The history of Ladbroke Hall is infused with ambition, innovation and craftsmanship. The story begins with the advent of car manufacturing at the turn of the century and an ambitious Anglo-French partnership.

Built in 1903, Ladbroke Hall was once the front building of an enormous Edwardian car showroom and assembly plant – the Clément-Talbot factory. The Beaux Arts building, with its grand portico and heraldic crest sitting atop a magnificent arched window, evokes an Edwardian country house. It is no surprise then to learn that it was financed by Charles Chetwynd-Talbot, 20th Earl of Shrewsbury & Talbot, who lent his family name and coat of arms to the company. The building’s name – Ladbroke Hall – was inspired by his parents-in-law’s country seat, and undoubtedly his love of classicism influenced the architecture.

Clément-Talbot Ltd.

Fond of travel, and undoubtedly speed, Lord Shrewsbury was an energetic entrepreneur and well aware of the potential of the motor car. At that time France was the largest producer of cars worldwide and more than half of its production was exported – much of it to Britain. In 1902, Shrewsbury started to import French cars made by Adolf Clément, and formed a company Clément-Talbot Ltd.

Soon after, it was decided to manufacture the Clément cars in England and sell them as ‘Talbots’. A plot of land was identified in the open countryside of North Kensington, conveniently close to the gas works and the railway line, and towards the end of 1903 construction work began.

No expense was spared in building the state of the art Clément-Talbot Motor Works – Britain’s first purpose-built car factory. The lavish entrance hall had marble floors and stained-glass windows, and it was surrounded by offices and a boardroom, all clad in oak panelling. Even the turbines, imported from the United States, were housed in their own ornate hall. Behind this impressive building lay the chassis and engine sheds, coach-building and test tracks, all of which incorporated ground-breaking designs.

The Talbot cars proved a huge success, and leading up to the First World War, the entrance hall filled up with trophies won on the hills, beaches and tracks of Britain. Known for their speed and reliability, the brand became known as ‘The Invincible Talbot’. In early 1913, an exhausted but triumphant racing driver called Percy Lambert climbed out of a Talbot 25/50, having become the first man in the world to cover 100 miles in one hour.

First World War

On the outbreak of war, an aero-engine factory was established at the Talbot works, and later the works were taken under the control of the Ministry of Munition. Over 2,000 servicemen and women passed through the factory gates, to be trained as mechanics and drivers, engineers and wireless operators. In addition, armoured cars, supply wagons, ambulances and gun carriages were manufactured – many of them seeing service in Europe, Russia, Africa and the Middle East. Lawrence of Arabia, for instance, used specially designed Talbots fitted with ten pounder guns in desert warfare .

Early on in the war it was apparent that armoured cars were incompatible with trench warfare, and the quest began to design a vehicle that could negotiate the difficult battlefield terrain. It was at the Clément-Talbot works that the first armoured crawler tractor – the precursor to our modern day tanks – was developed and tested under the keen eye of Winston Churchill and the Royal Naval Armoured Car Division (RNACD).

Once the war was over, car sales plummeted without the military contracts. In 1919, Lord Shrewsbury sold Clément-Talbot to the Anglo-French firm Darracq. A year later, it was amalgamated with Sunbeam to form STD (Sunbeam, Talbot, Darracq Motors).

1920s - 1940s

The first successful post-war Talbot (the 14/45) was designed in 1926 by Georges Roesch, a gifted engineer and designer. The model was an immediate success and the factory was soon running flat-out to meet demand. These cars were not aimed at the mass market, but for those who could afford a top quality, handbuilt car with “a sporting character”.

During the depression of the 1930s, Clément-Talbot managed to remain profitable but its parent company, STD, collapsed in 1935 and was bought by the Rootes Brothers. Sunbeam Motors and Clément-Talbot were combined and renamed Sunbeam Talbot (and later Sunbeam). In 1939, war intervened again and all car production was suspended for the duration, while the factory site was used to repair Spitfire engines.

post Second World War

Post-war, production was transferred to a new plant and Ladbroke Hall became the Rootes Service Centre and later Warwick Wright car dealers. In the late 1980s, the site became studios for Thames Television and many TV shows were made in the old Talbot factory, such as The Bill. In 1993 the manufacturing sheds were demolished and the site was redeveloped.

In 2019 the building caught the eye of  Loïc Le Gaillard and Julien Lombrail, the founders of Carpenters Workshop Gallery, who immediately realised the huge potential of this beautiful building and wanted to bring it back to life as an international venue for contemporary art, collectible design, culture, dining and music.

120 years after its foundations were laid Ladbroke Hall is going through another era of reinvention, in a new set of hands. Its Edwardian founders would undoubtedly recognise the passion, vision, entrepreneurship and high aesthetic standards that mark this new phase in its history.