During the Second World War the factory was converted to make aeroplane parts some of which were used by the Spitfire and Hurricane fighter planes based at nearby Northolt. One of the Spitfires is on display at the entrance to the airfield, which is now used mainly by Lear-jetting businessmen, whose fancy machines can be seen on the runway as you pass. The building was disguised so that it would not be targeted by Luftwaffe pilots.
Coaches usually take one of three roads into/out of London – the M3, the M4 or the M40. I was coming back to London along the last recently and talked about football (soccer to our American visitors) as we passed Wembley Stadium and the Battle of Britain at RAF Northolt. Between the two I gave a mention to Art Deco architecture alongside the Hoover Building. It is one of London’s most distinctive structures, built in the early 1930s and at its peak 3,000 people were employed there making and selling upright vacuum cleaners.
The German architectural critic Nikolas Pevsner would have been happy if it had been bombed to oblivion, describing it as “perhaps the most offensive of the modernistic atrocities along this road”. Pevsner was a demi-god to many lovers of old buildings but I have always been rather fond of the Hoover and enjoy pointing it out, sometimes even going to the trouble of differentiating between Art Deco (1920s/30s simple lines, elegant curves) and Art Nouveau (turn of the century, more ornate, inspired by nature).
The building fell into decline in the 1980s when Hoover moved out after reductions in demand and strikes. It was taken over by Tesco and converted into a supermarket in 1989 in a brave attempt to bring new life to the site, which was never entirely convincing. I remember contacting them to find out more about their plans for it but they never got back to me. Selling you cheap food was their priority and wasting resources on architectural history was never part of their mindset.
As is the way of things in London nowadays the building is now being converted into apartments by a property company called IDM who are building sixty six luxury flats there. (From factory to supermarket to luxury flats – that is almost a potted history of modern London.) IDM have a greater commitment to preserving its features than Tesco ever did and, in a nice touch, are including Hoover appliances such as an oven, dishwasher and washer/dryer in every flat. I think they should go the whole hog and add a vacuum cleaner as well. After all, at one time the company’s products were so dominant in the market that to ‘Hoover’ a room always meant to run over the carpet with a vacuum cleaner.
Go to http://www.idmproperties.com/property/the-hoover-building/ for more details. No prices are available so far. Let us just hope that the flats, once bought, are actually occupied instead of being bought up by foreign investors and left scandalously empty – like so many property developments in modern London.
There is a discussion of the financing of the royal family at my other blog: http://menfriday.blogspot.com