Sunday, 19 January 2014

Ghost signs (104): Puck matches, Leeds


A colourful sign looks over Harehills Road, Leeds, from Conway Road (not to be confused with neighbouring  Conway Drive, Street, Avenue, Mount, View, Grove or Place!). Although the image of a matchbox and pointy-eared head catch the eye first, a closer view shows that this is a palimpsest. Just visible underneath is another advertisement for the same brand: 'British matches for British Homes - Puck matches'.

Although the packs are clearly marked 'Bryant & May', and the earliest advert borrows a slogan from the parent brand, Puck matches were originally made by the Diamond Match Company. Rather than try to compete with the highly-automated American firm, Bryant & May bought their British assets soon after their arrival in 1901; in return, the American parent company took over 50% of Bryant & May's shares.

I haven't found out the date when Puck matches disappeared from the shops, although I don't remember seeing them. This Leeds sign has long outlasted the product.


Ralph Hancock said...

Sadly, there are no English matches any more. The last Bryant and May factory, in Liverpool, closed in 1994. A few years ago I bought a box of matches: it said

          Made in Sweden

See sad picture here. Ichabod, for the glory is departed.

CarolineLD said...

Ouch! It might be a kinder comment on England's glory to drop the brand name.

HughB said...

Well, that was fascinating - I had to look up Bryant & May after reading this entry, and a large chunk of British history came alive! B & M imported their first matches from Sweden, safety matches were (partly) invented to prevent Phossy Jaw, HMS Devastation was the most powerful ship in the world for 15 years, etc etc - all this is stuff people lived with 100 years ago, and I'm totally ignorant of. I always used used to think Swan Vestas were very British - probably because my Dad used to light his pipe with them!

Sam Roberts (Ghostsigns) said...

One of the great ghostsigns in this country for sure, such character. While researching Criterion Matches for my walking tours I came across the wonderful world of Phillumeny a.k.a. matchbox collecting. I'll see if my contacts there can help as they were able to tell me a lot about Criterion, their Russian origins and the gift schemes they ran.

Sam Roberts (Ghostsigns) said...

This just in from Richard:
'Puck Matches were withdrawn following a brand rationalisation in 1979, along with Captain Webb & Pilot, both long running brands. The design shown with Puck facing towards you, was used from the early 1920s until the mid 1950’s. I would probably date the advert early 1930’s.

The other thing to note is that Bryant & May and Diamond amalgamated in 1901 not 1905.'

CarolineLD said...

Thank you, Sam - and thanks to Richard. The dating is really interesting!

I'd got the 1905 date from Grace's Guide, who suggest that Diamond opened their factory in 1901 but didn't amalgamate until 1905. However, I suspect your source is more reliable.

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