The original Lotus in North London was there from the start

A black and white photo of Lotus founder Colin Chapman at his factory in North London.

Colin Chapman has opened his first Lotus factory in North London.
Photo: Joe Bangay/Daily Express/Hulton Archives (Getty Images)

London is a fun old place, everywhere you turn seems to have an intriguing story about its past or some secret history you need to uncover. And while you might expect this to be reserved for the center of town, where Parliament sits, where the Queen lives and all those famous museums, there are some lovely historic spots across the 30-mile-wide city. .

For example, Finsbury Park north of London. This is where I lived my five years in the UK capital, and although it might be considered a place to go if you can’t afford a flat in Hackney or Hampstead (which I couldn’t ), it’s actually pretty awesome.

A photo of the Lotus team standing around a vintage car.

Colin Chapman and his team were looking to “simplify, then add levity”.
Photo: Peter Dunne/Daily Express/Hulton Archives (Getty Images)

A short walk from Finsbury Park, you’ll find the original BBC home at Alexandra Palace, Karl Marx’s grave, and there’s even an underground river system which was covered over to make way for all the houses that now stand there.

But if you’re a car fan, especially a fan of small, lightweight British sports cars, then there’s another less-talked-about monument well worth seeking out. And, this is one i had no idea existed until i left town.

It is the original home of Lotus Cars and after looking for it this week it turns out it’s only a five minute walk from where i used to live. And I didn’t even know it was there!

While the founder of Lotus Colin Chapman been begins to create its very young car brand, his father owned and ran a pub in north London called the Railway Hotel. It was right next to Hornsey station, and the building he lived in still stands today.

A picture of the sign at Hornsey station in North London.

Hornsey station, ideal if you want to go to Kings Cross, Old Street or London Bridge
Photo: Owen Bellwood

When Chapman needed space to start building the Lotus 11 and Elite, he turned to the stables at the back of the hotel. This is where he was going to settle the Lotus engineering company January 1, 1952.

The business began to expand and as well as a manufacturing plant in the stables at the rear of the hotel, Chapman also opened its first showroom for Lotus Cars on the same site.

A photo of the pub which housed the original Lotus factory.

Colin Chapman was here, 1952 IDST.
Photo: Owen Bellwood

But, after less than 10 years of working out the back of the hotel, Lotus had outgrown this cramped North London facility and moved on to bigger and better things. The company opened a factory in Chestnut in 1959.

While Lotus might have left the Railway Hotel, the building still stands today. If you pass by Hornsey station you can see it just outside. It’s at five Tottenham Lane, if you’re interested.

But, unfortunately you won’t find an aging factory or an old Lotus showroom to browse. There’s also no old fashioned pub to rest after the trek north. Instead, there’s a builder’s merchant and a “trendy restaurant and bar,” according to Google.

There are no mention of Lotus or Colin Chapman anywhere on the site. And that seems a shame.

And it can’t be the only automotive history site that’s gone low-key over the years. What places do you know that hold a secret past that we need to hear about?

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