25 years on - the end of Firestone

The August bank holiday brought a nasty shock to conservationists in Brentford 25 years ago.

Over the weekend, the famous Firestone factory on the Great West Road was suddenly demolished.

Moves were afoot to protect the building through listing, and many at the time believed the demolition had been rushed through to circumvent such action.

The attractive factory was built in 1928. Firestone set up the plant to save the cost of shipping tyres from America to Britain.

One of the first purpose built new factories on the Great West Road, it was designed by Wallis, Gilbert and Brothers and built on what had been 26 acres of orchards.

The Art Deco frontage was set back from the road, with lawns in front and the company's sports ground to the west.

The building was a landmark of Brentford for 50 years, but eventually its fate was sealed by events across the Atlantic.

Firestone faltered in the 1970s with its steel-braced radial model 500 tyre, which was widely criticised on safety grounds and eventually withdrawn, plunging the company into millions of dollars of losses.

In November 1979 Firestone announced the closure of its Brentford plant and it shut its doors for the last time in February 1980, making 1,500 workers redundant.

In the last few weeks, a temporary job centre set up inside the factory succeeded in finding work for a third of the employees, a large proportion being taken on by London Transport.

The factory stayed empty for some months and was then sold to Trafalgar House. Hounslow Council and the Department of the Environment were both looking into listing the building.

However, the developers had other ideas and the impressive frontage was reduced to rubble over the August bank holiday weekend.

Conservationists complained that the Art Deco architectural features, such as the doorway mosaics, the Egyptian style entrance and the lamps, had been destroyed first, removing any possibility of salvage.

In the aftermath of the destruction, the council and DoE both blamed each other for failing to save the factory. Each authority said the other should have used emergency powers to prevent work starting.

At the time, Trafalgar House remained unrepentant, denying that the demolition had been hurried through to beat preservation measures.

Simon Jenkins, deputy chairman of the Thirties Society, commented: "If ever there was a building from the inter-war period of British architecture that should have been retained, it was this one."

The West Cross development was subsequently built on the site.

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