Thursday, 07 July 2022

Caversham Heights Society

THE final meeting of Caversham Heights Society before the summer break featured a talk by Bob Welch entitled “Toys along the A4”.

When Bob started studying the subject, he was surprised to discover how many businesses involved in the toy trade were located near the A4, the road which links London with Avonmouth, with towns like Slough, Reading, Newbury, Bath and Bristol in between.

People collect old toys for many reasons.

Many toys are well-known, including the Hornby Dublo model railways. Other popular toys are Teddy bears (1900 onwards), dolls, Scalextric, Dinky toys, building sets like Bayko, Lego and Meccano and also electronic toys.

Bob had brought with him a number of old toys for display purposes and the members were able to indulge their nostalgia by examining them.

Bob discussed the places where manufacture and distribution of toys were to be found, along the A4, starting with Gamages store in Holborn, which had a good toy department and a superb Christmas catalogue published between 1878 and 1972.

He moved on to Fleet Street Micromodels, which specialised in tiny models.

Pollocks near Charing Cross sold toys from 1856, for a penny if plain, tuppence if coloured.

There is now a Pollocks Museum in Covent Garden, which has a range of old toys, including toy theatres.

Harrods of Knightsbridge produced a range of Christmas bears, dating from 1986.

Airfix in Wandsworth produced models for people to build, the most famous being its Spitfire model. Triang of Morden also produced a range of models.

Hasbro of Uxbridge produced a variety of toys, its most famous being the game of Monopoly.

Gerry Anderson, from Slough, was responsible for the Thunderbirds toys.

Cuisinaire blocks, a range of maths teaching toys, were made in Crown Street, Reading. The town also had a well-known dolls’ hospital, where dolls could be repaired.

Moving along the A4, we come to Marlborough, home of Pelhams Puppets, which were exported all over the world.

Bath was the home of Harbutts plasticene, invented by William Harbutt.

Finally, Aardman animations of Bristol was the invetors of the Wallace and Gromit puppets, made popular by a series of films made for television.

This was a fascinating talk, recalling memories of members’ childhoods.

The society will meet again in September and a full programme of talks is being arranged for the 2022/23 season.

Members meet every two or three weeks between September and April at Caversham Heights Methodist Church hall in Highmoor Road. Talks are on a variety of interesting subjects.

The society welcomes new members and is open to anyone. If you are interested in joining, call the membership secretary on 0118 947 997 or the society’s website, www.cavershamheights.org

Alan Bradbury

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