We delved into the history of the Marble Arch Place site, and took a look at the time of Maison Lyons in Marble Arch.
Just as Marble Arch Place will help to reinvigorate the local area, providing further retail, office and leisure units, the bygone tenants, Maison Lyons, offered patrons a revolutionary experience for the time.
The company served over 100 million meals per year, employed more than 400 people and stayed open 24 hours a day.
The original Lyons tea rooms had humble beginnings. The first Lyons Tea Shop opened in September 1894 in Piccadilly with 200 seats. The tea shops grew quickly in popularity and in 1909, Lyons started opening and operating its famous Lyons Corner House restaurants and two Maison Lyons Corner House institutions, one of which was located at Marble Arch. These were huge restaurants and department stores covering four to five levels with each floor featuring a different thematic restaurant and its own orchestra playing nonstop for patrons.
The ground floor at Marble Arch featured a large food hall stocking Lyon brand speciality products, as well as hams, cakes, pastries, hand-made chocolates, exotic fruits, wines, cheeses, flowers and more. The closest contemporary comparison would be the food halls of Harrods or Fortnum & Mason.
The Corner Houses and Maison Lyons also housed hair salons, telephone booths, theatre booking agencies and a food delivery service to any address in London, twice a day.
Lyons Corner House and Maison Lyons were famous for their waitresses, affectionately known as Nippies’. The nickname was chosen because the waitresses tended to nip around speedily as they worked. The term became so ubiquitous it passed into the language via the Oxford English Dictionary. Nippies’ were known for their distinct uniforms, and appeared in advertising, on product packages, and on promotional items.
Sadly, as times changed, life became more hectic and more varied cuisines were more readily available. The Lyon Corner House, Maison Lyons and Tea Rooms were not able to adapt to these changing demands. All Corner Houses and Maison Lyonses were closed by 1977.