Bell and Black Hardware

Two early 1850s tins for Gas Camphorated Congreve Lights, 56 x 30 x 31 mm & 62 x 34 x 39 mm

Exhibitor : David Figg

Match hardware from Bell & Black, London is probably only second in terms of variety behind Bryant & May. They come in all shapes and sizes from the very tiny to the quite large. 

Samuel Alexander Bell, one of the pioneers of the English match industry, established himself in 1839 however he did not appear in the London Directory until the 1848 issue when the business was styled Samuel Alexander Bell & Company and was trading at 15 Bow Lane, Cheapside, London and also at Stratford.

During the following year, Bell took John Black into partnership with him under the name of Bell & Black. This association of names was to last until 1885, however Black, still a partner in 1859, had left by 1861 when Bell was the sole partner. The works were situated on the south side of High Street Stratford, near Bow Bridge.

In 1852 they employed 300 hands, half of them inside the factory, the others being “out workers” who collected materials from the factory and took them home, returning the finished articles when ready, on a piece-work basis, a custom of the time.

Four early small tins circa 1860s showing “go to bed” provision at top right. Sizes 47 x 36 x 12mm, 47 x 36 x 20mm, 49 x 49 x 22mm & 49 x 38 x 22mm

In 1868, letters patent were granted to Samuel Alexander Bell. Sometime between 1868 and 1876, Bell also leaves the business as in this latter year, a joint stock company Bell & Black Limited (No. 10582) was floated to take over the business.  The managing Director was William Bridges Adams, an engineer well known in connection with local enterprises.

Difficult times were approaching. Nearly fifty years earlier the chemists had abandoned the hazardous manufacture of matches in favour of the new factories from which they were able to buy matches cheaper than they themselves could make them. Now it was the factories who were facing a crisis. A factory equipped with the latest machinery could increase its output and reduce costs. Fewer factories would be needed, though new capital would have to be sunk into those still operating.

Such conditions demanded a pooling of interests by those wishing to survive, the scrapping of buildings not suitable for conversion to the new order and the unstinted use of new capital in purchasing the best machinery the market could provide.

In 1881, the businesses of John Hynam and The London Match Company were absorbed as a preliminary to a major grouping carried out in the same year by the merging of four large concerns.

  1. Dixson Son & Evans of Manchester
  2. John Jex Long of Glasgow
  3. Bell & Black Limited of London, and
  4. John Bellerby & Son Ltd of York.

The new company created for this purpose was called The Bell & Black Match Company Limited (No. 15588). The registered office was at High Street, Stratford until 1882, when it was removed to 147 Cannon Street, London.

In 1884 the Stratford Works was still in use, as also were addresses at 79 High Street, Stratford and Marshgate Lane, Stratford. In March 1885, the registered office was moved to 101 Leadenhall Street, London. A month later the company was absorbed by Bryant & May Limited.

Click on an image below to enlarge it and see the Bell and Black item.

Bibliography – R. Holton’s “The Matchbox Label” Vol 2 No 14 March 1960

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