The Carreras Cigarette Factory, a large Art Deco building in Camden, comes as quite a surprise to anyone strolling through this north London area. It is as stunning an example of early 20th Century Egyptian Revival architecture as anyone could ask for and was thankfully renovated at the end of the twentieth century.
It’s not often that I’m grateful to a tobacco company, but this beauty was built in the 1920s by the Carreras Tobacco Company, owned by the Russian-Jewish inventor and philanthropist Bernhard Baron.
Lord Canarvon had only recently discovered Tutankhamen’s tomb and as a result interest in Egyptology was high. The Black Cat was a popular brand of cigarettes, named after Carreras’s cat – apparently, Carreras was too difficult a name to pronounce so the simpler “black cat” became the brand name. Luckily for us, it seems that a link in someone’s mind between this tobacco-related black cat and Egyptian black cats led to the creation of this tremendous building design.
The Egyptian-style ornamentation here originally included a solar disc to the Sun-god Ra, two gigantic effigies of black cats at the entrance and colourful painted details and was supposedly inspired by the Temple of Bubastis in the Nile Delta.
The factory closed in 1959 and when it was converted into offices two years later the Egyptian detailing was lost. Fortunately, it was renovated in the late 1990s and replicas of the cats were placed outside the entrance.
If you want to see the building for yourself, it is just a 20 minute walk from St Pancras International Station or 2 minutes from Mornington Crescent tube station.