A grand late Victorian building in the City of London is notable for having three camels on the front. This is Peek House, built between 1881-5 as the head office of Peek Bros, an importer of tea, coffee and spices, with the three camels representing each trade.

Peek Bros was set up in 1823 by three brothers, Richard, William and James, as a London tea merchant, and at their peak, represented around 5 percent of the London tea trade. They eventually commissioned Peek House as their head office, and the company traded until 1978, although not formally dissolved as a company until 2004.

The building they commissioned has a number of Graeco-Egyptian details around, such as the main door and some of the decorative flourishes, but it’s the camels that it’s best known for.

They were carved by the sculptor William Theed, the younger, who was known for his mostly royal commissions, so quite a coup for this office building to get him to do the work. The coup being even more surprising considering that the carving is not even original work, but a copy of Peek Bros’ existing trademark.

If you look very carefully at the the ground under the middle camel, you might spot something — the bones of a dead camel.

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  1. JP says:

    Thanks for the memory. I used to enjoy this on the way from work to the sandwich shop and occasionally succumbed to the irrepressible urge to do a heavily abridged Wilson and Keppel sand dance as I passed.
    Helps to make this mad world less so. Or maybe more.

  2. Chas says:

    Plantation House on the opposite side of Eastcheap replaces an original which was once the centre of the world tea trade. Many tea warehouses existed in the vicinity.

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