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Bryant and May the Liverpool connection

In 1843 A partnership was formed between, two Quakers, Francis May and William Bryant, to establish a Provisions Merchants business in Tooley Street, London. In 1850 they started importing Swedish matches, produced by Carl and Johan Lündström. This partnership was successful, so Francis May and William Bryant decided to merge the partnership with Bryant's company, Bryant and James, which was based in Plymouth. By 1853 Bryant and May were selling over 8 million boxes of matches per year and in 1861 The Company, Bryant and May, was founded with the specific aim of making only Safety Matches. They were influential in fighting against the dreadful disease known as Phossy jaw which was caused by white phosphorus used in the manufacture of the early matches. They started on a site in Bow, which had once been used for the manufacture of candles, crinoline and rope, but had fallen into disrepair. This site was gradually expanded as a model factory. The public were initially unwilling to buy the more expensive safety matches so they also had to make the traditional Lucifer Matches.

Garston became an important centre for match manufacture in 1887 when R. Bell and Company Ltd. built the Mersey Works (on Speke Road). Bryant and May was the target of the Match-girls Strike of 1888, which won important improvements in working conditions and pay for the mostly female workforce. On the 2nd July 1888, around fourteen hundred mostly female workers from the Bryant and May match factory in Bow, London, went out on strike. The reasons for action were numerous. Wages had been driven to levels lower than they had been ten years previous, which was compounded by the increased imposition of fines and compulsory contributions upon its workforce. Conversely, it would be revealed by contemporaries such as Annie Besant that Bryant and May shareholders enjoyed the pay-out of high dividends. Additionally, the grisly, and often fatal, industrial disease, phosphorous necrosis ('phossy jaw'), was a danger well known to the Bryant and May hierarchy though little counteraction had been taken. By the end of the two week action, however, the matchwomen had all their demands met, including a wage increase as well as the abolition of all fines, though phosphorous necrosis would remain an on-going issue until the use of white phosphorous in matches was finally banned in 1908.

Lockout and demonstration at the Bryant and May match factory, 1888.

In 1901 the American match maker, The Diamond Match Company, bought an existing match factory in Litherland, in Bootle and installed a continuous match making machine that could produce 600,000 matches per hour. Their matches were sold under the Captain Webb, Puck and Swan Vestas brand names.

By 1902 Bryant and May was the biggest match-maker in Britain. However, they could not compete, so in 1905 they bought the assets and goodwill of the British Diamond Match Company; and the (American) Diamond Match Company acquired 54.5 percent of the share capital of Bryant and May. In 1919, a new match making factory was erected in Banks Road, Garston, it was extended 1948, with subsequent minor alterations. In 1922 Bryant and May took over Maguire, Paterson and Palmer Ltd., which subsequently went into liquidation. The Mersey Works was closed down in 1994.

The Walton Times on Friday 7th November 1919 carried this article from a Memorial event at St.Andrew's Hall, Linacre…

The esteem which the employees of the Diamond Match Works have for their managing director, Mr. George W. Paton, and the sympathy which they feel for him in the loss of his son, Captain G.H. Tatham Paton, V.C., M.C., was manifested at St.Andrew's Hall, Linacre, on Tuesday evening, when they presented him with a cheque for £500 for the endowment of a bed in Bootle Borough Hospital in memory of the gallant captain.
The large hall was absolutely "crammed," if one may use such an expressive bit of slang. Mr. W.G. Wright, local manager, presided, and the warm reception which was accorded to Mr. and Mrs. G.W. Paton on their entrance, and also to Mrs. Wright, showed the good feeling which exists amongst the workers, and those in authority over them. Others present were Councillors Beckett and Quigley, and Mr. B. Nay.


The Chairman said the occasion was both sad and pleasant. Pleasant because it showed the excellent spirit and fine feeling they had for Mr. Paton, and sad because they were to honour the memory of his son, Captain G.H. Paton, who gave his life as one of those whose heroism saved us from the iron heel of Germany. He had known Capt. Paton better than most of them, and the longer he knew him the more he loved him. Captain Paton was one of Nature's gentlemen. He had scarcely left school and started work at the London factory when the call of his country came. It was louder to Captain Paton than the call of matches (applause). He joined up as a second lieutenant, and soon rose to the rank of Captain, but as there was little prospect of getting to France he transferred to the Grenadier Guards. He was soon in France as a Captain again, for he was a born leader of men. If there was any hard and dangerous work to be done the Guards were given the job, and so it came about that Captain Paton was always in the thick of the fighting. He was awarded the Military Cross, but like many other brave men, he was reluctant to tell how he won it. They did know, however, of the deed which won the coveted Victoria Cross. According to the "London Gazette," it was for most conspicuous bravery when the unity of his line was broken, and his flank was "in the air," he fearlessly exposed himself to readjust the line, walking up and down within 50 yards of the enemy under a very withering fire. He later removed several wounded men, and was the last to leave the village. He again re-adjusted the line, exposing himself regardless of all danger the whole time. As the enemy four times counter-attacked, he sprang upon the parapet each time, deliberately risking his life, and being finally mortally wounded, in order to stimulate his men. After the enemy had broken through on his left, he again mounted the parapet with a few men, who were inspired by his great example, and forced the enemy to withdraw once more, thereby undoubtedly saving the left flank. Captain Paton, like the rest of our lads, was not out to win medals so much as to "play  the game." From the kick-off they meant to win, and they had won.


As a fitting tribute of respect to the memory of Captain Paton he asked the audience to stand in silent meditation for a few seconds.
This was done, and after this touching mark of sympathy with the bereaved parents, Councillor Beckett made a few remarks. He had been on that platform on many occasions, but never on one so solemn as that night. He ventured to think that not a single person in the audience but was thrilled by the account of Captain Paton's heroism. Captain Paton was all that a Britisher could be and should be. He believed that Captain Paton, in common with their own relatives, who had made the great sacrifice, had died not grudgingly but willingly. There were pessimists who prophesied that this great England of ours was going to the dogs. He did not believe it. There was good in the old country yet, and that was proved by the gallantry of their lads. While they tendered their deepest sympathy to Mr. and Mrs. Paton, they congratulated them on being the parents of such a son (applause). He was greatly honoured by being on the platform on such an occasion, and he had very great pleasure in handing Mr. Paton a cheque for £500 with which to endow a bed in Bootle Hospital to the memory of his son. The inscription on the bed would read "This bed is dedicated to the memory of G.H. Tatham Paton, V.C., M.C., Grenadier Guards, who was killed in action at Gonneliew, 1st December, 1917, only son of Mrs. and Mr. George W. Paton, Deputy Chairman and Managing Director of Messrs. Bryant and May, Ltd., and endowed by the employees of the Diamond Match Works, at Linacre, November, 1919." (Loud applause.)


Councillor Quigley said the cheque was for the endowment of a bed which would keep alive the memory of one of the best Britishers who ever lived. After the glowing tributes of the preceding speakers it was scarcely necessary for him to enumerate the good qualities of the gallant officer. No more suitable memorial could have been erected than the endowment of a bed in the hospital. Mr. and Mrs. Paton must be very proud to think that their son - their only son - should have sacrificed his life for the good of England and her Allies. When first the idea was brought forward it was thought that a bed could not be endowed for less than £1,000, but now they found that it could be accomplished for £500. He hoped that they would not be satisfied with that, but that they would raise another £500 for the endowment of a bed to the memory of their own lads, who had laid down their lives for King and Country. They could then have one bed in the women's ward, and a second in the men's (applause). He hoped that they would show the same spirit in contributing to the second bed as they had in contributing for the endowment of the first. They would then have a memorial to the bravest men who ever went from a factory (cheers).


Mr. Paton said he knew that they would feel for him in the extraordinarily difficult position in which he found himself that night, and if his words were few they were nevertheless from the heart. When the chairman informed him of the affair the previous week he was agreeably surprised. He could not adequately express his gratitude to them, his fellow-workers, that they should have thought it well to mark in such a tangible form the loss his wife and himself had suffered in the death of their son. It was the most touching of many touching incidents which had happened since the day when they received news of their only son's death. He was glad that the endowment had not cost £1,000, and he was glad they intended to "carry on," and raise another £500 for the endowment of a bed to their other heroes. That was the best part of the gift. He found in it an expression of their brotherhood which he hoped and prayed would prevail in the future. They had not expected their boys to do otherwise than they did. They would not have been made of true British material if they had done otherwise. He felt sure that many more medals had been won but not awarded, and other men would have done medal-winning deeds if they had been given the chance. The death of those lads was a great blow to their parents, but he did not think that the men themselves would now wish it otherwise. They were now free from all pain. It was up to us who remained to make the world brighter and truer with less sham and selfishness, otherwise the sacrifice of their lads would have been in vain (applause). He had very great pleasure in handing the £500 which they had been pleased to subscribe to the memory of his son to Mr. Cunningham, representing Bootle Hospital. No monument of stone of brass could have pleased him as much as the memorial which they had chosen (applause).


Mr. Cunningham thanked the subscribers very heartily for the splendid sum which had been handed to him for the endowment of a bed. It was indeed a magnificent gift. Nearly 1,300 wounded soldiers and sailors had been received into Bootle Borough Hospital. The Linacre Council School had a bed endowed in memory of the boys who had fallen in the war, and the bed endowed by the cheque presented that evening provided a second war bed in the hospital. It would be difficult to suggest a more fitting way to memorialise the heroism and fortitude of our defenders than by endowing a bed in a hospital. (Applause.)
The Chairman moved and Councillor Quigley seconded a vote of thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Paton for being present that evening. A vote of thanks to the Chairman was moved by Mr. W. Beckett and seconded by Mr. B. Nay. Both motions were heartily carried. Margaret Byrne and Norah Jennings presented beautiful bouquets to Mrs. Paton and Mrs. Wright.


During the evening an excellent programme was contributed by the Diamond Orchestral Concert Party, which, despite its heavy sounding title is quite a talented and sprightly troupe. The chorus composed of the Misses Jane Hale, Peggy Lynch, Edith Wynne, Gertie Hemans, Marion Wright, Lena Kershaw, Carrie Stephenson, and Jimmie Lynch were deservedly popular, despite the fact that it was their first public appearance. Jimmy Lynch as "Boots" was very funny. He has a fine strong voice, and the nerve essential for a comedian. A feature of the entertainment was the dainty dancing of Miss Mima Lee, who was presented with a few flowers from Mrs. Paton's bouquet after her clever Scottish sword dance. Her vivacious interpretations of the sailors' hornpipe and Irish jig were also delightful. Perhaps we may be excused for suggesting that "Jimmy," Miss Lee, and the chorus would make a nice little juvenile troupe without the older artistes, and with a daintier title they would doubtless be instrumental in raising much money for charities. Their instructress must feel proud of them. Of the older artistes Mr. J. Lee was probably the most popular. His sons of those places which song-writers lead us to believe are heavens on earth, Tennessee, Dixie, etc., were well sung, and Mr. Lee showed himself to be an energetic dancer. Miss Cissie Duncan was an able accompanist, and Mr. J. Foster contributed several rousing pianoforte solos. Other items in the programme were as follows:- Song "Simon the Cellarer," Mr. Maidment; song, "Two Eyes of Grey," Miss Florrie Wells; recitation, "The Invisible Army," Mr. Blundell; song, "Until," Miss Bella Evans; mandolin and banjo solo, Messrs. R. Kelly and Bonfret; songs, "Some Monday morning," and "Pat Finnigan's Ball," Mr. J. Birks; song, "Loch Lomond," Miss Grainger; song. "Underneath that old umbrella," Mr. Kelly; song, "The Heart of a Rose," Miss G. Hemans; song "Memories," Miss A. Roberts. The gathering ended with the National Anthem.

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