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London, Camden, Holborn, Upper St Martin's Lane, Thorn House, English Electric Company

Office (20th Century), Tower Block (20th Century)

Site Name London, Camden, Holborn, Upper St Martin's Lane, Thorn House, English Electric Company

Classification Office (20th Century), Tower Block (20th Century)

Canmore ID 284784

Site Number TQ38SW 1

NGR TQ 3010 8090

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2023.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Not Applicable
  • Parish Camden
  • Former Region Greater London
  • Former District Camden
  • Former County Greater London

Sir Basil Spence

Building Notes

Thorn House was designed as the West London headquarters and showroom of Thorn Electrical Industries. Basil Spence & Partners were contracted to the project in November 1957 (though they had been preparing the design since May 1955) with partner Andrew Renton as chief designer. Building work was completed in September 1959. The overall cost was approximately £765, 000.

The site consists of a slim, fourteen-storey office block rising to 184 feet and a long two-storey showroom. The structure is composed of reinforced concrete and stone cladding. The top floor of the tower is open, providing views across London. The detailing includes horizontal bands of glass mosaic between the windows. John and Sylvia Wood were consultants for the showroom interiors. An eighty foot abstract sculpture by Geoffrey Clarke is mounted on the facade facing St Martin’s Lane.

Archive Details and Summary

The Sir Basil Spence Archive includes one manuscript folder, 13 drawings and 49 photographs relating to Thorn House. The manuscript material includes a detailed technical description of the tower block. There is also a questionnaire (with answers) from the writer of a book about office buildings, which gives detailed information about the project design. The drawings consist of a range of details but also include plans dating from 1976 proposing alterations to the catering facilities on the first floor. The photographs include copies of various perspective drawings, as well as views of the architectural model. There is also a range of exterior and interior views of the building following its completion.

The Archive shows that the architects gave a lot of consideration to the landscaping at street level and that the open space allowing pedestrians to pass under the building was an early example of this design feature in terms of London office building. The principal facade of the tower is composed of the same Derbyshire stone that was used extensively at the Royal Festival Hall. The materials chosen for the exterior were selected partly because they would weather well in the London atmosphere.

London Metropolitan Archives also hold material for this project.

This text was written as one of the outputs of the Sir Basil Spence Archive Project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, 2005-08.


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