford and the kitchens and larger restaurants in the Corner Houses and hotels. The Elms House restaurant was designed to seat 400 people and was designed on the self-service principle largely based on the Restful Tray Service in the Oxford Corner House. An innovation was the provision of a 'horse-shoe service' which comprised two counters with completely identical equipment allowing two lines of customers to be served at the same time, thus enabling a far speedier service during the one-hour meal break. Facilities included the provision of a Hamburger unit, the first to be installed in one of the company's staff restaurants. Structural alterations were required to the first floor of Elms House before work could start on the new cafeteria. These were undertaken by the Cadby Hall Works Department under Albert (Bill) Bellamy. Their first task was to replace the wooden floor in the kitchen area with tiles, efficient drainage and ventilation. Some of the stainless steel equipment used was made by the Abbey Road factory and some was obtained from outside suppliers. The colour scheme was entrusted to J. E. Rolph of the Architects Office who also designed the kiosk between the twin service counters for the sale of cigarettes, and confectionery. The ceiling tiles in the service area were white acoustic metal tiles with a dropped canopy over the counters. Lights concealed in the canopy illuminated the food display. The seating section of the restaurant has a ceiling in what was described as wild rose. The ceiling beams (which had been squared off in plaster) were painted porcelain blue at right angles to others in primula yellow. The lower part of the wall was sage green to dado height and topped by large windows with polished wooden sills and white frames. The walls between the windows were painted in chartreuse and the central supporting pilasters were in grey and primula yellow. Chromium plated chairs were upholstered in carrot yellow and red, with table tops in birds-eye maple Formica. Sadie Lock, Manageress, was in charge of the day to day running of the restaurant. She had 33 years with the company and had served most of that time in the company's cafeterias as manager. New uniforms had been designed for the staff and made up by the Dressmaking Department. They were white poplin piped with blue, the top pocket bearing the monogram CRS (Clerical Staff Restaurant). A matching scalloped headband completed the neat and attractive effect.

In the late 1970s the movement of bakery and Henry Telfer production to other parts of the country and the sale of the hotels freed up some office space in Cadby Hall. For financial reasons, and where possible, spare office space was rented to outside concerns and this meant rearranging the office space that was available. Glacier House, Hammersmith, headquarters of Lyons Maid since 1960, vacated the premises in 1977 and the building was put up for sale. As a result the Lyons Maid staff were re-housed on the top three floors of Elms House in December 1977. To maintain continuity in the name of Lyons Maid's headquarters Elms House was renamed Glacier House although the ground and first floors continued to be occupied by Lyons Computer Services. One objective of the moves was to bring all group functions into WX Block, the Administration Block, wherever possible, and the subsidiary companies into Elms House and the other blocks. Central Accounts, Central Buying and Estates, all formally occupying Elms House, were transferred to WX Block. During this move an opportunity was taken to carry out some improvements in Elms House and particularly to the restaurant. The supervisors restaurant in the third floor annex, installed after the main restaurant was opened in 1959, became Lyons Maid's Staff Restaurant. The former Clerical Restaurant, already divided into two parts, one for clerical staff and the other for factory maintenance staff, was rearranged to accommodate them and the supervisors. The new Clerical Restaurant was hung with some of the lithographs which once adorned the teashops.

In February 1982 an IBM electronic telephone exchange was installed in Glacier House (Elms House) to service Cadby Hall. The equipment was an IBM 3750 computerised telephone switchboard system and the equipment had been installed four years previously in Vineyard House (formally 44 Brook Green). When the occupants of Vineyard House moved to new offices, John Garner, Finance Manager, obtained board approval to purchase it for £100,000 less than a new system would have cost. The main equipment remained in Vineyard House, to move it would have been very difficult, and a new telephone exchange was built on the second floor of Glacier House (Elms House). This was then connected by cables to the main electronic part in Vineyard House. It came online on 1 March 1982 after a mammoth weekend connection of 800 handsets under the direction of Dennis Toombs, Communications Manager.

The sale of the new Cadby Hall in the late 1980s caused the relocation of Head Office staff to Greenford. Lyons Maid were sold in 1992 and Glacier House (formally Elms House) was taken over by EMI Records in the 1990s who carried out extensive renovations and changes.