Preston Park Museum

Art Deco print of Preston Park Museum by Abby Owen, a local artist

Preston Park is a 100-acre public park in Preston-on-Tees, England. Nestled alongside the River Tees, Preston Hall, a former Georgian gentleman’s residence and once home to local industrial magnate Robert Ropner, houses a vast collection of artefacts which tell the story of Stockton-On-Tees. It is about 4 miles from the centre of Stockton.

You can visit the Museum’s own web site here

Preston Park Visitor Guide

Here is the Museum’s Visitor Guide.



John Walker exhibits

On the first floor of the Museum is a glass cabinet containing 14 artefacts that illustrate the story of John Walker’s invention :

  1. Matchboxes, 1830s. Wood, paper, sulphur, potash, phosphorus. 2011.0127.1-6. John Waller’s invention of ‘friction lights’ or matches, allowing the safe generation of fire using a product that was portable and reliable, was to have a major impact worldwide. But his invention did not bring Walker fame and fortune. His idea was seized upon by Samuel Jones of London who began to manufacture the friction lights, calling them Lucifers. The production of Lucifers was taken over by R. Bell and Co. then Bryant and May.
  2. Copy of a poster advertising John Walker, Chymist and Druggist of Stockton. T52060. John Walker introduced himself in this poster, originally printed in 1819, saying ‘he has begun Business in a shop near the Red Lion, lately occupied by Mr William Sleigh, Watchmaker, and he hopes, by Attention, to obtain a Proportion of Public Favour. PHYSICIANS’ PRESCRIPTIONS COMPOUNDED, AND medicines Made up for Horses and Cattle.’
  3. Ledger of Thomas Jennett of Stockton, including records of rental income from John Walker, 1800s. 1985.0141.1
  4. Pestle and mortar, 1779. Ceramic. 2011.0286, 0285
  5. Crown Devon plate ‘Do you want any matches’ 1940-1965. Ceramic. 2011.0288
  6. Reproduction print entitled 17th Century Seller of Sulpher Matches 2010.0298
  7. Flintlock Tinder Pistols, late 18th Century. Metal, steel, brass, wood. 1925.SB01.025, 1925.SB01.024. These pistols were used in wealthy households from the 18th Century until the invention of friction matches. Instead of the gun barrel there is a candle holder, and legs so the pistol could be stood upright. When the trigger was pulled, the sparks produced lit the tinder from which the candle could be quickly lit.
  8. Tinder box, 1700-1840. Copper alloy. 1987.1012
  9. Tinder box and contents, 1770-1830. Tin. 2011.0121
  10. Items 11 and 12

    Amadou Fungus, 2011.0125. This fungus, which can be found on dead trees, has remarkable properties! It is considered to be one of the best tinders to be found in nature, able to catch fire from even a tiny spark. Used to make fire for thousands of years, it would have been found in almost every tinder box. Tinder boxes became rare after the 1820s with the invention of the friction match.

  11. Matches in a tin, 1820s. Tin, wood, chemicals, 2011.0275, 0122. In 1827 Walker began selling his ‘friction lights’ or matches at 1s 2d per 1,000. His day book records the sale of matches to Marshall Fowler of Preston Hall in 1828.
  12. Early John Walker matches in a test tube, 1827. Glass, wood, chemicals. 2011.0120
  13. Matchboxes. 1990.0044, 1986.1048, 1983.1187, 1/2
  14. John Walker commemorative mugs, 1976, 1981, clay. 2011.0287, 2011.0115

John Walker shop

John Walker shop, Preston Park Museum

On the Victorian street in the Museum there is a reconstruction of a Chemists shop which has John Walker’s name over the door. The shop contains lots of jars of chemical compounds and ingredients, but nothing related to match making.

Note that this is an 1895 shop, not a replica of his shop at 59 High Street.

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