London Lies – Part 1 of a Series


The above photo depicts the old Colonnade factory near Russell Square.  Colonnade was a drink manufactured by Holborn pharmacist G. R. Ferdinand following a trip to the United States in the 1890s. While there, he was intrigued by drinks such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola, marketed both for their thirst-quenching ability and their supposed medicinal properties. Ferdinand believed he could produce and market a similarly successful product in Britain, and set to work on his return. He claimed to have discovered the secret flavour in Coca-Cola (fear, according to his notes), but this was later dismissed as a publicity stunt.

Colonnade went on sale in 1893, originally under the name Colon-Lemonade. The snappier name came the following year, and in 1900 he built his factory. Unfortunately, the increased manufacturing base brought with it an increase in scrutiny, and a health and safety inspection found that many of the ingredients in Colonnade were in fact far from healthful – the corrosive effects of the fumes may be seen on the underside of the factory entrance in the photograph.

It was a disaster. The drink was taken off the market immediately. An attempt to relaunch in 1902 with the reformulated “New Colonnade” was unsuccessful, and the factory shut its gates for good on 23rd July that year. Remaining stocks were sold to the Metropolitan Water Works Board, who used it to unblock sewers and kill rats.


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Filed under Bloomsbury, Lies, London

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