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THE Match Works
Bootle Match Works
Many companies set up in Bootle during the 1800s – one of these was the Diamond Match Factory on Linacre Road. It opened in 1896.
The conditions in the factories were very different to today. They were usually dirty, health and safety didn’t exist, and people were hardly paid any wages.
A lot of workers were treated terribly – if you were caught sitting down, you were fined, beaten or just sacked. One person recalled how girls had all their hair ‘rubbed off’ from carrying boxes on their heads. They would be bald ‘by fifteen years of age’.
Advert for Bryant and May matches
The Bootle factory installed a machine that could produce 600,000 matches per hour – that's 165 matches every second.
Hear from a Victorian Match Girl!
If this wasn’t bad enough matches used to be dipped into a chemical called ‘white phosphorous’. The problem was this caused disgusting diseases, such as ‘phossy jaw’: a type of bone cancer. If you had ‘phossy jaw’, huge holes appeared in your mouth, your teeth rotted, and stinky pus squirted out from holes in your skin! If left untreated, it was fatal. By 1 906 – using white phosphorous became illegal and fines were scrapped.
The Diamond Match factory was damaged by bombs during the World War Two Blitz in 1941. It was demolished soon after.
“Very often the children are woken at four in the morning. The children are carried on the backs of the older children asleep to the mill, and they see no more of their parents till they go home at night and are sent to bed.”
Richard Oastler, interviewed in 1832.
Ever wanted to glow in the dark? Just get ‘phossy jaw’! The phosphorous caused people’s skin to glow and their breath to turn blue. There were even stories about pools of vomit shining in the darkness!
Most workers who produced matches were women and children – over 50% were children! They didn’t go to school but would work long hours one diary entry said that ‘children worked from 6am-7pm' (that’s like going to school TWICE in ONE DAY!.
The children were sometimes made to go into machines to fix them because they could fit into small places. The only thing is... the machines were normally still on! As you can imagine, this caused a lot of injuries!