Bryant and May Match Factory
The East End was a tough place to live in the C19th. The B & M factory mostly employed women and children to make their matches, then a modern and desirable commodity. Conditions were harsh characterised by low pay, freezing workhouses and rags / bare feet. Many of the workers were also struck down by “phossy jaw,” their teeth and jaw bones crumbling because of the phosphorus they were working with. In this picture, the sculptures represent the jaw bones (black / grey) and teeth (sandy coloured stones), reminding us of the suffering that once took place here.
This was also the place where Annie Besant created the first women’s Trade Union, so outraged was she by the treatment and conditions the B & M workers had to endure.
Today’s pleasant ponds, fountains and gardens belie this grim past. A blue plaque outside memorialises Annie Besant’s remarkable life.