Fairfield Works

From London's Ghost Acres

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1861 to 1979


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Located in




Used Raw Materials

Timber, Paraffin Wax, Sulphur, Phosphorus, Potash

|1861 |The date "{{{to_date}}}" was not understood.The date "{{{to_date}}}" was not understood. |Bryant and May |-


Fairfield Works was match factory owned by Bryant and May, located in Bow, London. Bryant and May began producing safety matches in 1861 and then went on to make the popular strike-anywhere ‘lucifer’ matches (Satre 1982, 11). To make the lucifer matches, small splints of timber were dipped in sulphur or Waraffin Wax and then put together in a frame that was dipped on both sides into the lighting mixture of white or yellow phosphorus, glue, chlorate of potash, and coloring substance. The matches were then dried, cut in half, and put into boxes (Satre 1982, 8). In 1862 the factory was producing nearly two million matches (Cherry 2005, 621). The white phosphorous used to make the lucifer matches had already been recognized by the 1860s as the cause of the terrible disease known as ‘phossy jaw,’ a terrible necrosis of the mouth and face (Satre 1982, 9). In 1888 the Bryant and May match girls banded together and went on strike for two weeks to protest the use of the deadly phosphorous alongside other mistreatments and pay issues (Satre, 1982, 11). While the strike became a famous event in history, Bryant and May continued to use white phosphorous in their matches until 1901 (Wood 1902, 559). Fairfield Works was rebuilt in in 1911 to replace to various additions that had been built since 1861, and closed in 1979. The buildings were converted into the Bow Quarter apartment complex in the 1980s.

Paraffin Wax was imported from Germany and the United States of America, but it was also refined from crude oil shipped in from Russia and the United States of America. Timber was imported from Russia, Germany, the United States of America, Sweden, Norway, and Canada. Potash came from Canada, the United States of America, Germany, and British India.