IN 1934, an American company called Eli Lilly set up its first office outside the USA at 2-4 Dean Street in Central London.

Over the next six years the UK part of company expanded and new premises were sought.

It is not documented why Lilly chose Basingstoke for its manufacturing site,but strong rail links to London and the rest of the company were for sure a deciding factor.

The original factory was built facing the main railway line and overlooked Lilly’s own private railway siding.

In 1938 Eli Lily purchased approximately 23 acres of farmland between Kingsclere Road and the railway on what was then the outskirts of the town.

The building is 220ft long by 60ft wide by 66ft high above ground level, and consists of a basement and five floors.

By March 1939 thirteen months after the earth movers had begun their work, A Block, as the original building is now called, was ready for occupation.

By that time however all eyes including those of the company’s new employees was turned to Poland and the German invasion which had begun on the first of September. World events were moving rapidly and Great Britain declared war on Germany Sunday 3 September, the day before the new Lilly factory opened for business. Before long the brilliant white building had been covered in camouflage paint, the newly erected neon sign had been switched off.

The Company had precious little time to reap any reward from its investment in Basingstoke before war intervened, but at least the new factory had been built and was ready to make a significant contribution firstly to the war effort and later to the supply of pharmaceutical needs to an exhausted post-war Britain.

In October 2006, The Basingstoke Gazette reported: HUNDREDS of employees at Eli Lilly in Basingstoke look set to lose their jobs after the company announced that a decision has been made to close the site.

Workers at Lilly’s drug manufacturing site in Kingsclere Road, which employs 430 people, were told of plans to shut down the plant in June 2007.

The closure plans are being blamed on a lack of demand for the types of medicines being produced at the Basingstoke plant, which manufactures tablets and capsules, and the increasing importance of injectable medicines.

Today, Lilly has its headquarters in Priestely Road. With thanks to Derek Antony for research.