Bryant and May factory story retold by volunteers

Bow Quarter

Bow Quarter - Credit: Archant

Steeped in the iconic history of the East End is a factory that witnessed one of the great campaigns this country has seen.

Bow Quarter

Bow Quarter - Credit: Archant

And now, a group of volunteers want to bring the Bryant and May Match factory, now the Bow Quarter, back into community consciousness with a free event on Tuesday, December 17, from 1pm to 4pm at the Maximal Learning Offices, E3.

The Bryant and May heritage project, which is heritage lottery funded, has seen 10 volunteers go through countless amounts of local archives, scanning press cuttings and maps to find the detail needed to depict the famous building.

The factory on Fairfield Road, was founded by Francis May and William Bryant, and it soon became London’s largest factory employing more than 2,000 women and girls around 1911.

But it is the Match Girls’ strike of 1888, which had its 125th anniversary this year and ultimately resulted in trade unions for women and welfare institutions in Britain that inspired the project.

The women, including Annie Besant, a socialist reformer, striked in protest against poor pay, bad employers, long hours and dangerous working conditions.

But they won their battle and it changed the way people treated in the workplace.

Most Read

Olivia Belles, project co-ordinator, said: “We wanted to explore and research the archive material to show the impact the factory had on the local community.

“It is about knowing where you live because history can empower and give a new perspective on stories.

“We talked to neighbours who were really interested and some that had no idea about what used to be here so there is a sense of pride at sharing it with the community.”

In the present day, Bow Quarter consists of 733 one and two bedroom apartments and penthouses with a majority of the apartments located in former factory and office buildings.

But such is the interest in the factory, MP for Newham, Lyn Brown, is campaigning to get stories about the factory taught in East End schools.

Olivia added: “We’ve had loads of support and encouraged people to go their local archives, because there is some amazing material at our fingertips.

“We wanted to get people asking questions, engage with them and bring people together to find out what is on their doorstep.”

For more information visit the project blog at and