The famous Matchbox toys were made by Lesney in factories by the River Lea on Lee Conservancy Road which were opened between 1957-69 (there’s an Andrews of Arcadia piece on them here and another on Vintage Diecasts).
During boom years, Lesney was the biggest employer in Hackney, with over 5000 employees. Sadly, the business declined in the 1970s, and the factories finally close in 1982. They remained derelict until they were demolished in early 2010.
I bought a Lesney matchbox – VW Beetle not included – to make a pinhole camera. Making a pinhole camera involves using a pin to make a tiny hole in foil on one side of the box (0.02 mm if you’re interested), attaching a film cartridge on one end and an empty take up spool on the other, then sealing everything with a lot of black insulation tape to minimise light leaks.
The camera is pretty primitive, but can make for beautiful results. I took photos on 35mm film (which fitted neatly inside the box) along the Hackney end of the river. The films are currently away for processing, and I’m interested to see what comes out.