Archive for June, 2010

British Toy Companies : Wells Brimtoy (part 2)

June 3rd, 2010 37 comments


1932 And All That

In Part 1 we looked at the emergence of the companies which were eventually to come together to form the Wells-Brimtoy company which was to continue from 1932 through to the mid-1960’s.

It would appear that the works of Wells-Brimtoy came together under one roof at the ‘Progress Works’, Stirling Road, Walthamstow, E17, sometime after 1938 and continued in its by now established production of tin plate toys, in particular its ‘O’ gauge railway models.

The popularity of Wells-Brimtoy tinplate toys has never been in doubt but perhaps its the buses, trolleybuses and coaches which have the greatest appeal amongst the collectors of today.  It should be no surprise to find a history of model buses in the Brimtoy story when one looks at the geography of the area. Just around the corner from Stirling Road lies Blackhorse Lane, which from the early 1900’s was home to several omnibus companies. In 1908 the London General Omnibus Co. (LGOC) took-over the Vanguard Omnibus Co., who were already established on Blackhorse Lane. It was the LGOC who developed the ‘B-type’ omnibus which is regarded nowadays as being the first mass produced omnibus. In 1911 it went on to form Associated Equipment Co. Ltd. (A.E.C.) whos later collaboration with London Transport was to see the development of the RT and Routemaster buses. The buses and trolleybuses of Wells-Brimtoy were clearly meant to represent London Transport vehicles and indeed the double-deck bus was obviously based on the Routemaster.

Wells-Brimtoys popularity continued to grow along with its product lines and its sales and by 1949 it was employing around 700 workers. Interestingly enough although the two companies had come together under the one roof so to speak on much of their literature and packaging the two companies still had their seperate identities and continued to use both the ‘Wells ‘O’ London’ and the ‘Brimtoy’ trade marks. When Wells-Brimtoy went on to launch its ‘Pocketoy’ range the literature was clearly printed giving credit to three seperate companies of : A. Wells & Co. Ltd. / Brimtoy Ltd. / Wells-Brimtoy Distributors Ltd. Not only that but this new range of ‘Pocketoys’ was identified not as one might expect under the Wells-Brimtoy banner but instead under the Brimtoy brand. For it was the Brimtoy name that appeared on its boxed packaging together with the Brimtoy trade mark, as well as having the Brimtoy name emblazened on several of its bus advertising banners and was also featured on the sides of several lorry variants. Yet one can still see for instance the ‘Wells ‘O’ London’ trade mark on the side of the six-wheeled Brimtoy ‘Pocketoy’ bus ! Confused – I know I am, but perhapse the Brimtoy brand carried more clout than Wells ?

POCKETOY SERIES –       Wells-Brimtoy like many other toy producers after the war faced similar problems to those faced years earlier after WW1, not least amongst them was a severe shortage of raw materials, in this case tinplate, and when it was available the price was increasing at an alarming rate. W-Brimtoy needed to offset these shortages in raw materials whilst at the same time reducing its production costs and also meeting the massive demand at home for toys following the ending of the war. The result was the ‘Pocketoy’ series of vehicles which W-Brimtoy launched in 1952 which combined the latest plastic moulding methods along with traditional lithographed tinplate. The majority of the Pocketoy range was some 3.5″ in length but larger vehicles were produced and some continued to be produced entirely in tinplate. The majority of this series however did have one thing in common – the Bedford truck – which dominated the series throughout its production  with a range of colourful plastic cabs and chassis onto which was mounted an array of various tinplate ‘boxes’. Early Pocketoy lorries were based around the Bedford K type  which Bedford brought out in the late 30’s/early 40’s whilst the later Pocketoys used the Bedford RL model, more commonly known as the ‘Big Bedford’.

WELSOTOYS  – In much the same vein that Wells – Brimtoy ran their ‘Pocketoy’ series under the Brimtoy banner they then went on to launch another area of toys under the newly created ‘Welsotoys’ label rather than perhaps using just the Wells-Bimtoy name. ‘Welsotoys’ – which was sub-headed ‘Toys for Girls and Boys’ – was first used in 1955 and appeared on a multitude of toys including clockwork nursery rhyme figures, battery operated remote control cars, traditional tinplate vehicles and also on an increasing number of plastic toys and games made under license from various American companies. These toys featured many of the popular cartoon characters of the day including several Walt Disney favourites along with new television stars like Hanna-Barbera’s Fred Flintstone.

In compiling this history of Wells-Brimtoy, such that it is, I struggled somewhat  to find much information at all concerning the company throughout its lifetime and it was to get even worse when trying to find details of its demise ! Its not as though we are talking about an insignificant back street company so to find so little, indeed virtually nothing at all, about its closure seems incredible. What information I have come across is totally contradictory with at least two different dates for the companys closure with yet a third date given for an apparent take-over !

So I will publish what I have of ‘Part Two’ whilst I continue in my attempts to unravel the final years along with an invitation to anyone who may be able to offer any information on what happened to the company, or indeed add more ‘flesh to the bones’ to this story of Wells-Brimtoy to drop me a line, your comments would be greatly appreciated.

For further information and more pictures on the Pocketoy Series please see my seperate page … Wells Brimtoy – POCKETOY SERIES

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