‘Bolenium Bill’ travels back from the US to his Dagenham roots

Leeanne Westwood, from Valence House, with Bolenium Bill

Leeanne Westwood, from Valence House, with Bolenium Bill - Credit: Archant

A figurine that harks back to the borough’s booming manufacturing days has been flown 5,000 miles back home.

‘Bolenium Bill’ was a fondly-known advertising character used between 1915 and 1995 for an industrial clothing company called Bolenium.

From its humble beginnings in West Ham, the company moved to Selina’s Lane in Dagenham in 1940 to avoid the bombing in the East End and remained there until 1975 when it was rehoused in Seven Kings, Ilford.

Bolenium manufactured overalls, boiler suits, bib and braces, jackets, trousers, warehouse coats and plenty of overalls for grocers, painters and more.

Their mascot, Bill, which was used across shop signs and on top of advertising displays, has for many years been almost impossible to track down and even harder to purchase.

But historians Ann Robey and Jonathan Clarke have managed to obtain one such model from Arizona in the US and now ‘Bolenium Bill’ has taken up residence at Valence House.

His discovery was through a project called Made in Barking and Dagenham, which is currently funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures, a programme to help museums develop their collections,

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The project aims to identify and collect objects that reflect the borough’s rich industrial heritage.

So far a huge range of industrial activity has been uncovered and historians working on the project say that Barking and Dagenham’s manufacturing profile is probably unrivalled by any other London borough.

They are also calling out for local people to contribute other objects, posters, photos and historic materials associated with former industries here to add to the museum’s collection.