1888 Match Girls’ Strike marked with blue plaque in east London

Bow Quarter in Fairfield Road, Tower Hamlets

Bow Quarter in Fairfield Road, Tower Hamlets - Credit: Google

The Match Girls’ Strike of 1888 has been commemorated with a blue plaque at the site of the former Bryant and May match factory in East London.

In early July 1888, around 1,400 of the predominately female workforce at the Bryant and May match factory in Fairfield Road, Bow walked out in protest at the dismissal of a number of their co-workers.

An English Heritage blue plaque has been installed at the site - now a residential complex called Bow Quarter - to commemorate the event, which is seen as significant in the development of the trade union agenda.

English Heritage blue plaques panel member Alex Graham believes the numbers of workers striking in the present day gives this commemoration extra significance.

"It feels timely to be standing today outside this iconic East London factory commemorating the Match Girls: 1,400 young, working class women, many of them immigrants or daughters of immigrants, who refused to put up with low wages and dangerous working conditions," he said.

“They won and, in doing so, they changed the course of British labour history.

"We are therefore glad to honour them collectively with a blue plaque on the building where they took their courageous stand."

Former EastEnders actress Anita Dobson, who is a patron of the Matchgirls Memorial, attended the unveiling of the plaque.

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Dobson, 73, who played Angie Watts in the BBC One soap for three years, said: “These girls and women fought hard for their rights.

“They worked in appalling conditions and their lives were tough and the worst imaginable.

“I grew up aware of the courage and bravery of these women who against all odds went on strike for better working conditions.

“Many of them died an early death due to the phosphorous fumes in the factory.

“They deserve to be honoured and remembered, and now they will be.”

The blue plaque scheme began in 1886 and there are now more than 980 English Heritage blue plaques across London.

English Heritage wants the public to nominate remarkable female and working class figures or communities from the past for a blue roundel.