The Poppy Factory is a factory in Richmond, London, England, where remembrance poppies are made. It was founded in 1922 to offer employment opportunities to wounded soldiers returning from the First World War, creating remembrance products for the Royal Family and The Royal British Legion’s annual Poppy Appeal. It is operated by a company that is a registered charity which provides employment support to disabled veterans across England and Wales. The factory makes approximately 36 million 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's Unity Relief Fund to employ disabled ex-service personnel to make remembrance poppies in England. Later that year, Howson wrote to his parents, “I do not think it can be a great success, but it is worth trying. I consider the attempt ought to be made if only to give the disabled their chance.”
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.
Approximately 30 disabled veterans and disabled dependents of ex-service personnel are employed at the Richmond factory to hand-make remembrance poppies, wreaths and symbols. Together with around 30 home workers, they produce approximately 11 million poppies, 135 000 wreaths and 1.1 million remembrance symbols (originally remembrance crosses, now a variety of shapes for different religions, including for 'no faith') for The Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal, as well as special wreaths for the British Royal Family.
The Poppy Factory also provides individualised employment support to hundreds of ex-Service men and women with health conditions or impairments. A team of regional Employability Consultants work with veterans in their communities to provide career guidance, CV advice, interview coaching, opportunities with local employers and information about funding and training sources.
Around 62% of Poppy Factory veterans experienced mental health conditions and 58% reported physical health challenges, such as visual impairments and musculoskeletal problems. Many veterans have a combination of both mental and physical health challenges.
According to a recent report, the charity’s “Getting You Back to Work” employability programme has close fidelity to the IPS model of Supported Employment. Owing to this tailored approach, around 75% of Poppy Factory ‘clients’ remain in work for over 12 months.
The factory in Richmond is open to the public for guided tours.
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.
- The Poppy Factory Annual Review 2015 http://www.poppyfactory.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/AnnualReview2015.pdf
- The Poppy Factory Employment in Mind Report 2016 http://www.poppyfactory.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/MH_report_2016.pdf