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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. P.Chattell
    September 13th, 2013 at 15:29 | #19

    I worked at Wells Brimtoy from1948 to around the mid fifties and further to the above i seem to remember the clock firm was called Parnell or suchlike

  20. November 27th, 2014 at 10:34 | #20

    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

  21. dave
    December 9th, 2014 at 10:48 | #21

    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.

  22. Alice
    December 23rd, 2014 at 11:47 | #22

    hi, I’ve found a small wind up washing machine by wells brimtoy it’s in it’s original box and also has a number on it presuming that it is a limited edition toy it’s tin and states on the box it really washes your dolls clothes

  23. April 3rd, 2015 at 13:48 | #23

    Hello David, I wonder can you help, I have just bought an old Wells Brimtoy `Prince Charming with Cinderella` clockwork toy. The item is complete and working, but there is a crack in Cinderella`s dress (blue with flecking) of about 3 cms in length. I wonder if you might know what sort of (plastic) material was used to make the toy as the nature of the material will dictate how I repair (what filler etc. I use). Thanks very much .. by the by, I have enjoyed reading through your website, all very interesting and you clearly have quite some knowledge of the Wells Company. Thanks in anticipation.

  24. dave
    April 6th, 2015 at 11:43 | #24

    This is the first time I have been asked this particular question and to be honest I don’t know the answer !
    Early plastics were not very stable, prone to warping etc so attempting to repair these early plastics is no easy matter, filling – rubbing down – colour matching – repainting – plus matching the flecking/glitter takes a lot of time and patience. You will need to separate the figures from the base as the repair will best be performed from the inside to minimise contamination to the outer surfaces.
    However I have to ask the question everyone else would – why bother ? The model itself is not uncommon so why not simply go out and source another complete model and stand it along side your damaged one. You will appreciate that what little value this models did have will be negated by the fact that it will judged to be in ‘restored’ condition. On the other hand you may like the challenge of bring it back to its ‘former glory’, as for myself I’m at that age Robert where I take the path of least resistance .. in this case it leads to a toy fair and the opening of a wallet !
    Best of luck in your restoration and sorry I can’t be of more practicable help, David.

  25. April 7th, 2015 at 11:13 | #25

    Thanks for your help Dave, much appreciated .. you might be right, might just be better to leave the model in unrestored condition (other than the one crack there is no issue at all, and the model is fully working, with original key). I am surprised to hear from you however that the model is not uncommon, I had thought that it was quite rare, but then again I stand to be corrected as my main area of collecting is Tri-ang clockwork and friction toys ! Thanks for your help, Robert

  26. dave
    April 7th, 2015 at 18:23 | #26

    Nice of you to get back on this and yes I still maintain the model is relatively common. However in saying that there were several colourways of both the Prince and indeed Cinderella so there will be a good chance that one or two of these multiple combinations will be hard to source. As to which that may be I have no idea as its a question that I have given no thought to .. until now …. maybe someone out there knows the answer ?
    Cheers, David.

  27. Simon
    April 26th, 2015 at 20:54 | #27


    I’ve seen the BCM prefix (with oblique) on a number of pottery items over the years and was puzzled too. I’ve just had a quick Google search and it turns out that it stands for ‘British Commercial Monomarks’ which, if I understand it correctly, enabled efficient distribution of mail, telegrams, etc. as a unique identification tool relevant to each company that paid for the service. Simply Google ‘British Commercial Monomarks’ for several sites. Hope that helps!


  28. dave
    May 14th, 2015 at 11:31 | #28

    Thanks for that Simon. You could well be right on this, looked it up as you suggest and it does make pretty good sense. Its a bit like some Companies today using a particular Postcode which is deemed to be more ‘acceptable’ for their brand than the one in which their company is actually located. It would seem that the BCM idea never really took off as it was hoped and yet it would seem it is still operational and hoping to have a resurgence.
    Thanks for the Heads-up once again, nice to know there is someone awake out there !
    All the best, David.

  29. Steven
    January 20th, 2016 at 05:04 | #29

    Hi I have just found Cinderella Rail Car in its original box ( box a bit worn ) but in great condition.
    Can you help with any info please and an approx. value.
    would it be worth selling in New Zealand or Britain.?

  30. dave
    January 26th, 2016 at 16:49 | #30

    Well done you Steve,

    The release of Walt Disney’s ‘Cinderella’ in 1950 was the opportunity to launch a raft of licensed products featuring characters from the film. In your case the Cinderella Rail Car Set was produced in the UK by Wells-Brimtoy and came complete in a cardboard picture box. (Pictured for those who haven’t seen this item before).
    Set comprised a tinprinted 4 wheeled railcar, 21cm., clockwork ‘O’ gauge mechanism which in turn operates the two composite figures of Gus and Jaq with tinplate arms.
    6 x sections of curved railroad track which when joined together form a circle upon which the mouse operated handcar can run.
    The tail of Lucifer the cat acts as the on-off switch.
    Although the hand cart turns up from time to time it is hard to find a boxed set regardless of the box condition.
    As regards value I’ve seen the hand cart on its own sell at auction for just over £100 several years ago.
    Boxed, I can find records of boxed sets selling for anywhere between £400 – £700 but again nothing in the recent time scale.
    As regards selling this item, I can see you’re in NZ and some might say with the internet it makes no difference but it will depend how it gets picked up best. I would suggest the toy market is stronger over here and indeed in the States than in NZ. If you are thinking of selling this item I would suggest you take more professional advice and contact the big toy auction houses who will be only to happy to advise.
    The other option is to go for that well known Internet auction site: list it visible on all international sites, start it at a price you would be happy to sell it for or alternatively at a ‘Buy It Now with Offers’.
    If I can be of further help just message, all the best, David.

  31. Tony
    January 14th, 2018 at 17:46 | #31

    I have 2 Wells ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ sets, one with a lead sheep and one with a plastic sheep – which is correct?

  32. dave
    January 27th, 2018 at 16:38 | #32

    Hi Tony, I think I might sit on the fence a little on this one. I know for certain that Wells Brimtoy produced the plastic ‘Mary had a little lamb’ figure with a clockwork mechanism which had a separate lamb which clipped onto the rear of Mary and was towed behind her as she moved. In every version I have come across the lamb was a DIECAST METAL model, I always assumed that in needed the weight so as not to tip over as it was being towed along. Obviously a plastic lamb would have much less weight and be prone to tip ? However simply because I have not come across a plastic lamb does not mean to say it is not correct.
    To sum up I would assume the metal lamb as being 100% correct.
    Hope that helps, David.

  33. Alan Martin
    September 12th, 2018 at 14:10 | #33

    Dear ,
    I have a large car clockwork in the Wells type of drive ,it appears a Rolls or a Bugatti but I only ever seen a blue on web and this is green wi gold litho graph.Has any one seen such a one and is it common ?

  34. dave
    September 16th, 2018 at 20:45 | #34

    Hi there Alan,
    Hope this is your model, would help me if you sent in a pic with your question.

    Wells (UK) pre-war tinplate clockwork Rolls Royce. Mid-green with dark green roof and driver in. Overall length of 18cm. A scarce model in comparison to the usual blue as you rightly gather and to be fair I haven’t seen one at auction for a good few years. The ones that came up would normally sell for around double the more common blue version and I would expect that differential to still apply.
    Hope that helps, David.

  35. Derek
    October 20th, 2019 at 15:36 | #35

    I have a Welsotoy with A Wells & Co ltd, Holyhead on the box. The toy in question is a clockwork Hovercraft code number 931, its plastic mores the pity. The clock still works and has its original key with it. The toy represents a hovercraft that once crossed the Solent made by Sauders Roe on the Isle of Wight, a SRN 2 with two props on the top. I have been trying to track down some info on this to no avail. Can you shed any light on it please?

  36. dave
    October 29th, 2019 at 10:40 | #36

    Phew Derek I’ve trawled through all me reference books, including my American ones – just in case – , past auction lists and results etc., etc., and can find no reference to this particular model. As you will have found out in your searches for this toy not many decent hovercraft models were produced, Marx (UK) did a couple of nice SRN5 civilian and a military version models, Telsalda did a plastic STL5 and Yone produced a clockwork model and I even came across the good old Hornby – Meccano ‘Hoverer’ but sad to say no Welsotoys model came to light. The trouble is that most Welsotoy items, because of their relatively low market value, are more often than not lumped in with other plastic items at auctions and as such little information comes to light. Also because Welsotoys produced these plastic toys in large numbers its hard to find any literature or catalogues which itemise them. Still I will keep looking to see if I can come up with any nuggets.
    Cheers, David.

  37. Terry Crain
    December 25th, 2021 at 20:02 | #37

    Wells-Brimtoy Ltd., had an agreement on December 11, 1963, for the manufacturing license for the Beatles/NEMS ‘Perpetual desk calendar on support.’ I am just trying to verify some images of that exact desk calendar. Does anyone have images they could share that were the Well-Brimtoy desk calendars? Thanks!

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