Monday, February 26, 2024

Sarah Chapman House - Matchgirl Striker

This lunch time I attended the opening ceremony for a newly built community space and block of Council flats in Bow, Tower Hamlets. The block has been named after the Matchgirl Striker, Sarah Chapman

She was one of the leaders of the successful strike over fines and working conditions in 1888 at the Bryant & May Match factory in Bow.  

"Chapman and others involved in the strike have since been recognised as "pioneers of sex equality and fairness at work who left a lasting legacy on the trade union movement".[4]

It was great to meet in person and speak at long last to Sarah's great granddaughter, Sam Johnson and her husband Graham, who together with over relatives, supporters and local residents have formed the Charity "The Matchmaker Memorial". The Tower Hamlets Mayor, Lufter Rahman attended as did local Councillor, Asma Begum. 

Sarah is buried in a privately owned cemetery in Manor Park Newham and I was able to speak to residents who had also come to support the campaign.

After some words of welcome and explanation by Sam we were treated to some songs by a wonderful singer (whose name I sadly missed) dressed in period costume. I particularly enjoyed :-

"The Matchgirls' Song"

We'll hang old Bryant on a sour apple tree...(see full wording in photo)

(to the tune of "John Brown's Body").

By coincidence, many years ago I used to occasionally work in the old Housing office (Lanfranc) that used to be on this site. 

I shall look forward to the memorial headstone to Sarah being laid in the Manor Park cemetery as soon as is possible. 

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