Film: 1332

Industry + Work | 1920 | Silent | B/W


Visit to the Lyons Tea factory, Greenford, Middlesex by Edward, Prince of Wales.1920s.

With intertitles.

The Prince gets out of his car outside the factory, staff and girl guides are waiting outside. He is greeted by Alfred Salmon, Chairman of the company. He shakes hands with guide leaders. In the yard he meets war veterans of the factory, behind them are Lyons vans advertising tea and cocoa. One of the men passes him a piece of paper to read then returns it to his pocket. The Prince is accompanied by men wearing bowler hats. He shakes hands with one of the war veterans who wears his medals on his coat.

A bungalow door opens and a nurse and another woman come out, the woman walks away and the nurse goes back inside, this is the welfare surgery. Inside the building a man and woman sit at a table and a receptionist sits at a desk. A sign on a door reads Dental Surgery. A dentist treats a patient in a chair as a nurse looks on.

A sign on a door reads Manicure. Two manicurists with covered heads treat the nails of two young women, who also wear scarves to cover their hair. Another sign on a door reads Chiropody. A chiropodist treats a man's feet with a machine. Another sign reads First Aid. A nurse treats a man laying in a chair in a surgery.

The Prince, wearing a bowler hat and carrying an umbrella walks in the yard with factory bosses. Tea in chests from canal narrowboats are winched into the warehouse with an overhead crane. Two men open a crate of tea with tools. Two women with scarves on their heads working in the factory, one takes samples of the tea and one pours water from a boiling kettle. Long benches in the factory, three men in suits taste the produce. Sacks in the factory. The Prince and the other members of the party go downstairs. Aerial view of machines and people weighing and packing tea, highly automated. Sacks being pushed on trolleys, Various shots of machinery in the production process. The party comes downstairs again. Detailed look at machines in action. Slow motion of one of the machines. The electric weighing machine. The Prince looks at the labelling machine.

Intertitle 'Another Lyons "All British" triumph, these machines work 50% faster than any other machines in the world'.

Women loading goods onto a conveyor. A crate labelled Lyons Small Leaf Green Label Tea is moved on a winch. Workers line both sides of the road as the Prince's car departs. Women workers waving. Lyons vans follow the car. People standing outside suburban houses. The war memorial to Lyons employees who died in the First World War. The Lyons sports ground at Sudbury Hill. Men playing cricket. Men and women playing on the tennis courts. Children playing on a slide, seesaw and other equipment in the children's playground. A man in a suit comes down the slide with two small children in front of him. Men playing bowls on a bowling green, watched by spectators. Railway wagons marked G W (Great Western) carrying Lyons crates move off. The end of the train disappearing into a tunnel.

A globe showing the routes of tea export from Lyons. The globe turns into a teapot. .


(Historical notes from from Peter Housell, Ealing Library Services :

The Lyons company started as a catering company (at exhibitions) and then diversified into restaurants and food manufacture. Its administrative base and head office functions were at Cadby Hall in Hammersmith. Its main manufacturing site was from the 1920s onwards the large factory complex in Greenford. Lyons was famous for its chain of tea shops and for its landmark restaurants, the Corner Houses.
The factory was opened in 1921 at Greenford on a triangular site bordered by a road on one side, the GWR line to the Midlands on another, and the Grand Union Canal on the third. It was established as a tea blending and packing plant and this seems to be the operations that the film is concerned with. Bulk tea was brought to the site by canal barge (via Brentford) from the London Docks, blended and packed and then distributed by rail or road. There was a dock on the canal (which is still visible) and sidings on to the railway, both of which are visible in the film.
The scope of the operation extended to include coffee, cakes, confectionery and eventually Lyons Maid ice cream. The works were extended to cover the whole site and a road way built over the canal so that it could be developed on the north side of the canal (where the ice cream plant was).
The company was very interested in modern management techniques and had an extensive O & M department. As the film shows they early made use of automation on the filling and packaging of its tea. They would be the first British company to use a first generation computer for business purposes (e.g. stock control of deliveries to its tea shops), and had the expertise to consider manufacturing computers for other firms).
After a series of mergers Lyons became Allied Lyons, a firm with brewing and spirits interests. After a further merger with the Domecq drinks business it was decided to specialise on international spirit brands, and most of the other interests of the company were sold off. As far as I know the company no longer makes any of the goods that are still sold under the Lyons label.
The Greenford site has been developed and all the buildings that appeared in the film (many of which had survived from the 1920s and 1930s) have been demolished. The site is now home to a Scottish Courage beer distribution centre and a business park. Sadly the demolition of the Lyons buildings also resulted in the loss of the last surviving part of the works established by William Perkin in 1856 where the first artificial dye – mauve – was made.

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