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Sarah Ellen Tresadern

by her Grandson, Peter Kurton

My Nan, Sarah Ellen Tresadern b. 1898, lived in Livingstone Road, Stratford and had worked at Bryant & May around 1910. I couldn’t come up with much direct information on her sojourn there other than it was a major employer in that area and that other members of the numerous Tresadern family also worked there. I think that WWI disrupted her employment as I seem to remember her mentioning working later at the Woolwich Arsenal. An early boyfriend was killed and I think she never really got over it ! I deduce this as she was quite taciturn at home.

However hers is an interesting story in that her social progress brought her a bit later on into the perpetually vexed question of Integration, as she married into a second generation immigrant Lithuanian family at the age of about 25, and it was she who also had to adapt to their alien culture. At that time the first generation of immigrants in that family, who had arrived in the 1890s, was still alive, not speaking English properly and with all their own traditions and indeed they were Catholics. I have written about all this in ‘The Promised Land - Escape from Lithuania’ by Zillah Moody (pseudonym). 

Sarah had no tradition of militancy that I can ascertain although I did develop a sense of injustice and I have written about my own working career but in Printing reprographics, not matchmaking. A copy of the book is, I believe, held in the Karl Marx library.

My aging Uncle recently told me he thought that the appendectomy she underwent whilst at Bryant and May could have been caused by swallowing wood fibre from chewing matches all day whilst working. The operation was carried out at the London Hospital (no ‘Royal’ attached to its title then), although Sarah told me herself in around 1952 that she thought her appendicitis was brought on by eating a pound of tomatoes and their skins!

There is a book which I have assembled digitally about the life of Arthur Harding b. c1880 (real name Tresadern) the King of the underworld in The Old Nichol, Shoreditch, in which matchmaking is mentioned (It’s his autobiography). Another Tresadern in Newcastle, one of my Nan’s direct antecedents, employed people in the match trade up there. The injuries they suffered working with sulphur etc was mentioned. The match industry nationwide must have been huge. A lot of homework went on where whole families pitched in pasting on labels etc and were paid a pittance based on piecework. It must have been highly lucrative for employers opting for cheaper chemicals which I have read were more dangerous to workers than the more expensive ones.

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