United Kingdom

a) John Walker

The inventor of the friction match had his own label. He used to call them "Friction Lights". The chemicals he used were antimony sulfide, potassium chlorate, gum, and starch.

He used to sell them in a tin box with a pice of sandpaper to ignite the matches (about three inches long).

Tin Box used to sell the earliest "Friction Matches"

One of Walker's original "friction
lights" with its original tin and
modern sandpaper
(photo Doreen Thomas)


 The label is of course in black and white and it is very rare. Propably half a dozen of themstill exist. The size of the label is 60 mm x 40 mm. If we could put a date on it : 1827-1829. It is should be the oldest label known to phillumeny.

One of the earliest label is probably forgery.

The text on it is confusing : "As used in the household of His Majesty King William IV". But it is well-known that king William IV was throned in the second half of 1830, after the death of king George IV. Therefore the discussed label could not be printed earlier than William's coronation. Thus not earlier than 1830! On the other hand, according to the diary of John Walker the last sale of his matches was in 1829 ! So it is probably a forgery.

b) Samuel Jones

John Walker refused to patent his invention. The result was that other people made similar matches. They were given names like: Lucifers, Congreves, Vestas, Fusees, Vesuvians, ... The first to conquer the market was Samuel Jones of 201 Strand, London. He had a shop called the 'Light House'. He patented his friction matches as "Lucifers". They were sold in flat cardboard boxes with slip-on lids. These were more convenient for the pocket.

Rarest Label in the World. Only one exist. (1829)

Congreves of Samuel Jones

He did patent another type of match, which he called his 'Prometheus match' (produced by Walker at an earlier date). This was a wood splinter with a potassium chlorate head, which when dipped into sulphuric acid burst into flame. He sold these as a series of paper quills with the acid in a tiny sealed glass container and tweezers to break the container.

Another famous type of match of him was the "Fusee" or "Fuzee". It was intended specifically for lighting cigars! Later they were used for setting off explosives safely. It consisted of a friction head on a cardboard splint soaked in potassium nitrate, which would keep smouldering after ignition. They were sold in strips and the stems were usually made of thick card. They were sold in chip boxes with sliding trays, the forerunner of the modern matchbox. He took a patent for it in 1832.

Samuel Jones also sold "Congreves". Congreves were usually round and they ignited so easily that sandpaper was not necessary anymore. Instead sanding on the side or the bottom of the box was sufficient. The Congreve was introduced in 1832 and was popularized by Continental chemists. It is said that it was named after Sir Williams Congreve. He was the inventor of the war-rocked and died in 1828. We have to know that in 1830, a French chemist from Paris, Charles Sauria, created a "friction match" made by adding white phosphorous. And in 1832, small phosphorus matches were manufactured in Germany; they were extremely hazardous. They could ignite with a series of explosions that scattered dangerous bits of fire over the carpet. They would also explode when trodden upon, which increased the danger of having them around. So we can conlude that the phosphoric friction match was not a British invention, but came to the UK from Germany (and Austria). Congreves remained pupular in the UK until the early 1870s.

c) Richard Bell

In 1832 Richard Bell established the first British match factory (R. Bell & Co.) in London. Bell's matches are still produced today, but the original firm has since been incorporated in Bryant & May's firm. Bell started producing the new phosphorus match that had been invented by Charles Sauria. The head of the match was made of a mixture of sulphur, chlorate of potash, sulphide of antimony and phosphorus and had the great advantage that it would strike on anything hard. 

About 1833 Richard bell marketed the name "Vesta", as the first wax stemmed matches. This was a ver big improvement. Wood was abandoned and the stem was made of untwisted cotton threads covered with was. But it was William Newton who took a patent on the wax-stemmed macth in 1832. The wax Vesta is still popular today. The famous "Swan Vestas" (named after Vesta, goddess of the hearth) from Bryant & May being the most famous of them. In Latin countries (Spain, Italy, Mexico and South-American countries) practically no other type was manufactured.

d) J. Hynam

Samuel Jones's "Fusee" was not so popular in Britain. In fact, it was more produced in Germany and Austria than in Britain. In the year of 1840 J. Hynam of Finsbury, London, was the first to marketed them in quantity in Britain. This early type of Fusee remained in common use until approximately 1865 when Fusee matches of a complete different type were brought in. This new type was given names such as "Flamers", "Vesuvians", "Braided Lights", "Fixed Stars", "Braided Fusees", "Begal Matches" and other names...




e) Jarvis Palmer

It was Jarvis Palmer of Camberwell, London, who put the first Vesuvians on sale. The head was very large, burning very strong for about 10 to 20 seconds unaffected by wind. The early Vesuvians had wooden stems but proved impracticable and dangerous. The stem used to burn through first so the still burning head would fall. Palmer was the first with a patent for braided stems securing the head with a criss-cross of sized cotton threads.

f) The Strike Anywhere Match

About 1850 British manufacturers seeking an improvement on the Congreve produced the 'strike anywhere' matches. The dipping of th ematch in sulphur was eliminated and the result was safer and much more pleasant to use. These matches were contained in the type of box we know today (only much larger) with the colourful pictorial label.

g) W J Morgan & Co.

Over the years nearly 20 companies have made matches in the area. Some are but names in old directories; but some are well known to collectors. These include Dixon Son and Evans, Hulme, Hargeaves and Clegg, Sankeys and Morgans. It is the story of W J Morgan and Sons that we will deal with in this article.

The company started as Brennans in the 1860's, became Morgan, Lomas & Co about 1884, then became W J Morgan and Co in 1889. The company operated from the Crumpsall Vale Match Works and continued till about 1916 when it was taken over by Bryant and May. In the early years the company registered Beaver in 1902 and Special Express Match in 1903.

Amongst the brands produced were Jaguar, Lancashire Match, British Match, Superior Oil and Wax Vestas as well as Chump for John Sankey. In 1891 the CWS were offering the following from the company –


Minik School Brand


1/6d per gross

in 28 gross cases


Ship Canal, School, Judges


1/11d per gross

in 18 gross cases


Full Camel, Oil


2/2d per gross

in 15 gross cases


Camel and Oil


2/8d per gross

in 12.5 gross cases


Oil, Lancashire and Jaguar


3/5d per gross

in 11 gross cases

One of the obvious problems is that some of these School, Ship Canal and Judges are associated with other manufacturers. So at that time there may have been links with Morgan Lomas and the old Brennan brand Judges may still have been used.

In the June the 5th edition of the Sunday Telegraph is a detailed description of a visit to the factory. The author was shown round by Mr W J Morgan and the factory still employed hand dipping and little machinery was used. The splints were imported pre cut Canadian pine and a simple machine was used to place them in frames. Each frame contained 6,500 splints. The splints were then placed on a hot table to dry them before dipping. They were first dipped in paraffin wax and then in the composition before being left to dry.

The matches were then removed and cut in two as both ends were dipped. They were then packed into boxes by girls. Payment was by piece work 1d per gross. The highest wage was 18/- per week; but the normal was between 10 and 12 shillings per week. The boxes were made from Russian aspen veneer by simple machines. That is a basic description of a match factory of that time.

Most of these brands continued until the company was taken over by Bryant and May. After that time the company seems to have produced CoOp boxes; but this is difficult to prove as the company moved production to wherever there was spare capacity.

Again the company was visited by the press and details are given in The Manchester City News for the 18th of February 1933. Production was now much more mechanized and production was 5 million matches per 10 hour day. Again the splints were imported from Canada as white cork pine, then machine dipped in paraffin before the composition is added. They then traveled 404 feet before being punched out and hand packed into trays and outers. The boxes were then packed into dozens and grosses. All the printing was done in the factory. Wages were now 36/3d for the girls, and from 3 to 6 pounds for the men. On a case of 32 gross worth about 14 pounds the government took over 6 pounds.

The company continued into the 1950's. In 1949 the company registered Loyalty as a trade mark, and was valued by Bryant and May at just over 15,000 pounds. The company at this time was producing strike anywhere only, and for that year the sales were 70,000 gross. 70 per cent of these were made for Bryant and May. Amongst brands produced at this time were Puck, Webb, Tiger, Pilot, Swan, CWS, Brilliant, Loyalty, Pearl, British, Bluebell, Ruby and Three Torches. It is not certain when the factory closed; but this was probably in1952/3 when the box sizes were reduced. So ends the tale of match making in Blackley.

h) Diamond Match Works Liverpool

February 1895 : After the take over of Collards, construction of a new factory at Litherland in North Liverpool began.

June 1896 : The new factory opens with J T Maguire as Manager.

Many of Collard's brands are continued; but a vast range is introduced including customers own brands.

1898 : J T Maguire and his four sons leave to form Maguire Miller and Co.

1898 : Bookmatch production starts.

1901 : Bryant and May merges with Diamond and it becomes known as the Diamond Match Works Liverpool. Many famous brands such as Captain Webb and Puck continue.

Night of 7/8th May 1941 : Factory destroyed by German bombing.


Some famous Diamond Brands

i) Seanor's Match

 A view of the factory about 1890


Seanor 2

1840 Richard Seanor began making matches in Rothwell, near Leeds.

The full story of this company can be found in Victorian Matches Made by Seanor and Sons, Rothwell in Leeds 1840 – 1901 by S B Gwyn Smith. 1989.

1885 Splint cutting works opened at 64 Bedford Place, off Brasenose Road, Bootle by Frederick John and John Richard Seanor.

1886 Splint cutting continued at Brasenose Road, the premises formerly W J Menard's steam saw mill.

About 1889 Match production starts.

About 1901 Match manufacturing by the company ceases; but firelighters continue to be made.

About 1909 Company ceases production.


A well known Seanor showing the Liverpool address


j) J T Maguire


k) Bryant & May Mersey Works

For the early part of the story of this factory please see Maguire Miller & Co.

l) Bryant & May

"The business of Messrs. Bryant and May has been growing gradually, from a moderately small beginning, from about or even a quarter of a century. How much longer or how much more it is to be expanded I do not venture to guess. One thing, however, is certain, that, considering the orderly manner in which this factory is kept, the provisions for its safety against accidental fire, and more than all, the healthy and remunerative employment given by its proprietors, one would only be wishing well to East London generally by expressing a desire to see the business of the firm increased indefinitely. The several rooms in the Works are in the hands of foremen. The workers are well conducted, and the appearance of the place, and the people at work in it, are each suggestive of industry, good order, and a fair day's wages being earned by a fair day's work. In addition to the now called common matches and their own specialite - the patent safety kind - this firm make wax matches. This branch of the work is the most interesting of all. The cotton wick is run several times through a composition until it is properly coated, and then it is reeled unto drums, each of which hold 150 miles of taper. The taper is then cut into lengths by machinery, improved in many points since its invention. After which it is dipped in the stuff which, when subjected to friction, lights the match. The ventilation in this part of the Works is specially good, so that no smell of either fatty matter, wax, or phosphorus is felt. Fans driven by a neat, small horizontal engine are used here for sanitary and other purposes. But the best evidence that these Works are healthy is that during the visitation of cholera only one of all the hands in the employment of the firm died. The wood, and other materials used, enter at given places, pass on through various stages without doubling their journey, and keep travelling forward after being made into matches, until boxed, labelled, covered, and packed for shipment or for delivery amongst the oil-men, or at the warehouses of the country carriers. The whole process is a good specimen of what genius, aided by industry, and supported by capital, is doing in East London. The manufacturers of this division of London are entitled to rank amongst the foremost of employers, not only in their own locality, but any where, and amongst these this firm deserves a first position. But in regard to the trade under notice, I congratulate all such persons as have to eke out a small income by doing a little work, if they only live near a match factory. Besides, small as seems the payment for certain work in this line, any part of the employment to be had at such places is better paid and less toilsome than some sewing. Still more, there is not the slightest danger of workers being deprived of one farthing of their earnings by "sweating interlopers," or rather idle, cunning, and cruel-hearted loafers, who, in some trades, live on a part of poor women's earnings under pretence of going between them and the masters. It is true that as a relief to those under the pangs of genteel poverty, match-box making at home, or working in the match factory, is not so secret as needlework. But the income is sadly against the latter as compared with the former. But it does not follow that because making matches is better paid than certain kinds of sewing, that either are fairly remunerated. I admit that in both departments larger wages ought to be paid; but I cannot help seeing that it is at the door of the public the blame lies, chiefly because they are so low, competition in trade is the immediate cause of badly paid labour. But behind that there is also another and a stronger cause at work, namely, the unwillingness of consumers of goods to pay such a price as would admit of better wages being given to women and girls, in such trades as those in which low wages prevail. The very public, therefore, who clamour against employers of female labour, which is rewarded on the lowest current scale, and they chiefly if not alone are to blame for the state of things they censure. The difference is the same, however, as between sewing at home and working in match factory; and many a one is driven to that one which brings the lesser wages because public opinion calls it the more respectable. But the day seems to be drawing close when, without instruction from those from whom it ought to have come by virtue of their calling, people are learning that persons are not to be judged by the employment they are engaged in, but by the manner in which they do their work. The eastern division of London might, however, without violating a particle of propriety, boast against any other division as to means for meeting the demands of those classes who live by industry, and instead of an address in the E postal district suggesting a low type of gentility, it ought to be associated with such honourable things as enterprise, honest labour, and either considerable wealth floating about and doing good to society, or that exercise of one's mental and bodily powers in labour, which constitutes the noblest of manly virtues, in a politico-economic sense, and to which we generally apply the name of independence. " East London Industries by W. Glenny Crory, (Author of Industry in Ireland, &c., &c.) Published by Longmans, Green, and Co., 1876

Messrs. Palmer and Son have a large factory at Old Ford. In passing this establishment with merely this mention, I do not overlook its importance, nor do I disregard the enterprise of its proprietors in the match trade. In addition to the firms named, there are also Messrs. Letchford and Company (Limited), Messrs. Hynam, Pace, and Bell and Black, in the trade. These all afford labour to industrious people; and by the use of capital, more or less in amount, according to the extent of their Works, help on that general prosperity in this division of London, which renders it just now one of the most progressive places - especially in manufacturing - in the United Kingdom. The advantage to the East of London in becoming a manufacturing place of note is not to be estimated wholly by the benefits which working people derive from getting employment, but extends itself to shopkeepers and owners of property. The present state of things is all the more to be rejoiced in, because such are the regulations now (voluntarily as a rule) adopted for health and safety to life and property, that even to the most fastidious of those who live in ease and affluence there is seldom any just cause of complaint because of anything offensive to either eye, ear, or nasal organs.


Bryant & May Australia

This Bryant and May Factory is located in the suburb of Cremorne in Melbourne, Australia. It was constructed in 1909 as the Empire Works to a design by prolific Melbourne architect William Pitt. It was purchased soon after by British safety match manufacturer Bryant and May who significantly expanded the building adding an additional level and the landmark clock tower.

Bryant and May were unique in that they operated as a model factory providing workers with conditions and amenities which even today seem generous. These included a dining hall and sports facilities such as a tennis court and bowling green which were constructed in the 1920s.

Bryant and May ceased Australian match manufacture in the early 1980s as a result of import competition. Their iconic Redheads matches are now imported from Sweden. The complex has since been converted for use as offices and showrooms but is extremely well preserved. It is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

m) William Booth

William Booth. Founder of the Salvation Army.William Booth, the son of a builder, was born in Nottingham in 1829. At the age of fifteen he was converted to Christianity and became a revivalist preacher. In 1849 he moved to London where he found work in a pawnbroker's shop at Walworth.

In 1852 Booth met Catherine Mumford. Catherine shared William's commitment to social reform but disagreed with his views on women. On one occasion she objected to William describing women as the "weaker sex". William was also opposed to the idea of women preachers. When Catherine argued with William about this he added that although he would not stop Catherine from preaching he would "not like it". Despite their disagreements about the role of women in the church, the couple married on 16th June 1855, at Stockwell New Chapel.

In 1865 William and Catherine founded the Whitechapel Christian Mission in London's East End to help feed and house the poor. The mission was reorganized in 1878 along military lines, with the preachers known as officers and Booth as the general. After this the group became known as the Salvation Army.

William Booth sought to bring into his worship services an informal atmosphere that would encourage new converts. Joyous singing, instrumental music, clapping of hands and an invitation to repent characterized Salvation Army meetings.

Mrs. BoothGeneral Booth was deeply influenced by his wife Catherine Booth, who believed that women were equal to men and it was only inadequate education and social custom that made them men's intellectual inferiors. She was an inspiring speaker and helped to promote the idea of women preachers. The Salvation Army gave women equal responsibility with men for preaching and welfare work and on one occasion William Booth remarked that: "My best men are women!"

William and Catherine Booth were also active in the campaign to improving the working conditions of women working at the Bryant & May factory in the East End. Not only were these women only earning 1s. 4d. for a sixteen hour day, they were also risking their health when they dipped their match-heads in the yellow phosphorus supplied by manufacturers such as Bryant & May. A large number of these women suffered from 'Phossy Jaw' (necrosis of the bone) caused by the toxic fumes of the yellow phosphorus. The whole side of the face turned green and then black, discharging foul-smelling pus and finally death. Booth pointed out that most other European countries produced matches tipped with harmless red phosphorus. Bryant & May responded that these matches were more expensive and that people would be unwilling to pay these higher prices.

In 1891 the Salvation Army opened its own match-factory in Old Ford, East London. Only using harmless red phosphorus, the workers were soon producing six million boxes a year. Whereas Bryant & May paid their workers just over twopence a gross, the Salvation Army paid their employees twice this amount. William Booth organised conducted tours of MPs and journalists round this 'model' factory. He also took them to the homes of those "sweated workers" who were working eleven and twelve hours a day producing matches for companies like Bryant & May. The bad publicity that the company received forced the company to reconsider its actions. In 1901, Gilbert Bartholomew, managing director of Bryant & May, announced it had stopped used yellow phosphorus. Gradually opinion on William Booth's activities changed. He was made a freeman of London, granted a honorary degree from Oxford University and in 1902 was invited to attend the coronation of Edward VII. When William Booth died in 1912, his eldest son, William Bramwell Booth, became the leader of the Salvation Army.(from Schoolnet, UK)

n) J. Palmer and Sons

Palmer and Son Label

They used to have a large factory at "Old Ford", Bow.

Joined with other companies to "Maguire, Paterson & Palmer". They had factories in Liverpool, Leeds and London. As you see on the back label of the "Roseine Matches", they opened (or bought) a factory in Dublin on a later stage.



"Roseine Matches" (front) "Roseine Matches" (back) "Palm Safeties" (front) "Palm Safeties" (back)

o) S.J. Moreland & Sons

S.J. Moreland (timber merchant) started match making in 1867 with William Taylor as the match factory manager. In 1870 William left to start other businesses and run them, including that of Thomas Gee. After a fire there William Taylor finally started his own firm in late 1872. The factory of Moreland was located in Gloucester.

England's Glory by Moreland's of Gloucester

  • This brand was started in 1891 and soon became a household name in the areas of sale at the time. These were the Midlands, Wales and South West mainly. Probably the patriotic appeal of the brand name, as well as the John Bull brand, helped sales along, especially in the face of foreign competition.

  • Production at Gloucester ran until the closure of the factory, by owners Bryant & May, in 1976 and was then continued at Liverpool and now in Sweden by Swedish Match.

  • There were more than eleven thousand versions of England's Glory produced in one form or another. The older ones as paper labels and the later as cardboard skillets. They are very collectable with modern ones costing from 1p each to expensive old labels and boxes. Still obtainable are two very good catalogues written by Derek Saunders, covering England's Glory from 1891 to 1952.


  • There are also many examples of England's Glory advertising hardware, sometimes to be found at car boots, antique fairs and match society meetings.

  • Items range from water jugs, beer mugs, playing cards, match tins, pencils, numerous ashtrays, pin boxes, pen knives and vesta cases to crib boards and many other items.

  • Vesta boxes are commonly found at antique fairs etc and are made in various mediums such as wood, brass which can be plated, enamelled and silver. They also come in many shapes and sizes and make good collections.

  • Match tins and advertising tins are also fascinating but are not as common and can sometimes be fairly expensive if unusual.


p) Standard Match Co.

Standard Match (located in Gloucester) was formed and started production in 1921, later being purchased by S.J.Moreland & Sons Ltd. in 1926. Morelands were well established years before as the firm that made the famous England's Glory matches. The factory was eventually closed by Bryant & May in 1976.


q) Anglia Match Co.

Factory in Letchworth that was operating from 1934-1954.

r) Thomas Gee & Co.

This small factory existed from 1873 to 1880. Located in Ciy Works, Gloucester.

s) William Taylor

William Taylor produced two versions of the Conqueror Match between 1873 and 1880. The label shown is c.1875-1880. This and one other of a slightly earlier design are the only two known examples to survive.

William was born in Gloucester and worked as a hairdresser, later becoming a commercial traveller. He learnt the match trade in Birmingham and started the match factory for timber merchant S.J. Moreland in 1867. On leaving he then did the same for Thomas Gee until a fire burnt down the match works, then he started on his own in late 1872, closing in 1880 to become a publican.







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