Born: John Walker was born at 104 High Street, Stockton-on-Tees on 29th May 1781. He was the third son of John Walker, a grocer and wine and spirit merchant, and Mary Peacock.


Educated: He was educated in Stockton. He was apprenticed to Watson Alcock, a Stockton surgeon, and he may also have received some medical training in London.


Married: John Walker never married.




Home: John Walker left Stockton to live in Durham and then York but later returned to spend the rest of his life in Stockton. His shop was at 59 High Street, Stockton-on-Tees. In his retirement he lived in the Square, Stockton.


Known for: In 1819, John Walker opened his own chemist’s and druggist’s shop on Stockton High Street. He was in the habit of experimenting with chemicals in his home and thus it was that he discovered a simple method of creating a flame. He began selling “friction lights” in 1827, although he may have invented them in 1826. These friction lights became known as safety matches, so John Walker was the man who invented matches. John Walker didn’t patent his invention, and gave up making and selling them after a few years. Samuel Jones of London copied Walker’s matches and began selling “Lucifers” with considerable success.


Died: John Walker died on 1st May 1859 and was buried in Norton churchyard.


Further Information: “John Walker (1789-1851) of Stockton-on-Tees: The Man Who Invented Friction Matches” Doreen Walker in Bulletin of the Cleveland and Teesside Local History Society vol. 31 (1976):   Dictionary of National Biography