1d Vending Machine –  by Andrew Watkins

During a recent visit to the loft space in our Library building we came across an interesting item which had lain there, neglected and forgotten for many years. Under a thick layer of dust, dirt and mould, we could just make out that it was a vending machine for Bryant and May’s matches. It seemed a shame to leave it there so I volunteered to take it home to restore it so that it could go on display at the Museum.

Under the layers of dirt I was surprised to see that it was patented by a company called “Watkins” of Shrewsbury. This obviously got my interest as a fellow Watkins so I decided to do some research on them.

The Watkins Company made “Automatic Delivery Machines” from their factory in Shrewsbury and patented the original version in 1904. Although slightly different from our machine, the general layout and mechanism are almost identical. Further research on the Web has shown their machines were used to vend many different small items with examples known for air gun pellets, snooker cue chalk, gramophone needles and of course boxes of matches.

I created some replica Bryant and May match boxes to fill the machine and make it look more authentic though I have blocked the coin slot to stop people emptying it!

We have now put it on the wall inside the sweet shop so please have a look at it next time you are at the Museum!

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