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|The Chester-Perry Co|
How Big is the C-P Building?
In many ways Chester-Perry House is like Gormenghast - immense, crumbling, with huge areas unmapped and lost in the mists of time, inhabited by people so bound by routine and custom that they blindly go about their duties no matter how pointless. The upper floors are so high that clouds can be seen scudding about below. This makes sensitive clerks ill with vertigo; however the directors, who inhabit the top floor, seem unaffected.
Actually we can separate fact from legend. One fine day Bristow decides to explore the Directors' floor - though why he chooses to walk up is not clear - and he arrives there having climbed 14 stories. So, given that the Buying Department is on the third floor at this time, the C-P Building is probably not more than 20 floors high. However see below for an alternate view that suggests 25 floors may be more likely.
No matter how tall it may be, the C-P building has many staircases and exits. It also some nice old-fashioned lifts, operated by cheeky lift-boys. Bristow is reputed to be an expert in the layout of the building, though even he sometimes stumbles on an unused corridor or a sealed door - usually as a result of the Great Tea Trolley Disaster of ‘67. Bristow’s authority is challenged once by Ratcliffe but there is no contest. You can see how he trounced the upstart in strip 2555
The factory is located in the ground floor. This holds many large machines operated by workers in overalls. A back entrance is much frequented by clerks sneaking out early (or sneaking in late). There is also a furnace room, where the clerks leave their wet things when it is raining. Somewhere a little man operates a storeroom for stationery (with the word "Stores" on a swinging board over his head). Out in the yard the lorries of the transport fleet roll in, doing laps of honour round the car park if they can do the Scotland run in record time.
Bristow dislikes the building as much as he dislikes his job. He would be overjoyed to see it demolished. He is horrified to learn of the campaign by the Friends of the C-P Building who are worried about the foundations weakening. There may be something in this rumour. When a very fat man is taken on (darkening the windows in the Buying Department from the endless stream of wrappers, apple cores and bags he throws from an upstairs window) the authorities rapidly move him to the centre of the building for fear of unbalancing the load.
Anyway, to answer the question how big is the C-P building? In one strip, Bristow sees the building as having the possibility of 748 bedsitters, suggesting that there are at least 748 offices. There is an example of Mr Gordon Blue ordering a Christmas lunch, also for 748 people. The canteen seats around 750 which would make sense since whilst there may be several people per office the canteen probably does several sittings a day. If we allow 30 offices a floor then the building could perhaps be 25 stories high, pretty good for London which has few real skyscrapers.
There is an excellent piece of corroboration in strip 4012 Messrs. Myles & Rudge decide to outdo Mr Barry Byams (a developer, not related to the real life property developer Harry Hyams)and go for a building more than 30 stories high. Since they are aiming to own the highest building, and since they are comparing it with Mr. Byams venture and not the Chester-Perry Building, it follows that the C-P building must be less than 30 stories high.
For the benefit of non-Londoners, Mr. Byams' building - "Middle Apex" - may be related to Centre Point, Harry Hyams' development at the junction of Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road. This was one of the tallest buildings in London when it was completed in 1964, at 117 metres high (35 floors) and it still dominates the eastern side of the West End of London. It was controversial both when being built and because it stayed empty for some years after.