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Welwyn Garden City

A Striking Industry in Welwyn Garden City

Author: Eric R. Littler

Published: 1969 by the author

Format: Paperback 10" by 8" with 23 pages.


Rev. E. R. Littler was living at Church House, Heronswood Road, when he wrote this book for phillumenists (collectors of matchbox labels). He has written several other histories of match makers including one on the Anglia Match company of Letchworth, as well as a book called Drill for Drum Majors (1958).

Although the book is a duplicated production, printed on one side of the paper, and stapled together, it is well done and makes very interesting reading, even for one who is not a phillumenist.

In his account, Rev. Littler tells us that match making in Welwyn Garden City was started under the auspices of London-based match importer Mr W. A. Kuffall, who was UK and colonial distributor for two Belgian match factories. After Britain went off the Gold Standard (1931), sterling dropped in value by 30%, and imports became difficult. Mr Kuffall advised his two Belgian companies to set up production in England, and invited their respective heads, Mr E. Merckx and Mr Raymond Mary, to England, to visit prospective sites for factories.

Welwyn Garden City was chosen and two factories were set up in 1931. The Merckx factory was to be built at 31 Broadwater Road (re-numbered to 43/45 after the war) and to be called the Welwyn Match Manufacturing Company (WMMC). The Mary factory was set up in the ground floor of an existing factory at 13 Broadwater Road, and was called the Southern Match Company (SMC). The WMMC was the bigger concern and it eventually employed 150 people making boxes of matches using advanced machinery. The much smaller SMC employed about 40 people and made books of matches by hand operation. In 1932 the two companies were merged and became Factory No. 1 and Factory No. 2 of the WMMC. Mr Kuffall was now living at 56 Blakemere Road (next to the entrance to The Orchard).

Rev. Littler describes the sad ending to the enterprise when, in 1934, new owners of the company put it into voluntary liquidation and wound it down. They had concluded that the company was not profitable enough to warrant further investment. One reason was difficulty with competition from cheap Russian imported matches.

The book has several illustrations. As well as a full-page counter show-card (below), there are 4 photographs from the factories (1 exterior, 3 interiors), and 2 pages of match box labels (30 labels altogether). At the end is a catalogue (list) of 79 labels from the company, including such names as "Welwyn", "Home Fires", "Royal George" and "Blighty".



  Counter show-card

Match girls & boys

Matchbox tops