epw005224 ENGLAND (1921). Bryant and May Match Factory, Bow, 1921

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Title [EPW005224] Bryant and May Match Factory, Bow, 1921
Reference EPW005224
Date January-1921
Place name BOW
Easting / Northing 537377, 183224
Longitude / Latitude -0.019257394750293, 51.530709227489
National Grid Reference TQ374832


Clay Hall Tavern, long since demolished.

Leslie B
Thursday 7th of July 2022 08:00:51 PM
Lots of trees = LOADS of matches!

Tuesday 18th of June 2013 12:38:28 PM
Horse and wagon

Sunday 23rd of September 2012 10:57:04 AM

Sunday 23rd of September 2012 10:55:23 AM

Wednesday 4th of July 2012 12:04:53 PM
at the time a London County Council (LCC) tram depot, but now a Stagecoach East London bus depot.

Tuesday 28th of August 2012 07:05:35 PM
The Bromely Arms

Wednesday 4th of July 2012 12:04:03 PM
Site of the London 2012 Olympics

Friday 29th of June 2012 10:17:10 PM

User Comment Contributions

Huge factories like this, dating from 1861, were built all over Britain in the Victorian period. The history of this building has followed a pattern similar to many others. It became the biggest factory in London employing more than 2,000 women and girls in 1911. The London matchgirls strike of 1888 started there. The factory closed in 1979. The site was derelict until 1988 when it became one of east London's first urban renewal projects; the factory was converted into flats.

Friday 10th of January 2014 09:27:34 AM
Even though I have no connection to the area this still has to be one of my favourite photos in the collection. Not only is it a great picture visually it has a story too being the site of the Match Girls Strike in 1888.

Wednesday 5th of June 2013 10:44:41 AM
The partnership between the Quakers Francis May and William Bryant is not perhaps as socially concerned as some of the other great Quaker firms such as Clarks, Cadbury and Rowntree. They started with good intensions the company being founded with the specific aim of making only Safety Matches. Safety in that they did not contain white the phosphorus found in early matches that caused ‘phossy jaw’ (Symptoms of phossy jaw would begin suffering painful toothaches and swelling of the gums. Over time, the jawbone would begin to abscess. Affected bones would glow a greenish-white colour in the dark. It also caused serious brain damage. Surgical removal of the afflicted jawbones could save the patient; otherwise, death from organ failure would follow. The disease was extremely painful and disfiguring to the patient, with dying bone tissue rotting away accompanied by a foul-smelling discharge.)

The Bryant and May factory opened in 1861, on a dilapidated site in Bow which had once been used for the manufacture of candles, crinoline (a stiff fabric used in the then fashionable ladies skirts) and rope. This site was gradually expanded as a model factory.

However, the public’s initial unwillingness to buy the more expensive safety matches (as much as three times the price of white phosphorous based matches) lead them to continue the manufacture of the traditional matches.

While they showed concern about the safety of their product Bryant and May did not perhaps show the same concern about their employees. The company was targeted in the London match-girls strike of 1888, which won important improvements in working conditions and pay for the mostly female workforce, suggesting that a potentially voluntary improvement of conditions had to be force upon them. Members of the Fabian Society, including George Bernard Shaw and Sidney Webb, supported the striking match workers by contributing to the strike fund as well as spreading news of the strike.

It was not until 1906 that the international Berne Convention and subsequent UK laws made in 1908 prohibited the use of white phosphorus, brought about the end of its industrial use.

My wife Ann adds, “This is fascinating - and of more interest to me than most things as I can remember nursing men from the Bryant and May factory in Rachel Ward of the London Hospital during the late 50s and early 60s, but not with the gruesome symptoms outlined above!”

Tuesday 4th of June 2013 02:18:06 PM
Hi Maurice, really interesting to read your wife's comment - I'm interested in the way that Aerofilms images prompt connections between the "then" of the image, the "then" of our memories/experiences of the place, and the "now" of the place and what we are (currently) left with on the ground.


Katy Whitaker
Wednesday 5th of June 2013 10:44:41 AM
For those who watched Barbara Windsor's Who Do You Think You Are? on BBC1 will no doubt remember that one of her relatives worked at the Bryant and May factory in Victorian times.

Wednesday 4th of July 2012 09:24:39 PM