THE world's first friction match has been remade as part of an art project in memory of Stockton's greatest inventor.

Dr Joe McGinnis, senior science lecturer at Teesside University, has recreated the match which was invented by Stockton High Street druggist and chemist John Walker in 1827, although he never received any money or fame for the breakthrough invention in his lifetime.

His story has provided inspiration for photographic artist Sarah Pickering who has been photographing the recreated match.

Her images will be displayed as part of a 38-metre wide photographic work on Stockton's Castlegate Shopping Centre on Thursday, June 25.

The banner display will replace an existing visual work of art at the Castlegate Centre which depicts Teesside's most famous landmarks and the plan is to commission a new work of art every two years.

Ms Pickering, from Durham, said she had strong family connections with Stockton and used to visit as a child. The story of the town's 'forgotten' inventor provided powerful inspiration, she explained.

She said: "The matches produce this beautiful light. It's not like a modern match, it's more sparky. It's also nice that the first ever photograph was in 1827, so there's a symmetry there for the two inventions."

Ms Pickering explained that Dr McGinnis had to slightly change John Walker's formula so it would adhere to the wood and had been intensely involved in the project.

"I think it's been interesting for him too. He was really interested in the formula and the science but I was saying, 'no, don't change the beautiful light the match makes.'"

John Walker was born in Stockton in 1781 and went to the town's grammar school, eventually setting up his own small business as chemist and druggist at 59, High Street in 1818.

Chemists knew how to create mixtures which would ignite, but the difficulty was finding a way to transmit the flame to wood so a flame would burn slowly, a problem Walker solved.

He sold boxes of matches for one shilling along with pieces of double-folded sandpaper, but he did not patent the invention so others could make it freely. He received no popular recognition for the breakthrough in his lifetime and died in Stockton on May 1, 1859. He was buried in the grounds of St Mary's Church in Norton, near Stockton.