It was whilst watching the BBC series Who Do You Think You Are? featuring the weeks celebrity Nigella Lawson that I discovered her grandmother and my godmother where one of the same. Nan Glucksteen. On that program Nigela went in search of her grandmothers roots: Starting with her mother's family, the Salmons, and their links to Lyons. Her grandfather, Felix Salmon, was instrumental in running the company and shaping its direction towards the famous Lyons Cornerhouse tearooms. Travelling around London, many of today's famous landmark buildings, such as the Trocadero and Hard Rock Café, were formerly in possession of Lyons. Yet despite his success, he was a melancholy man, and one possible cause could be his wartime role. He was a member of the catering corps, and it appears from research at the Imperial War Museum that he might have been attached to one of the regiments that liberated the German concentration camp at Belsen. One cannot begin to imagine the trauma of the event, particularly for a Jew in the catering corps, responsible for famine relief for the liberated inmates.
Nigella continued to investigate the history of the company, turning her attention to Salmon and Gluckstein, the tobacco sellers, who claimed to be the largest in Europe at their launch in 1873. One of the founding fathers was her great-great-grandfather, Barnett Salmon. His surname was originally Solomon. On the 1841 census it transpired that his father Aaron Solomon was a clothes dealer in the East End. Barnett started work as a travelling tobacco salesman. He married Helena Gluckstein in 1863, and went into business with his father-in-law, Samuel Gluckstein. It was on the back of the success as a tobacco company that Lyons was born in 1889. To ensure none of his family was ever threatened with poverty he set up a family fund, but equally insisted that none of the women were allowed to work. At his death, Barnett was worth £3.5 million in today's money, and set up a trust fund for his wife worth £34 million. The group went on to own a huge hotel chain in London with some of the best known landmark hotels as part of the chain.