After importing Swedish matches for eighteen years, Bryant & May opened their first factory in 1861 in Bow. The site became famous in July 1888, when 1,400 women and teenage girls working there went on strike following the unfair dismissal of one them. If that was the spark that ignited the struggle, the protest was about poor working conditions, and in particular long hours with very few short breaks, heavy fines often handed to workers by foremen, and poor health resulting from exposure to white phosphorus. The matchgirls received the support of many socialists, including women's rights activist Annie Besant, who addressed the crowds on several occasions. Ultimately after more than two weeks, the management of the company agreed to meet most of the demands of the strikers.
Production of matches continued in Bow until it was transferred to Liverpool in 1979.
Although it is no longer visible, we can assume the first part of Brymay's slogan, "British Matches", was originally painted above "For British Homes."
Location: Lillie Road / Picture taken in May 2008