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Ken Sequin’s Badge Collection

January 30, 2019
by the gentle author

From hundreds in his magnificent collection, Ken Sequin kindly selected badges for me with a local connection – and they comprise an unexpected history of the East End.

Button badges were invented in 1896, when Benjamin Whitehead of Whitehead & Hoag in New York filed a patent for a celluloid-covered metal badge, swiftly opening offices in London, Toronto & Sydney as the craze went global.

Adopted first as a means of advertising by tobacco companies, button badges were quickly exploited for political, religious and fund-raising purposes by all kinds of clubs and organisations.

Kingsland Rd Costermongers Association manufactured by E. Simons, late nineteenth century – one of the rarest badges, possibly a unique survivor

Souvenir of Dirty Dick’s in Bishopsgate, twenties or thirties

St John at Hackney Parochial School founded in 1275 is one of the oldest in the country, early twentieth century

Woolwich Arsenal Football Club, 1907

Hackney Band Club, hat badge c1873, one of the most radical Working Men’s Clubs

Boer War, 1900 – one of the very earliest button badges in this country

Reverse of previous badge, note local manufacturer

Royal Eye Hospital, Moorfields – early twentieth century

Lea Bridge Speedway Supporters’ Club – 1928-32

Dartford Pageant, 1932

Possibly the Regal Edmonton, 1934

Bethnal Green Men’s Institute, Gymnastics, Turin St, early twentieth century

Temperance and Salvation Army buttons, early twentieth century

Dockers Trade Union Badge, established 1889

A cache of badges found in an allotment shed in Walthamstow

World War II propaganda badges

Salvage. Dulwich Council

St George’s Sunday School, Weslyan Mission House, in the eighteen-nineties it took over Wilton’s Music Hall

Reverse of previous badge

WWII National Air Raid Precautions Animals Committee, dog’s identity badge

World War II badges for fundraising clubs to build airplanes

WWII Fundraising club to buy a destroyer

First Labour Mayor of Poplar, Will Crooks was elected MP for Woolwich in 1902

Reverse of buttons above

Dulwich & District Defence League, a Home Front battalion established in 1915

The Mildmay Hospital in Shoreditch was named after Francis Bingham Mildmay in 1890

Early twentieth century silver badge rewarding service in hospital ‘meals on wheels’ service

Barnado’s Young Helpers’ Badge with a portrait of the founder, early twentieth century

Tilbury Seamen’s Hospital, ‘For services rendered’ – possibly thirties

John Groom’s Crippleage & Flower Girls Mission, fund-raising rosettes, c 1900

Photographs copyright © Ken Sequin

You might also like to take a look at

John Gillman’s Bus Ticket Collection

Viscountess Boudica’s Domestic Appliances

Libby Hall’s Dog Photography Collection

Clive Murphy’s Matchbox Label Collection

Stephen Killicks’s Truman’s Beer Label Collection

Philip Mernick’s Cartes De Visites

12 Responses leave one →
  1. January 30, 2019

    I love these badges some are simple statements of the different ideas ,attitudes and interests that were shared by millions in times past. I remember there was a craze at primary school when we made our own from bottle tops and the cork inners and covered our pullovers with them but they were not statements but just bottle tops. Fortunately for the schools they stopped making the cork inner bit so it died out ! Thank you for sharing them with us

  2. January 30, 2019

    Wonderful collection, with so much history attached! Particularly like the aircraft badges. Ken Sequin was a visiting tutor at my art college years ago btw.

  3. Nicola Freshwater permalink
    January 30, 2019

    It’s possible that the Mildmay Chums badge may refer to the Mildmay Club at Newington Green. See the club website at for a description of last November’s remembrance of the Chums who fought in the First World War.

  4. Akkers permalink
    January 30, 2019

    Another great article. My Great Grandfather was a costermonger for a while in Hackney & Kingsland – I wonder if he ever had one of these badges.

  5. Lucy permalink
    January 30, 2019

    Vote for Crooks. Indeed.
    Wonderful to see these beautiful designs.

  6. Jonathan permalink
    January 30, 2019

    Oh my word. Wonderful!

  7. Jill Wilson permalink
    January 30, 2019

    Yup – another fascinating blog giving an insight into people’s concerns in past times…

    I particularly like the Temperance badge with the strong drink dragon being overcome by the sober and upright citizens!

  8. Mark permalink
    January 30, 2019

    Love a badge!!! Still do!
    If ever I joined somthing as a kid I eould say…. “Do you get a badge?!”

    I loved the oldest one… My family were living there then.

    Thank you

    Mark B

  9. Mark permalink
    January 30, 2019

    Just one more! (dislexic… sorry about spellings)
    My dad smuggled me in to Dirty Dicks around 1971.. I made a sticky stick up cup thing from a cigeret packet…. pull out the silver papper, pop the tissue paper in your mouth, chew it and get it all wet.
    Make a cup at one end and a flat kind of flyet at the outher…. then… fling it on the sealing!
    “Smack” They were stuck all over the place!

    Great pub… I think “Food Highjean” standards made them clean it up..but what a pub….
    The old petrifide cat skelington is still there hopfully.

  10. January 30, 2019

    Fascinating, especially the Walthamstow ones as I was born and raised there.

  11. Ron Bunting permalink
    February 3, 2019

    “vote for Crooks”!! do we have any choice in the matter?

  12. September 20, 2020

    I love the badges. Yes, the Mildmay Chums very likely refers to the Mildmay Radical Club on Newington Green – now the Mildmay Club and still going strong. In a room off the bar there’s aboard listing the Mildmay Chums, about sixty of them among them several who never came back from the Western Front.

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