Property of the Week: A Wapping warehouse where WWI soldiers’ toothpaste was made
Located halfway between Bank and Canary Wharf, Wapping’s waterside is a favourite location for the swanky riverside apartments of young financial services types.
But dial back the clock a hundred years and it was a far grittier affair, the landscape dominated by bustling docks and factory chimneys.
This penthouse that has just come on the market for £1.7m with Knight Frank in Chimney Court bridges the gap between the two. In the early 20th century, the building on Brewhouse Lane was the factory of D&W Gibbs, a manufacturer of soap, shaving soap and toothpaste. The metal tins its products were sold in, and its adverts imploring children to defend the ‘ivory castles’ of their teeth from the wicked ‘giant decay’ now sell for a pretty penny on eBay.
Its tooth-cleaning paste, Gibbs French Dentifrice, gained infamy when it was used by British troops in France the First World War – not only to clean their teeth, but also to polish the brass buttons on their tunics and the regimental badges on their caps.
Later, D&W Gibbs’ toothpaste was the subject of the first-ever television commercial shown in the UK, in September 1955.
You might think a factory making soap would smell nice – but the ingredients used at the time – including animal by-products such as tallow – meant the area would have had a rather unpleasant stench.
Thankfully, the building today is a much more attractive place to be, having been converted into apartments in the mid-1990s.
The 1,900 sq ft, two-bed, two-bath penthouse has a large reception room, kitchen and dining area and two car parking spaces – but its star feature is a 525 sq ft roof terrace with skyline views across London. It has high ceilings throughout, as well as south-facing crittall-style windows and whitewashed, exposed brickwork.
“People who want an aspirational warehouse property will be envisioning high ceilings and lots of windows, but a lot of them don’t actually have those things,” says Lee O’Neill, partner and head of Knight Frank’s Wapping office.
“This building always attracts potential buyers who weren’t previously considering Wapping because of these great features – including from trendy Shoreditch”.
It is being sold by a City couple who are retiring to the country, and who spent a year renovating the place.
O’Neill adds that the price per sq ft is cheaper than the last apartment to be sold in the building, despite this one being the penthouse.