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Hard hat area: Eli Lilly & Co’s beautiful art deco medicine factory in Basingstoke has been given a new lease of life

Gilding the Lilly: Opened in 1939 (below), the White Building is the centrepiece of the Chapel Gate Estate

WITH its grand entrance and unique design, this beautiful Art Deco factory building was intended to be a new landmark for Basingstoke — but it had an inauspicious start.

Designed by eminent pre-war industrial architect Arthur George Porri and commissioned by Eli Lilly And Company, one of America’s largest suppliers of medicine, it was completed on the eve of World War II, and opened on September 4, 1939, the day after Britain and France declared war on Germany.

Although it produced medicines, ointments and water-sterilising tablets for British troops, half the factory was quickly commandeered to build small aeroplane parts, which meant that its security had to be dramatically improved.

As a result, the building’s gleaming white exterior, with beautiful carved reliefs of art nouveau-style lilies and dramatic Crittall windows, was submerged in the camouflage colours of brown and maroon. Guards were stationed at the entrance and barbed wire erected around its borders, and it looked more like a prison camp than a building of grand design.

It resumed the manufacture of medicines and other pharmaceuticals after the war but The Lilly Building finally shut down in 2007.

Today, after a detailed restoration plan by Barratt Homes, The White Building, as it is now known, is destined to become a stately and distinctive landmark once again — housing 96 elegantly designed and furnished one and two-bedroom apartments.

What a relief: Beautifully carved lillies adorn the front

A new, grander entrance has been designed to the north, linking internally to the original south entrance with an striking reception and lobby. The floor, in herringbone oak parquet, will have a centrepiece of black and white mosaic tiles, while the circular Art Deco light fittings add a sense of space and period style.

An original, curved staircase, with its aluminium handrail, has been rescued and restored, while the beautiful lily reliefs on the outside of the building have either been restored or replicated. The original carriage lights — long since destroyed — that once adorned the front of the building have been perfectly recreated by experts referring to the images in historic photographs.

The interiors of the apartments — all ‘turn key’ — also reflect the Art Deco period, seamlessly blending modern comforts with the distinctive design of this unique building. And the price includes all furniture and fittings, too.

The White Building sits within the larger Barratt Homes Chapel Gate estate, which is built around the factory and offers 550 new residences. But it is undoubtedly the star.

‘It has widespread appeal because of the unique design of the apartments, and also its location. It’s near the train station and a short stroll into Basingstoke town centre,’ says Lynnette St-Quintin, Barratt Homes sales director.

‘I love the fact it has so closely followed the footprint of the original building and every flat is uniquely designed and fully fitted out. Nothing in this development has been compromised. Basingstoke is a great town and these are beautiful apartments.

‘We’ve had huge interest from professional people and also downsizers. It’s also an asset that all the homes qualify for the Government’s Help to Buy scheme.’

The White Building will be completed in October this year after an 18-month redesign and refurbishment programme.

The finished product…

Prices at the White Building start from £209,995 for a one-bedroom apartment,