British Xylonite War Memorials Return Home To Highams Park

The British Xylonite / Halex First and Second World War Memorial Plaques, unveiled in Highams Park Library
Memorial plaques now back in Highams Park

The War memorials for workers from a former Highams Park factory has been returned to the area. (Click on the images to enlarge them)

The memorial commemorates workers at the factory off Larkswood Road who were killed in the First and Second World Wars. The factory, which made an early form of plastic called Xylonite, closed in 1970 and production was moved to Suffolk, along with the war memorials.

The Highams Park Society traced the plaques to Brantham, where the factory moved to, with the help of war memorial expert Ian Wade from Chingford.

The local council there agreed to let the society bring the plaques back to the borough and they have now been installed in the Hale End Library in Castle Avenue, with funding from the Chingford Community Society.

Andrew Golds of the Highams Park Society and Iain Duncan Smith at the unveiling ceremony
Andrew Golds of the Highams Park Society and Iain Duncan Smith at the unveiling ceremony

They will be unveiled tomorrow (Friday 25th February), along with an exhibition on the history of the factory. Highams Park Society member Sandeep Christian said: "We thought it was important that the plaques were returned, because they had been in Highams Park for such a long time, from about 1919 until 1970".

"The library seemed the best place to put them because we wanted them in a place that was accessible to the public. Some of the names on the memorial are for people who still have relatives living in Highams Park".

The factory was opened in 1895 by American entrepreneur Levi Merriam, who made brushes, combs, knife handles jewellery and even false teeth, which reportedly tasted awful. The factory was a big local employer during the first part of the 20th century and more than 1,000 people worked there at its height.

The memorial commemorates workers at the factory off Larkswood Road who were killed in the First and Second World Wars. The factory, which made an early form of plastic called Xylonite, closed in 1970 and production was moved to Suffolk, along with the war memorials.

The Highams Park Society traced the plaques to Brantham, where the factory moved to, with the help of war memorial expert Ian Wade from Chingford.

Andrew Golds of the Highams Park Society and Iain Duncan Smith examine products made at the factory
Andrew Golds of the Highams Park Society and Iain Duncan Smith examine products made at the factory

In 1914, 425 workers joined up to fight in the First Word War but 40 did not return and a memorial to them was built in the grounds, with seven more names added after the Second World War.

Women took over many of the jobs that the men who joined the forces had left during the First and Second World Wars, making equipment for the forces, including thousands of table tennis balls to act as a lightweight filling for the wings of aeroplanes.

The plaques were unveiled by Iain Duncan Smith in Hale End Library yesterday (Friday 25th February). The ceremony was attended by around 150 Highams Park residents.

There could be little doubt of the enthusiasm for the return of the plaques to Highams Park. Indeed the project to have them returned home to a safe and public environment was almost overwhelmingly endorsed by everyone who came to know of it.

Pictures from this era, donated by the Vestry House Museum in Walthamstow, will be on display at the library after the unveiling

Photos courtesy of K. Ross

Article adapted from The Waltham Forest Guardian © Acknowledged

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Lost War Memorials return home to Highams Park

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