The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Firestone Factory in 1980 © Gavin Stamp
Firestone Factory © Wallis, Gilbert & Partners

Lost Modern

Firestone Factory, Brentford

Status: Destroyed
Type: Commercial/offices
Architect: Wallis, Gilbert and Partners
Location: Great West Road, Brentford

The Firestone Building was a distinguished example of Art Deco, built for the American tyre manufacturers, the Firestone Tyre and Rubber Company of Akron, Ohio by architects Wallis, Gilbert and Partners.  The design of the whole building, not just the façade, was based on that of an Egyptian temple.

When the company decided to cease production on the Great West Road in Brentford, they sold the land for development. A call from the Department of the Environment to the developers in August 1980 alerted them that the minister, Michael Heseltine, was going to list the building. This happened on a Tuesday and on the Sunday bulldozers were sent in to demolish the façade. It was a calculated act of philistinism and caused public outrage.

It was the first serious case for the C20 Society (then the Thirties Society).  In retrospect, this loss boosted the society’s cause. Michael Heseltine ordered his historic buildings staff at the Department of the Environment to begin an ‘accelerated survey’ of listing, opening the lists to many more pre-1939 buildings.

The Great West Road was once known as The Golden Mile. The factories along it were built in the late 1920s and the early 1930s, often by American companies which relied on advertising to promote their products. The factories themselves were used as advertising, which is why they were so eye-catching and exciting.

The Firestone factory was designed in 3 weeks by Wallis, Gilbert and Partners and built in 18 weeks. The firm was famous in its day for its industrial buildings, for example, the Hoover building, in Perivale, Wrigley’s factory in Wembley, Huntley and Palmer’s in Reading, the Victoria Coach Station, and Glaxo in Greenford.

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