Leon House has been a part of Croydon’s skyline for nearly 60 years and its iconic status has stood the test of time. But what was here before Leon, and is the building itself of historical importance? To discover the truth, below you’ll find a whistlestop tour of Leon House history.
While the current building was originally designed and occupied as an office block in 1965, the commercial use of the site can actually be dated back to an 1870 OS map showing it was a brewery with associated agriculture land.
Given that this was also agricultural land, we might assume that this brewery was on a fairly small scale. However, given that it was in operation in 1870, whilst other larger brewers were expanding, this was perhaps a more successful establishment than we might suspect and was still in operation in 1936.
According to research undertaken by the Brewery History Society,
The Beer Act of 1830 introduced the concept of the ‘beer house’ – a new type of
public house. The law meant that any householder could apply for a licence to
make and sell their own beer. The result was that within eight years, 46,000
would-be breweries sprung up. However, the majority couldn’t keep up with the
established competition who had better equipment – and better beer!
But those who were successful continued to grow, with manufacturing booming by 1870 – by which time a mere 50 breweries were producing over 50,000 barrels between them. These major breweries are also said to have made “a more significant impact on the townscape.”
where Leon now stands closed in 1936 and the site went on to be used for a
range of industrial businesses with the establishment of dye, confectionary and
metal works factories. This long history of industry can still be felt in the
You may already know a little about the current building and its original purpose as a new-age office building, but how much do you know about the modernist movement that inspired the design?
Modernist architecture first made an appearance towards the end of the nineteenth century and was borne out of a desire for simplicity – in reaction to traditional, neoclassical designs. Modernist architects are famed for their use of concrete, steel and glass which aimed to offer minimalism, compared to work created by their predecessors.
This architectural revolution came at a time when advancements in technology and science were evolving at an unprecedented speed – everyone was in search of the ‘new’. Perhaps in this same vein many years later, much of Britain’s modernist architecture was replaced by those seeking the ‘new’ for themselves.
Many other Modernist buildings in Croydon have had their original design hidden under cladding, in the guise to make them look ‘modern’. Yet, by embracing the original integrity of the building, Leon House celebrates and utilises its original features to the benefit of the residents, and pays homage to its heritage and the original modernist concept.
In 2019, Leon House was recognised by WhatHouse for being a sympathetic renovation that pays homage to the integrity of its design – whilst delivering the modern day luxury London residents demand.
The award in the ‘Best Renovation’ category, demonstrated that beautiful restorations come in all forms. While period properties will always be revered, our country’s modernist heritage must also be saved and celebrated in equal measure.
Leon House has also hosted tours from the 20th Century Society including one in which Dr Dawn Pereira Ph.D gave a presentation on the history of the building, featuring old film footage from Tomorrow’s World showing William Mitchell working on one of the art pieces in the building.
Now in the 21st century, Leon residents have the opportunity to live in a beautiful, historical building, which has been widely celebrated for it’s design and form. The next chapter for Leon is only just beginning.