top of page

Sarah Chapman House

On 26th February 2024, The Matchgirls Memorial (TMM) was delighted to attend the long awaited official opening of Sarah Chapman House in Mile End. The ceremony was attended by Tower Hamlets Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, descendants of Sarah – her Great Granddaughter, Sam Johnson, Carol Watts and Linda Pollard, plus Great Great Granddaughter, Laura Watts, plus about 25 special guests. Unfortunately, Sam's Dad, Ken Dearman (85), Sarah's Grandson was unable to make the journey from Cornwall to London but he wanted everyone to know how proud he is of Sarah's role in the 1888 Strike.
TMM put on an exhibition and the lovely Lottie Walker, dressed in her Victorian finery got everyone in the Matchgirls spirit by singing ‘The Matchgirls’ Song’ (words below, sung to the tune of John Brown’s Body), and ‘Our Union: A Song for the Matchmakers’ by J. Arthur Elliott. The latter appeared in Annie Besant’s ‘The Link’ magazine and to our knowledge, this was the first ever live performance, at least since the late 1880s, so well done Lottie!

We’ll hang old Bryant on a sour apple tree,
We’ll hang old Bryant on a sour apple tree,
We’ll hang old Bryant on a sour apple tree,
As we go marchin’ in.
Glory, glory, hallelujah, glory, glory hallelujah,
Glory, glory, hallelujah,
As we go marchin’ in.

Sarah Chapman House has nine homes, a mix of 1, 2 and 3-bedroom flats, all with an external balcony, plus there is a large community hall on the ground floor. A plaque has been placed just inside the front entrance to the flats that reads:

Sarah Chapman was born 31 October 1862, in Mile End. Employed as a Machinist and
later as a Booker in the Patent Section of the Bryant and May match factory. She was
one of the leaders of the 1888 Strike, which addressed working conditions and the use of
white phosphorus that caused osteonecrosis, known as ‘phossy jaw’.
She was a member of the strike committee that negotiated with the Directors. They
achieved abolition of fines, deductions such as cost of materials, and separate areas for
meals thus reducing the chance of phosphorus poisoning. They formed the Union of Women
Matchmakers, and Sarah was elected President. She went on to be their TUC delegate.
The Matchgirls Strike was a landmark moment for working rights and later social
commentators described it as “the light jostle needed for the entire avalanche to move” and
“one of the most important events in the history of labour organisation in any country”.

bottom of page