ONE OF MY COUSINS, who was on a trip around Europe during his high school years in the late 1960s, met me while he was in London. A keen collector of pipes, he wanted to visit the Dunhill shop in central London’s Piccadilly. We did this together, but I cannot recall whether he purchased a pipe. Since that day several decades ago, I have barely thought about Dunhill or even smokers’ pipes.
Today (8th of February 2022), I was strolling along Uxbridge Street near Notting Hill Gate when I looked at a building that looks as if it might have once been a factory or warehouse. I have often noticed it and wondered about its former purpose. However, it was only today that I noticed a commemorative plaque affixed to it. I am sure that I have never noticed it before; maybe, it was placed recently. The words on it read:
“This building was the Dunhill pipe & cigarette factory 1916-1946.”
Well, that got me interested.
Tim Rich published an article about Alfred Dunhill and his firm in an issue of “The Pipe” (number 2, 1995). Alfred Dunhill (1872-1959) opened his first tobacco shop on Duke Street in 1907. Three years earlier, he had invented a ‘windshield pipe’, which allowed motorists to smoke in draughty vehicles. In 1910, dissatisfied with the pipes he was selling in his shop, he decided to start his own pipe factory. At first, they were made in Mason’s Yard, where today a branch of the White Cube art gallery is located. As business grew, he moved his factory to Notting Hill Gate and later opened another in Plaistow in the East End. The Notting Hill factory “…turned out several thousand Dunhill pipes per week” (https://rebornpipes.com/tag/history-of-dunhill/).
According to Carolyn Hubbard-Ford, writing in a 2014 issue of “The Notting Hill & Holland Park Magazine”, Alfred Dunhill was a major employer in the area. The factory used to be linked by a bridge, now gone, to another building across the road. The bridge was made of metal and low enough for local children to throw balls over it. Alfred’s daughter Mary began working in the factory in the 1920s immediately after she left school. Dunhill’s also had a shop, no longer in existence, close to the factory at 137-143 Notting Hill Gate.
After Dunhill’s moved out of the factory in 1946, the building on which the plaque is attached was converted into offices. In about 2001, the building was again converted, this time to provide residential units.