The Poppy Factory is a factory in Richmond, London, where remembrance poppies are made. It was established in 1922 and makes approximately 36 million poppies each year. Lady Haig's Poppy Factory in Edinburgh was established in 1926 and makes approximately five million remembrance poppies each year.
Artificial poppies for the first poppy appeal in 1921 had been imported from France by Madame Anna Guérin, but in 1922 the Disabled Society, a charity established in 1920 by Major George Howson MC and Major Jack Cohen, received a grant of £2,000 from the British Legion to employ disabled ex-service personnel to make remembrance poppies in England. They set up in a former collar factory on the Old Kent Road in London. Soon the factory was employing 50 disabled veterans. The factory made a million poppies within two months.
In November 1924, the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) visited the Poppy Factory, which made 27 million poppies that year. Most of the employees were disabled, and by then there was a long waiting list for prospective employees.
The old collar factory eventually proved too small as demand increased, and in 1926 the factory moved to a disused brewery, the Lansdown Brewery in Petersham Road, Richmond. Housing for the workforce and their families was built on adjacent land and in 1932 the present factory was built. The original factory was demolished in 1972.
The Richmond factory is now operated by Royal British Legion through a separate company, The Royal British Legion Poppy Factory Ltd, and employs approximately 40 full-time workers, most of whom are disabled, who make the poppies throughout the year in preparation for Remembrancetide, the period of the annual Poppy Appeal. In addition, the charity employs approximately 90 home workers who live within 10 miles (16 km) of the factory. Total production is approximately 36 million poppies each year, although it has been as high as 45 million and there were once 365 workers.
The Richmond factory also makes approximately 80,000 poppy wreaths each year, including the wreaths laid by Queen Elizabeth, other members of the British Royal Family, and British politicians at the National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday. It also makes wooden tokens of remembrance (originally remembrance crosses, now a variety of shapes for different religions, including for 'no faith') and organises the Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey.
The premises are open to the public for guided tours. It also assists wounded, injured and sick ex-service men and women to find employment outside the factory.
Lady Haig's Poppy Factory
A separate factory, Lady Haig's Poppy Factory, was opened in Scotland in March 1926 at the suggestion of Countess Haig, wife of Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig. It grew from two employees in a former wood-chopping factory in the grounds of Whitefoord House to employ over 100 people by the mid-1930s, with a waiting list of over 300. In addition to the main task of making poppies, the employees made other goods by hand which were sold at three shops in Edinburgh and by a travelling shop throughout Scotland. The factory moved to its current premises, a former printing works, in 1965. Staffing levels and the range of good made at the factory gradually declined after the Second World War, and increasing annual deficits were funded by contributions from the Earl Haig Fund Scotland. In 1998, the factory became an independent charitable company, The Lady Haig Poppy Factory Ltd, owned by Earl Haig Fund Scotland Ltd.
The factory is operated by the Earl Haig Fund Scotland and also employs ex-service personnel, many disabled, making five million remembrance poppies in Edinburgh each year, to a slightly different design with four-lobed petals rather than two for English poppies, and 8,000 wreaths.
Royal British Legion pin poppy
- "Veterans Minister visits Poppy Factory". A People In Defence news article. Ministry of Defence. 22 September 2011. Retrieved 10 November 2011.
- "The Poppy Factory: History". The Poppy Factory. Retrieved 10 November 2011.
- Philip Waller (2004). "Howson, George (1886–1936)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
- Jane Mower (27 October 2006). "Poppy factory passes test of time". BBC News Online. Retrieved 10 November 2011.
- "Factory History". Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory. Retrieved 10 November 2011.
- "How It's Done". Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory. Retrieved 10 November 2011.
- Official website: The Poppy Factory
- Official website: Lady Haig's Poppy Factory
- The Poppy Factory, BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 4 Extra blog
- The Poppy Factory, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 11am on 9 November 2011