William Huck's Bottling Plant Converted into Flats

When Chermeyeff rebuilt the corner of Jamestown Road and Oval Road as the new Gilbey House in 1937, he also altered William Huck's Bottling Plant next door. This had a basement and five floors, with 2×6 metre high ceilings. The building was a slightly lozenge-shaped square with 50 metre sides, so the floors were immense. It had a flat roof where timber was stored and where, incidentally, the staff used to play cricket at lunch times. Chermeyeff considered adding two more storeys, set back like a wedding cake, but the foundations could not take the extra weight. Instead, he altered the building slightly, adding back balconies, a few access doors and two new loading bays.

It was a very successful building, but when Gilbey's left in the 1960s it stood almost empty. At one time a part became a dress factory. There were a few other small tenants. It was a grade II listed building and so protected from arbitrary change or demolition. No major industrial use seemed likely for years to come. Then Regalian Properties plc bought the building for conversion into flats. After two year's work there were 78 new apartments, many with direct views over the Canal. The corner flats, with double-aspect windows are particularly impressive and priced at up to £510,000 each at 1995 prices. Smaller flats varied from about £150,000 to £350,000.

Conversion was a major operation since Huck's building consisted of enormous industrial floors with windows round the outside edges. By law every habitable room must have windows open to the outside light and air. Unaltered, these rooms would have been big enough to hold swimming pools. To create normal sized rooms with proper ventilation and light, Regalian opened a large hole down the middle of the building, supporting the cut edges of the floors by new ferro-concrete pillars. This huge atrium was open to the air above and so introduced light and air to the new inner rooms. It also created an impressive space. Above was added a new sixth floor, slightly recessed into the fifth and set back to give penthouse patios all round the outer edge. The flats are reached by lift and wide access galleries all round the central atrium.

Model of Gilbey House, canal and side elevation, circa 1996

Architects, T.B.Bennett Partnership

The central courtyard reached up to the full height of the building, with a huge protective canopy above. This plastic cover, rather like the new stand at Lord's, has a scalloped edge allowing the free passage of air up and down. Rain falls from the canopy on to a sloping glass rain-shield running all round the inner walls and then drains into gutters below. Thus the courtyard remains dry, but open to the air. It is an impressive conversion of an old industrial building to a new use.

Sectional Elevation

William Huck's Bottling Plant converted into flats

Plan of Second, Third and Fourth Floors

A Space Age Restaurant

Redeveloping the Parkway/
Inverness Street Block