London Metropolitan Archives - Item Details


Date of Creation:


Reference Code:


Scope and Content:
  • Records of J Lyons and Company Limited, food manufacturers and caterers, 1891-1995. The archives reflect all aspects of the company's history. There are some of the usual company records relating to management, shareholding and administration, but the collection is particularly strong in what may be termed ephemera. There are hundreds of photographs, from 1887 up to the closure of the firm, some films and videos, and large collections of press cuttings, advertisements, menus and even a set of lithographs which were commissioned by the company after the Second World War as a way of brightening up Lyons Corner Houses.
Extent: 30.35 linear metres
Classification: BUSINESSES
Site Location: London Metropolitan Archives
Level of Description:

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Administrative History:
  • Lyons was founded in 1886 as a catering business, earning a reputation as caterers for exhibitions at Newcastle, Glasgow, Paris and London's Olympia. In 1894 it was incorporated as a public company and established its head office and food factories at Cadby Hall in Hammersmith. The company rapidly established a chain of Teashops, Cornerhouses and Restaurants with the opening of the first Lyons Teashop in 1894 in Piccadilly, the Trocadero Restaurant in 1896 and the First Lyons Corner House in 1909 in Coventry Street. To keep pace with this expansion, the factories were moved to Greenford in Middlesex in 1920 and the largest tea packing plant in the world opened. Further progress was made during the Second World War with the development of the FROOD a revolutionary frozen cooked food process. The company is also famous for its work in less obvious fields - from 1941 to 1945 it operated a munitions factory at Elstow near Bedford on the reputed site of the slough of despond. In 1954 it developed LEO (Lyons Electronic Office), the first computer in the world capable of use for commercial work.

    Further growth came in the 1970s with the acquisition of a number of businesses both in the UK and overseas. In 1978, Lyons became the food division of Allied Breweries which was renamed Allied-Lyons in 1981. In 1990 the head office was moved from Cadby Hall to Greenford. In 1994 Allied-Lyons decided to dispose of its food manufacturing operations and to change its name to Allied Domecq. The individual companies were sold off and Lyons head office closed in 1995.
Creator: J Lyons and Company Limited | food manufacturers and caterers
Copyright: City of London
Source of Acquisition:
  • Donated to the Archive in 1995, with additional gifts made up to 2019:
  • ACC/3527
  • B05/038
  • B07/002
  • B08/005
  • B10/189
  • B12/002
  • B00/105
  • B13/075
  • B13/137
  • B19/014
  • B19/125
  • B19/134
  • ACC/3591
Access Restrictions: These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 2018
Physical Condition: Fit
Arrangement: The archive is arranged into the following series: ACC/3527/001-006: Management; ACC/3527/007-009: Shares; ACC/3527/010-050: Internal administration; ACC/3527/051-059: Finance; ACC/3527/060-072: Operation; ACC/3527/073-169: Marketing; ACC/2527/170-178: Conferences and presentations; ACC/3527/179-208: Staff; ACC/3527/209-226: Property; ACC/3527/227-263: Subject files; ACC/3527/264: Symington and Company Limited; ACC/3527/265-266: Craiglands Hydro Limited; ACC/3527/267: H. Cohen and Company Limited; ACC/3527/268-365: Printed material; ACC/3527/366-400: Menus; ACC/3527/401-421A: Advertisements; ACC/3527/422-455: Press cuttings; ACC/3527/456-462: Scrapbooks; ACC/3527/463-726: Photographs; ACC/3527/727: Negatives; ACC/3527/728-746: Films and videos; ACC/3527/747-757: Cartoons; ACC/3527/758-857: Pictures; ACC/3527/858: Computer disk; ACC/3527/859-869: Artefacts.
Related Material: For related records, see ACC/3811, LMA/4306, LMA/4004, LMA/4018, LMA/4183, LMA/4258, LMA/4271
See also records of Regent Palace Hotel (LMA/4549) Museum of London holds the Coventry Street Corner House shop window 1922, together with some packaging which is on display (correct as of Feb 2018) The Centre for Computing History holds items relating to Lyons' LEO Computer, the world's first business computer. LEO Computer Society was gifted Peter Bird's research files on LEO Computer which are held on deposit at The Centre for Computing History.

Peter Bird's main research files were donated to LMA in 2017 and can be accessed by prior appointment please contact staff for further details.
Publication Notes:

LMA Library: 'The first food empire : a history of J. Lyons & Co.' by Peter J. Bird. Publication Information: Chichester : Phillimore, 2000. Library reference: 35.33 (LYO)

While he was alive, Peter Bird, historian developed an detailed website on the history of Lyons. The site was continued by Kattie, a researcher on Lyons. Visit (this information is correct as of August 2019)