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British Toy Companies : Wells Brimtoy (part 2)


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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  1. Roger Gillham
    August 15th, 2010 at 15:18 | #1

    I am currently researching a book on toy boats and although they made small plastic boats post 2ndWW I have not been able to ascertain if they made any tinplate boats in the 1920’30′s.
    Anybody any knowledge please.

  2. dave
    August 19th, 2010 at 12:41 | #2

    Hi there Roger lets hope we can help you out on this quest – for my part I am aware that Wells produced a tinplate/clockwork paddle boat. This had a permanent key the end of which was shaped as smoke, the key being located in the funnel of the boat. Had a detailed tinprinted deck and superstructure and came with 2 paddle wheels to its sides and a rudder at the stern.
    Wells also produced a tinplate/clockwork Hydro-Jet Speedboat c1950 which came in red/blue, not sure if it came in any other colourway. Again with detailed tinprinting and a length of c25cm.
    Lastly I believe they may have produced a friction drive carpet toy of a tinplate battleship in grey with detailed tinprinting although this did have a plastic superstructure to it.
    As always, apart from the speedboat, dates are always a bit vague and sods law says the one you do know for definate is not of the time frame you need – sorry about that.
    Hope this is of some use Rog.
    And if anyone else can shed any light on this subject for Roger then please get in touch I’m sure it would be appreciated.

  3. Roger Gillham
    February 17th, 2011 at 20:04 | #3

    Dave, Thanks for reply, sorry for late response. I have since found an early tinplate boat c.1926 and post-war a printed tinplate boat and a plastic cabin cruiser. What I have noticed ios that c.mid-1950s they had a factory in Holyhead, Anglesey, North Wales. Boats branded as Welsotoys. Nothing else found.

  4. dave
    February 19th, 2011 at 21:16 | #4

    Nice to hear from you again Roger, can’t believe its almost six months since your first visit here ! and yes Welsotoys boxes did come with the Holyhead address and again as far as I know came bearing the A.Wells & Co. Ltd makers name but I’ve not really followed that through. I assume your cabin cruiser is the one bearing the model no. 167 with red lower and white superstructure with the plastic key to operate the clockwork motor. Gosh what a cheap looking model that is compared to the early Wells/Brimtoy models ! Hope you’ll keep dropping in with any updates, all the best – David.

  5. ian herd
    July 20th, 2011 at 22:56 | #5

    Dave,I have just discovered your webb site and was wondering if you could help me with a metal toy I was given 55years ago.Its an army style tank,with aclockwork mechanism which when wound up travells a short distance then flips over on its back ,rerights itsself and repeats this movement.It measures about four inches long by two inches high.There is a small makers mark which says made in Great Britain and the letters MAR toys.Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

  6. Charlotte Lawrence
    July 29th, 2011 at 14:31 | #6

    Hi there i am currently volunteering at a toy museum and am having a bit of a hard time dating a piece and i thought you might be able to help.

    I believe it to be Wells because of its Balloon tyres and seeing as you seem to know quite a bit about the company you might know when they started producing this type of product.
    It is a tinplate clockwork Tipper Truck – British made Lorry is green, cream, detailed tinprinting including balloon wheels, clockwork operation with permanent key, 26cm

    even a guess would be great, all the best!

  7. dave
    July 29th, 2011 at 18:27 | #7

    Hi Charlotte, from your description and size it does indeed match that of a Wells tipping lorry. Cream chassis with permanent key, green cab and back with cream lining. Balloon wheels size 5 x 19 and measuring some 26cm in length. You don’t mention it but should come with a tinplate driver-in. Usually dated to pre-war but if you say 1940 you will be there or there abouts. Hope that helps – David.

  8. dave
    July 29th, 2011 at 19:32 | #8

    Ian, that flippin’ tank – I wonder if thats what the German Infantryman said when he saw one coming towards him - is usually referred to as a ‘turnover tank’. The maker is actually MARX TOYS. Marx (USA) made a turnover tank No.3 which one tends to see come up for auction more frequently that the Marx (GB) No.5 version. The British tank has detailed tinprinting in red, yellow and green with the number ’5′ prominent to its front face and is fitted with a permanent key. It is also fitted with a turret from which protrude two small cannon pointing forwards. As for value, baring in mind the depressed market, the USA version is the more popular and on average is making around the £30-£40 mark at auction whereas the British one probably half that figure, but as always it depends on condition and who wants it at the time.
    All the best Ian, hope my description matches your model or you have one I’m not familiar with, David.

  9. Rodney
    October 16th, 2011 at 13:08 | #9

    I have just obtained two Welsotoys telephone money boxes, one blue and one red along with one box. The bodies and hand sets are plastic but the base and internal dividing panel between the money compartment and the clockwork bell mechanism are tin.
    Do you know if these were produced in any other colours please?

  10. dave
    November 4th, 2011 at 19:45 | #10

    Rod, not 100% certain on this but I do think they only came in red and blue colourway. Classed as the ‘Mechanical Telephone Money Box’ by Welsotoys model #9/249. Unfortunately I don’t have a box to confirm this but if you check on yours I’m pretty sure the pictures on the box only show the telephones in those two colours. If anyone knows any different please drop us a line.
    All the best, David.

  11. Ray Wheatley
    March 8th, 2012 at 10:32 | #11

    David., I was interested and pleased to find information about Brimtoy, I lived not far from where they were manufactured in Chingford, this research was prompted because I have in my possession a clockwork car A Bentley type design which I have had since a child early 50′s.
    It’s in good condition still works well as I have a key. Any idea of its value would be a great help.
    Hope you can help regard Ray

  12. paul
    April 28th, 2013 at 12:25 | #12

    hello ive just pick up a vintage growling tiger game boxed but can,t find any info it was made by wells & co brim toys

  13. dave
    May 4th, 2013 at 10:58 | #13

    Hi Paul ….. Not come across this item of yours before, can I ask you to send me a couple of pics which may help me identify it.
    Cheers, David

  14. dave
    May 4th, 2013 at 12:24 | #14

    Ray …. looking through the site and I came across your question minus any respose ! I may have deleted it by mistake … or dare I say not responded in the first place .. heaven forbid !
    Without a pic its hard to be specific as Wells Brimtoy produced a couple of limousines which could fit the bill although both came fitted with a permanent key ! so I will generalise if I may. One such limousine was pre-war, was usually found in blue/black colourway and would normally sell for around the £80 – £100 mark. The other one I am thinking of came in cream/blue colourway and was fitted with a tinplate driver. The vehicle roof did not extend over the driver but judst enclosed the rear section of the car. Again this vehicle would sell for a similar amount at auction but as always price is determined by several factors the prime consideration being condition.
    Thanks for visiting the site, David.

  15. Michael
    August 7th, 2013 at 19:03 | #15

    I am selling things my late aunt had in her flat and came across a Brimtoy pockettoy a Stop, Go, Ring Trolley Bus Nd 516 in box in fantastic condition . Unfortunately haven’t got the key. How much do you think I will get for it. Regards

  16. dave
    August 10th, 2013 at 10:28 | #16

    Hello Mike, I said some time ago that I would STOP giving price guides but as REQUESTS keep on coming in I will do my best – please bear in mind that it only my opinion and best guess ! Trouble is no two people ever have the same idea as to the condition of an item. What to you may seem excellent to a serious collector may not seem so. The box carries as much value as the item it holds, put the two together and the value rises. Without ‘hands on’ its almost impossible to state the true value of any item but HOLD TIGHT PLEASE and here goes. Almost forgot, don’t forget that prices generally are lower now than at any time for a few years but I would still say that a Brimtoy Pocketoy Trolleybus boxed, in excellent condition, should still make somewhere around the £100 mark. Now I’ve said that and read you question again it has to be in good working order ! so you need to check the motor is working etc.
    Hope that helps, won’t give you enough to retire on but if you wait a bit THERE MAY BE A FEW MORE ALONG AT ANY MINUTE !, Cheers, David

  17. Michael
    August 21st, 2013 at 17:17 | #17

    Thank you very much for you answer. It does work, we managed to find a key (not the original one but one that made it do exactly as it says it does. The box is a bit bent, but we have been looking around and thought around the £75.00 – £100.00. I would love to keep it but it belonged to my husbands late aunt as I said amongst other thousands of things we found so it has to be sold and split within the family. thanks once again. Regards Michael

  18. dave
    August 25th, 2013 at 20:55 | #18

    No problem Mike, glad I could be of some help.

  19. November 27th, 2014 at 10:34 | #19

    Good morning, and thanks for a wonderful site. Some Wells o’ London toys are marked BCM Wells. Any idea who or what BCM means? Thanks, Graeme

  20. dave
    December 9th, 2014 at 10:48 | #20

    Graeme hi there, sorry to be a while in answering but had a big birthday, a very big birthday the other week so we went away, not sure if it was to celebrate or to forget it this milestone !!
    BCM/WELLS good question to which I have no answer just now.

    To be honest I’ve only come across it on the early train sets. The type face is always in upper case so I’ve always assumed it referred to a company name. Initially I thought it referred back to BMT (British Metal & Toy Manf.) where the ‘B’ stood for British, the ‘M’ obviously stood for Metal but what was ‘C’ ? Then I thought of ‘B’ = Brimtoy but what to make then of ‘C’ & ‘M’ ?
    Looking at BCM amongst the toy companies doesn’t help much either. BCM at Derby produced cast metal toy space and cowboy guns in the main but they were considerably later.
    The only reference I have to BCM where the dates would fit were a company based in London, W.C.1. producing board games as British Card Manufacturers. These games carried the printed BCM name along with the name of the game eg : BCM/Sorry & BCM/Carsoc, just as in BCM/WELLS.
    So is it simply that BCM produced the card boxes for Wells trains, it may make sense as the early boxes carried no makers name for the toy included.
    If anyone can confirm this or shed any further light on the issue then both Graeme and myself would be delighted to here from you. David.

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