Lesney's Matchbox Factory (2)

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Part 2 of article

Mave Sipple

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Lesney Products was named after its two founders Leslie and Rodney Smith (they were unrelated). The company was started as an industrial die-casting company in 1947.

Lesneys took over the old Ekco buildings in Sweynes Estate, Ashingdon. The factory was working all day and night, special buses brought workers from Shoebury, Southend and Rayleigh. Many women were able to take part-time shift work to supplement their income.

At one time, the company employed over 2000 people. The company wanted to build a road around the estate but locals complained, as they did not want huge lorries lumbering passed their houses.

When business began to wane, the company changed the name to Matchbox. Matchbox cars became hugely popular, but the company was again in trouble, and many people lost their jobs when the company finally took their business to China.

Until the early 80s Lesneys was one of the most important employers in the area. Sadly the factory was forced to close and a housing estate was built on the site.

View part 1 of Mave's article

View David Murphy's article

This page was added by Mave Sipple on 13/03/2013.
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Does any one remember my mum Elizabeth Butler she made it to supervisor at Rochford dept on the wheels and ask dept in the seventies  then married Chris Browning she lived at Beresford Road Southend if so get in touch she worked at Rochford

By Peter browning
On 08/09/2022

Worked there between leaving sixth form and starting university. Must have been 1974 summer. Always sad I lost contact with another student worker. She went onto Southampton University and I think went into medical research. Think I even bumped into her a few years later at the Sudan Club in Khartoum of all places. Would be nice to meet again.

By Tim Hall
On 17/08/2022

I worked at Matchbox Toys, Rochford from Oct '83 to Dec '85. My first job was assembling toy fire engines as well as other toy vehicles. 

I was then moved onto line feeding & eventually ended up working on the Airfix packing machine, putting out work for workmates working on the conveyor, who packed the plastic kits into boxes to be shrink wrapped. 

If I remember rightly there was an 11 point rate bonus system where you could earn extra pay with rate 11 being the lowest bonus rate & rate 1 being the top bonus rate of pay you could earn. When assembling toy fire engines I could never get anywhere close to achieving the top bonus rate, but often did as a line feeder & part of a team.

I was mates with Phil Birch & John Unwin whilst working at Matchbox & would love to know what guys are up to today. I remained in contact with Phil up until '94 but lost contact with John when I left Matchbox at the end of '85.

By Matt Dixon
On 06/04/2021

Anyone remember Beatrice Rice?  She worked there from 1975

By Joan liddiard
On 06/02/2021

Hiya I worked there 1983\1987\ in general toys. Diane Monks was my supervisor, loved it. I was a porter because I couldn't work fast enough on the diecast cars. Fantastic people, so nice to hear from you all. I went to fords tractor plant after I left,..missed my pals

By Edward Blake
On 17/11/2020

Hi Shaun. I remember Les very well. Passionate about all things plastic. For sure he could smell plastic melt blindfolded and could identify what type it was. I do not think anyone could get as excited as Les over an extrusion machine or a new plastic moulding process. I personally have a lot to thank him for. A kind and very interesting man. 

By Suzie
On 25/08/2020

I worked at Lesney's Rochford 1973-79 as bus & lorry driver & remember some of the names mentioned,good days but long hours.


By Douglas Webb.
On 26/06/2020

Hi. My mum worked at Matchbox during '74 around November time her name was Ettie (Patty).  If anybody remembers her please contact me by E mail elliottbrittain819@gmail.com

By Elliott Brittain
On 26/06/2020

As a Matchbox collector, it would be great to hear from former Lesney workers on our forum:


Any memories or stories would be welcomed. Thank you.

By john shearwood
On 28/10/2018

I just stumbled across this website. A different era. Both my mum Diane Wood and her sister Barbara Dunmore worked there throughout the 1970s. It was quality time with my mum walking back after work with her. Then getting lumbered writing numbers on labels for her, lol. Sadly both passed away some 16 years ago. 

By Lesley Avery (née wood)
On 30/03/2018

Hi All.. I used to work at Lesneys in Carpenters Road Stratford from 73 till 76 (when it closed down) Then I did a year at lee Con until I left to go to Australia. Met my ex husband there who also worked at Carpenters Road (Maurice Holmes) - he worked there for years!! Anybody out there work at Carpenters Road in the 70's....

By Barbara Russell-White (Nee Evett)
On 31/01/2018

Hi, can anyone can remember Alan Abrams? He used to work in the powder store. It would be nice to see him again.  I was a bus driver there from '73 to '84. Any one who remembers me please get in touch thanks.

By F Williams
On 19/10/2017

I worked there from 1978 to 1988. I remember Les Miles, I knew his son Paul from school, he was a plastics dept troubleshooter. I also knew Bridie, a lovely lady, her son in law was Dick Chapman a setter on kingsize assembly.

Hi Brian, hope you're well mate. Do you still drink in the Golden Lion? And Freddie Williams. All these names are like a trip back in time. Steve Lapwood who I speak to on the internet regularly. Anyone remember me? Send me a line. All the best Mark

By Mark Wilson
On 07/10/2017

I was wondering if anyone remembers my mum? I'm sure she worked at Matchbox when I was a kid and I remember her bringing me home a fire engine one day. The rest of my family don't remember this. Her name was Valery Scotton or Valery Ewers before she married my late dad. Would be great to find out.

By Philip Scotton
On 05/09/2017

Hi Shaun, yes I remember Les Miles. I think he had some authority in the technical/maintenance area in the plastics department at Rochford. Would often see him walking through the dept. His daughter (perhaps your mum?) worked there for a while as a teenager, I think her name was Anita? Ring any bells?


By Tony Hart
On 19/08/2017

Hi, my grandad worked at Hackney and Rochford his name was Les Miles does any one remember him?

By Shaun Miles
On 22/04/2017

Hi yes its me Taz, alive and kicking, living in Hockley Essex married Chris from Lesney's

Thanks for responding so quickly to my email Taz - Anthony Hart would like to get in touch with anyone who remembers him. Use the email link I sent you if you would like to get in touch with him directly - Regards, Bob Stephen (RDCA Admin)

By Taz
On 19/03/2017

My name is Tony, I worked at Lesney's in Rochford for 10 years - 2 spells. I first started as an 18 year old on nights in summer 1971 - went onto days early '73. I left in 1977 then went back a couple of years later. The first period was definitely the better one. I was a 'powderman'/porter in the plastics department. It wasn't all plain sailing and the pay wasn't very good - had to do loads of overtime to make a decent wage, I remember the 3 day week, that was pretty tough - but it was mostly good, albeit from a nostalgic point of view. I remember the social events, Christmas parties and discos in the canteen and at Lee Con. I made a number of friends, even dated a few girls. I could reel off a list of names I remember. There's comments from two people below that ring a bell. Taz, I remember a tool setter in the plastics dept with that name in the early '70s, you'd previously lived in Tazmania, hence the nickname and I think you smoked roll-ups. Is this you? - must be, surely. And Brian Cook, I remember that name well. Yes you were a chargehand, white coat with green collar and cuffs. I think you had a moustache and were a very mild mannered nice guy. I long ago lost contact with everyone but wonder from time to time what became of them all. Would love to hear from anyone who remembers me!

By Anthony Hart
On 18/03/2017

I started work there 1970 before my 21st birthday, met my wife there, and it was like a family we all worked together, good times.

By Taz
On 15/01/2017

I started work at Lesney week ending 17/11/78 and left 14/9/79. My Clock No was KA142.

Started in Packing, then went on various machinery making toy parts. Last Dept was King Size.

By Lynne Taylor
On 14/12/2016

I was a chargehand at the Rochford factory and also played for the very succesfull football team. I worked there for ten years approx. and loved every minute.

By Brian Cook
On 28/07/2016

I have fond memories of the Lesney factory. I worked there as as a young teenager around about 1980.  I started in the moulding shop packing the plastic mouldings as they came out of the machines.  As a beginner I struggled to keep up with one machine while most of the women easily managed 2!  I eventually moved into the foundry keeping the women supplied with new castings for them to sort and pack.  My boss used to take me down to the pub in Rochford at dinner time, which was great as I couldn't be late back lol.  Happy days!

By Adrian English
On 15/02/2015

Hello just looking up the history of Match Box. My neighbour told me she used to work there in Rochford. Does anyone remember her? Her name is Nita Emmones.

By Maxine Sinclair
On 09/02/2015

"que hermoso lugar, me apasionan las historias de matchbox"

Hello, I wanted to say that I love all the stories about matchbox. I like anything that has to do with these stories. I have beautiful memories of my childhood playing with matchbox vehicles. I'm currently a collector. I would like to hear more stories from people who worked there. Thank for all the happiness you have given me. Greetings, Guillermo from Argentina.

By Guillermo Oscar Sanchez
On 04/06/2014

Hi, I'm hoping that if I say the name Bridie (Bridget) Preston someone will remember my nan. She worked here from the day it opened to the day it shut. When I was a little girl I use to wait at the gates for her sometimes with a dog. She loved working there. Such a shame it went.

By Jo Boosey
On 11/03/2014

I worked at Lesney in Rochford in the late 70s. The bus picked us up in Great Wakering. I remember attaching wheels to chassis as well but first I learnt to attach the wheels to wire. I remember the machines kept jamming. I couldn't keep up and had to turn the machine off periodically to catch up! As I left after my shift I used to buy geraniums from a fellow worker selling them outside and give them to my mother in law.

By Viv Bailleux
On 12/02/2014

My name is Shirley Horwood (nee Cohen), and I worked at Lesney in Rochford from 1972 until 1974.  They had free buses that picked up the workers at various bus stops and took us back again after work. There was another lady named Shirley Adlam, who started working the same day as I did, and we became good friends.  (She unfortunately passed away a few years ago). She worked there for a long time.

We started in the Hand Assembly Department, and worked our way up to the Hot Stamping Department, where we were in charge of 3 machines each.

If you require further info, please don't hesitate to contact me.

By Shirley Horwood
On 14/01/2014

I used to work for Lesney's in Hackney and have many happy memories from there. I worked there for 6 years and can say that they were the best six years of my life. Would love to know where everyone is now but alas I would be sure that a lot have past on.

By Thomas
On 31/12/2013

I used to work there as a bus driver. If there is anyone else out there please get in touch.

By Mr F W Williams
On 18/09/2013

I remember Lesneys/Matchbox as my neighbour worked at the factory. My wife used to have 'Outwork' which entailed fixing the wire wheels to the chassis of the model cars. We used to have boxes of part assembled cars all over the place but it brought in a bit of well needed income at the time.

By Len Bickford
On 16/03/2013
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