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Saturday, 30 October 2010

Rochford - Matchbox and the Lesney Estate

Until the early 1980s Rochford was the main production site for Matchbox cars and similar metal toys. At its peak up to 2000 people were employed at the factory site where the Lesney Estate now exists. I believe Roche Avenue, which now leads directly on to the Estate was a dead end, and the main vehicle access was Leecon Way. The work was tedious and repetitive and required nimble fingers! Because of this, and a system of flexible working hours, many of the workers were working Mums. My Mother worked there in the lead up to Christmas to help pay for us demanding kids' presents! As a kid, growing up in the 1970s, I distinctly remember the London type buses which provided transport for staff in the Rayleigh and Southend areas. Whilst the work was mundane and the pay average I believe Lesney Products was a good, paternalistic, employer. Who would lay on such a travel to work scheme these days? Sadly such overheads probably sowed the seeds of Lesney's downfall and eventually the company, despite many efforts to retain a business in England, fell victim to the cheap labour, but good production techniques, being offered by China. Now only a road name reminds us of the past. There is much more information about Lesney, including attempts to provide better road access to the factory which were resisted by the Campaigners of the 1970s, on a website I've linked which can be accessed by clicking on the title to this post.


  1. i worked at lesney/matchbox from 1978to1988 it was a good company to work for until the chinese took over , from the start in 1982 it was their intentions to take all operations to the far east. the money was above average for our area , and there were perks such as staff shop and canteen which was heavily subsidised ,i met jack odell on many occasions , he was a decent man and when rochford closed he even contacted some of the rochford staff to work at ponders end . other staff had the option to go to rugby . the highlight for rochford was being awarded the queens award for industry in 1977

  2. I remember in about 1982/3 working night shift at Matchbox, breaking endless Ford Sierras off their stalks and piling in trays, to the sound of Spandau Ballet's "True".