Toy Works, Leisure Industries and Oak Leaf
by Rebecca Green
Toy Works catalogue cover (undated, pre 1974, shows phone number introduced in 1973)
Toy Works dolls houses, made of hardboard with brightly coloured printed exteriors, were made during the 1970s and early 1980s.
Gillian Kernon wrote to the company and its former chairman, Lolek Holzer, in 2001, and received the following information from Mr Holzer. Toy Works had been established in 1940 by his father, Mr Rudolf Holzer, a refugee from Europe and a banker by profession, and Mr Oscar Zimmerman, another refugee, who was a timber merchant. They were later joined by Mr Horace Abbott, a wood turner. They started a small workshop in London to produce spigots for darts and other small toy components, including, from 1942, skipping rope handles. The workshop then moved out of London, first to High Wycombe, then to Pound Lane, Marlow, both in Buckinghamshire. Soon after the move to Marlow, Rudolf Holzer died, and his son Lolek Holzer took over. The firm then employed about 25-30 people. Marion Osborne's research in the trade journal Games and Toys revealed that in 1962, while still at Marlow, Toy Works introduced a 3-tier model garage.
Lolek Holzer, from the 1975 Toy Works catalogue
Lolek Holzer moved the firm to Bideford, North Devon, in 1965. A new factory was specially built. The following year, 1966, they entered the nursery goods market, and Games and Toys mentions Toy Works farms and castles as well as garages. There was still no mention of dolls houses in trade journals in 1967, but a 3-storey house sold on ebay is believed to have been bought in 1969 in Glasgow. So dolls houses were probably introduced in 1968 or 1969. In a note in the International Dolls House News in Summer 1981, collector Ann Wyatt identified a reader's mystery dolls house as made by Leisure Industries Ltd, whose products were sold under the Toy Works and Oak Leaf labels.* Ann Wyatt had received the information from Leisure Industries that they had been making dolls houses for about 15 years, and sold through mail order and trading stamp catalogues a lot.
The address was Clovelly Road, Handycross, Bideford, Devon, from 1966 to 1980; from 1978, Toy Works also had premises 3 miles away, at Alverdiscott Rd, Industrial Estate, Bideford. The company name L Holzer & Co Ltd was also registered at Clovelly Rd Bideford 2544 from 1970-1975. Billiard or snooker tables were a major product, and when snooker became popular, Mr Holzer registered the name Pot Black and involved the then world champion, Steve Davies.
In a 1973 ad for a Manufacturing Director, the company described itself as “the leading wooden toy manufacturer in the UK with an impressive record of growth and profitability.” The following year, 1974, a newspaper report noted that a Midland Bank subsidiary had invested in excess of £100,000 in Toy Works; turnover of Toy Works was then running at over £3m.
The name Leisure Industries was introduced in September 1979, and the company went public under this name in 1981. Gillian and I both have a 1981 Leisure Industries catalogue, which shows that the name Toy Works was retained for nursery furniture, toys including puppets, garages and dolls houses; Pot Black was used for the snooker tables, and Oak Leaf had been introduced as the name of a new range of dolls houses. (It seems that they may have registered companies under all of these names, as the name Oak Leaf Ltd was also registered in September 1979.)
In June 1982, a newspaper report stated that “Leisure Industries Group, the toy manufacturer which now specializes in snooker tables, has comfortably exceeded the profit forecast made at the time of its placing last March on the Unlisted Securities Market with pre-tax profits of £576,000 in the year to March, against £482,000. ...
Mr Lolek Holzer, chairman, said it was difficult to make a profit forecast for the present year as much of the business was seasonal, but the group was currently experiencing a greater than ever demand for many of its products. There was a 22 per cent jump in sales to £5.46m, with a significant widening of the distribution pattern from mainly mail order to other major retail outlets in the high street. Stated earnings per share rose from 16.15p to 21.20p.
Plans for the year 1983-84 are taking firm shape, the chairman said, while there were new categories of products scheduled to be introduced at the end of the present year. Their identity remains a mystery, with the board only prepared to say that it is not in the toy field and that launch costs will not exceed £30,000.”
However, Leisure Industries / Toy Works was bought out by a billiard table manufacturing company called Riley in 1983. Riley concentrated on snooker tables, and did not continue with the dolls houses and other similar toys. They did not prosper - 90 out of 240 workers were laid off in 1984. Leisure Industries was then acquired by a former Toy Works employee, Mr A. Loze, in 1987, and named Pot Black (UK) Ltd. Mr Loze wrote to Marion Osborne in 1988 with the information that he had intended to launch several dolls houses, but the idea had fallen through. When Mr Loze retired in 2000, Pot Black was bought by the Tandem Group plc, and continued to make pool and billiard tables.
* (Gillian Kernon shared the information which she and Ann Wyatt had received from Leisure Industries with the IDHN. Some appeared in an article in Dec 2000/Jan 2001 written by the editor of IDHN, who had apparently not seen enough proof to convince him that they were indeed one firm. Gillian added further information in a letter published in IDHN in Aug/Sept 2001.)
Toy Works Dolls Houses
Marion Osborne and Gillian Kernon have shared Toy Works and Oak Leaf catalogues and leaflets from 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1980 and 1984, and as I mentioned, Gillian and I have the 1981 catalogue. (If you have other catalogues, we would love to hear from you!) From these catalogues, and also from ebay listings of other models, we can identify the following dolls houses made by Toy Works.
In the 1973 Toy Works catalogue, the dolls houses available were:
D01 Dolls House
It has an opening front and the roof lifts off.
Note the "Amendment to decoration", saying it is now decorated in Tudor style, unlike the house photographed for the catalogue.This model has the yellow plastic door typical of Toy Works dolls houses, but has windows that swing open on a central horizontal pivot.
Just as I was writing this, a new member emailed a photo of her childhood dolls house for identification. Imagine my delight to realise that it was a Toy Works D01 - with Tudor style decoration! Here it is:
Toy Works D01 with Tudor decoration © Dianne P
The windows and shutters remained the same, and probably the door too, but the lithographed decoration was completely changed.
D03 Dolls House
An open plan design, completely open at the front. The furniture supplied with it looks like Blue-Box or similar Hong Kong-made plastic furniture.
Toy Works D03 Dolls house: above, front view, below: roof showing printed tile pattern. Photos courtesy Marion Osborne
D04 Tudor Dolls House
With an opening front - the first model we know of with the typical Toy Works yellow plastic shutters. This model appears in the Hamleys toy shop catalogue for 1973/4, where it is called "Village House", and described as "a most attractive little dolls' house with four rooms, stairs, windows and hinged front." It was sold empty, but Hamleys packaged sets of Lundby furniture for it.
Note that the Toy Works catalogue says that the inside is fully decorated, although it does not show the interior.
This strange little house popped up on ebay: it appears to be a Toy Works D04 that someone has extended.
Front of the extended Toy Works D04 dolls house. Photo © ebay seller bettytheboss
The interior is decorated, with printed flooring as well as printed furnishings on the walls:
Upper room of the extended Toy Works dolls house, showing brightly coloured floor and wall decorations. The extension appears to have been done in the 1970s, with contemporary wallpaper applied to the added walls. Photos © ebay seller bettytheboss
Downstairs room of the extended Toy Works dolls house, with a typical 1970s colour scheme of green and orange. Photo © ebay seller bettytheboss
Upstairs under the eaves of the extended Toy Works dolls house. This seems to be a children's bedroom or playroom, going by the teddy bear and other toys printed on the wall. Photo © ebay seller bettytheboss
The 'Village House' (Toy Works D04) from Hamleys 1973/4 catalogue. Some of the printed flooring can be seen in the photo of the interior - it appears to be identical to the flooring in the extended house shown above.
Another house seen on ebay appears to be an earlier, pre 1973, Toy Works D04. The yellow door with white frame and pediment, and the yellow shutters with blue window frames, are identical to those used on the 1973 D04. The exterior decoration, however, is completely different. This model has a grey stone design on the ground floor and a clapboard or weatherboard design on the upper storeys. The roof is green rather than red, and the plants have large, bright red flowers. Like the D01, this model seems to have been redesigned later in Tudor style.
Toy Works D04, pre 1973? Photo © Cleo
Inside, the printed wall decorations are identical to the extended D04 shown above, but the flooring designs are different.
Interior of Toy Works D04, pre 1973? Photo © Cleo
D08 Dolls House
A large dolls house, also decorated in Tudor style. The front opens in two parts.
Like the D04, it is fully decorated inside, as we can see in Gilly's photo of her D08:
Interior of front opening Toy Works D08 © Gilly
5104 Dolls House
Is unusual for Toy Works, as it is completely made of plastic. It came packed flat, and snapped together.
The windows do look like smaller versions of the typical Toy Works clear plastic two-pane outward opening windows, as we see on the D08 (above) in the same catalogue.The door is also similar in design, though a different colour.
Gillian Kernon's images of the dolls houses in the 1974 Toy Works catalogue were published in an article in the International Dolls House News in Dec 2000 / Jan 2001. Unfortunately, repairs to her home mean that Gillian is unable to lay her hands on the originals, so I show here the image of D09 Regency Dolls House, as published in IDHN. The D04 and D10 models were also shown in this catalogue.
D09 Regency Dolls House is a 3 storey, traditional red brick dolls house. It is front opening, has the same round window as the D04 and appears to have the same outward opening, two pane clear plastic windows as the D04 and D08. Without seeing the original catalogue (or an actual dolls house!), it's not possible to say what colour the door and shutters are.
Cover of the Wooden Toys 1975 Toy Works catalogue
Marion Osborne has also shared scans of the 1975 catalogue. It includes a letter from Lolek Holzer in which he talks about the importance of featured packaging; it also shows his photo and signature. In describing the effect of the new packaging on sales figures, Mr Holzer mentions "our many customers abroad", indicating that Toy Works products were exported, too.
The 1975 catalogue shows five dolls houses. By now, Toy Works dolls houses are no longer front-opening; instead, they are open at the back. Inside, they only have printed flooring; the walls are now plain.
D01 Rose Cottage
There is still a model numbered D01 in 1975, but it is quite different from the D01 in the 1973 catalogue. It now has a name: Rose Cottage, and instead of having a gable at the front, has a simple pitched roof with side gables. The house is wider and deeper, has four rooms, and the door has moved to the centre. The shutters are now the yellow plastic opening ones, also used on the D04 and D08 models, and while the decoration is still Tudor, it is simpler than in 1973.
Interior of the 1975 D01 Rose Cottage
D04/1 Avon Dolls House
The D04 model has the same dimensions in 1975 as it had in 1973, but it has a new name - it is now the Avon Dolls House, and the interior and exterior decorations have changed. The ground floor is now red brick, instead of the earlier yellow stone or brick. The pediment above the front door has gone, allowing the window in the first floor to be lowered slightly, and the printed window at attic level now has two panes. The plants are simplified - there are just two potted shrubs by the front door, and the garden bed around the rest of the house has gone. The window frames are now white instead of blue, although the same two pane, clear plastic outward opening windows are used, along with the yellow plastic shutters.
1975 Avon dolls house box
D10, Marlow Court Dolls House
Had probably been introduced in 1974. Here it is in the 1975 catalogue:
This house is slightly larger than the D08 in the 1973 catalogue - 21" x 11" x 15 3/4". The D08 is no longer available, and the D10 appears to be an updated version of it, with simpler exterior and interior decoration, a flat lintel instead of a pediment above the front door, and fewer plants. (Although the lines around the floors look black here, they are actually green.)
The 1975 catalogue shows two new models, D11 Park Manor and D14 Sandhurst. (What happened to D12 and D13, I wonder?)
D11 Park Manor Dolls House
Exterior of the D11 Park Manor Dolls House, 1975
The D11 Park Manor dolls house is large, measuring 29" x 14.5" x 18.5". The garage is incorporated into the house, giving an extra room above it. Like the 1973 D01, the D11 has centre pivot windows, and the shutters are part of the printed design, rather than the yellow plastic opening shutters used on the D01, D04 and D10. The front door is red, rather than the usual yellow (probably because the area around the door is coloured yellow).
Interior of the D11 Park Manor Dolls House, 1975
D14 Sandhurst Dolls House
The D14 Sandhurst dolls house is slightly smaller than the D11 Park Manor, and the carport is not incorporated into the house. It measures 26.5" x 15" x 15". Like the D11, the windows are the centre pivot type, however the door is the usual yellow plastic with moulded panels. The roof hangs lower at the back than on the D11, but lifts off to make access easier.
Interior of the D14 Sandhurst Dolls House, 1975
Children playing with the D14 Sandhurst dolls house, from the 1975 catalogue
Note that while the dolls houses in the 1973 and 1974 catalogues were called Tudor or Regency, if they had a name at all, each model from 1976 on was given an individual name, usually an English place name. Marlow Court was no doubt inspired by the years that Toy Works spent in Marlow, Bucks; Avon could have been named after the river in Warwickshire (as a later model called Stratford suggests), or the River Avon in Devon, Toy Works' location at that time.
In the 1976 catalogue, the models D01 Rose Cottage, D04 Avon Dolls House and D14 Sandhurst dolls house are all still available. There is just one new model shown, D18 Tudor Hall.
D18 Tudor Hall
Exterior of D18 Tudor Hall, 1976
Interior of D18 Tudor Hall, 1976, above, as shown in the catalogue; below, the D18 I bought recently in Sydney - the stairs, windows, front door and most shutters are missing, but more details of the flooring can be seen.
The Littlewoods mail order catalogue for 1976 shows two Toy Works dolls houses, one familiar and one not. They are not named as Toy Works, but the upper one is D01 Rose Cottage:
Toy Works dolls houses in the Littlewoods catalogue for 1976
The other one is similar in size and layout to D14 Sandhurst, but it is decorated in Tudor style and has the usual Toy Works two pane, clear plastic outward opening windows and yellow plastic shutters. The door is placed in the centre of the ground floor, rather than in a porch on the right, as in the Sandhurst.
Unknown Toy Works model, Littlewoods catalogue 1976
Perhaps if we had other Toy Works catalogues, we would find this model - or perhaps it was made exclusively for Littlewoods? Perhaps this would explain some of the model numbers missing from Toy Works catalogues, that they were produced for individual clients and were not available to general trade?
The Argos mail order catalogue also listed a Toy Works dolls house in 1976. It is identified as Toy Works, but is also a familiar model, the D01 Rose Cottage:
D01 Rose Cottage in the 1976 Argos catalogue
A Toy Works dolls house even appeared on TV the following year! In the episode 'A Change is as Good as a Rest' of the popular British TV sitcom Are You Being Served, the cast, who usually work in the ladies' and gents' clothing departments, are transferred to the toy department. Among the toys on display is the D04 Avon dolls house:
Scene from A Change is as Good as a Rest, episode 5/2 of Are You Being Served, 1977
1977 - 1980
The next catalogue I have is for 1981. If you have catalogues for any of the years 1977, 1978, 1979 or 1980, please contact us! The 1981 catalogue includes the Oak Leaf range - the Oak Leaf dolls houses have the numbers D37, D41 and D43. So models D19 to D36 were probably released between 1977 and 1980. Some have appeared on ebay in their original boxes, providing some information to fill the gap.
D32 April Cottage
D32 April Cottage is a small, four-room dolls house with no garage. The exterior decoration is stucco, with stone quoining on the corners, printed stone lintels above the windows, a printed arched pediment over the front door, and a printed arched window above that. While D01 Rose Cottage only had very small roses (if that's what they are!), D32 April Cottage is covered with climbing roses. The windows have the usual yellow plastic shutters, and the front door is also yellow plastic.
D32 April Cottage: above, exterior; below, interior. Photos © ebay seller tv_rots_my_head
This house was sold with its original box, allowing us to identify the packaging used during these years. While in 1975, the boxes were fully decorated - blue all over, with print on most sides, the D32 comes in a plain cardboard box with a yellow label attached to it:
Original box for Toy Works D32 April Cottage, ca 1977-1980 © ebay seller tv_rots_my_head
Other dolls houses have appeared with the same packaging, including D01 Rose Cottage, which shows that it was still available in these years, and that the printed decoration had changed slightly. The ground floor now has a stonework design, with arched lintels printed above the windows. The printed windows now have diamond lattices, instead of the earlier rectangular panes, the "garden" has more path and less grass, and there is a name plaque by the front door. Inside, the upper floors are now yellow.
Toy Works Rose Cottage dolls house - original box from ca 1977-1980. Photo © Paul & Anne Bateman
Toy Works Rose Cottage - interior and exterior decoration ca 1977-80. Photos © Paul & Anne Bateman
Another model not previously seen, the Stratford, was sold in the same packaging and so probably dates from 1977-1980. Unfortunately, the model number is not printed on the front of the box. The Stratford shares some features with the 1976 D18 Tudor Hall, having a garage with outward opening double doors incorporated into the house, and an overhanging upper floor, although in Tudor Hall, only one bay of the upper floor extended out over the ground floor (as well as having a higher roof).
Original box of Toy Works 'Stratford' dolls house. Photo © ebay seller xmonkeyx13x
1981 - Leisure Industries Catalogue
Three lots of dolls houses and furniture are shown in this catalogue. One uses the name Toy Works, one is the Oak Leaf range, and there is also the Stately Home Collection.
Toy Works My First Home
There were two models of the Toy Works My First Home - the House and the Lodge. The House has a larger baseboard than the Lodge, and therefore a larger garden area, and was supplied made up. The Lodge was supplied packed flat, to be made up at home.
Toy Works My First Home House, 1981. 15" x 26" x 15 3/8"
There are major differences from the earlier Toy Works range. These models have a similar roofline to that made famous by Lundby in its Gothenburg dolls houses, and familiar also from Brio, Lisa and Hanse dolls houses. The My First Home models are open at the front and both sides, rather than at the back - in this, they resemble Barton's Caroline's Home. The interior is fully decorated with wallpaper, carpet on the upper floor and parquet patterned flooring downstairs. They are also wired for lighting. The only recognisable Toy Works elements are the windows and shutters, although the yellow of the 1970s has been replaced by orangey-red shutters. The front door is similar to that used on earlier models, being made of plastic with moulded panels (however, it is now white and has 8 panels, rather than yellow with 6 panels).
Toy Works My First Home Lodge, 1981. 24 1/2" x 11 3/8" x 14 5/8"
Furniture was available for Toy Works My First Home, either as a boxed set of 7 room settings, or in individual room settings.
Toy Works My First Home Boxed Set, page 6 of the 1981 Leisure Industries catalogue
Toy Works My First Home Individual Sets, page 7 of the 1981 Leisure Industries catalogue
All of this furniture was made in West Germany, but by different manufacturers.
Box for Toy Works My First Home - Furniture to be Proud of! from the 1981 Leisure Industries Catalogue
The furniture in the boxed set is small scale Modella made by the Hermann Wader Spielwarenfabrik, which had purchased Modella in 1976.
1976 ad for Hermann Wader Modella set © diepuppenstubensammlerin
Toy Works My First Home boxed furniture: Kitchen, Modella range by Hermann Wader
Toy Works My First Home boxed furniture: Bathroom, Modella range by Hermann Wader
Toy Works My First Home boxed furniture: Lounge, Modella range by Hermann Wader
Toy Works My First Home boxed furniture: Dining room, Modella range by Hermann Wader
Toy Works My First Home boxed furniture: Master Bedroom, Modella range by Hermann Wader
Toy Works My First Home boxed furniture: Children's Den, Modella range by Hermann Wader
Toy Works My First Home boxed furniture: Garden, Modella range by Hermann Wader
The furniture in the individual blister packs is by Jean of West Germany.
The sets available were:
1306 Dining Room
1309 Children's Den
Not pictured in the catalogue are 1312, Light Set with three lights, and 1311, My First Home Family. The dolls shown in the catalogue photo of My First Home Lodge are the Hueckel dolls sold with the Oak Leaf Range. Perhaps they were also sold as part of the My First Home range.
Oak Leaf Dolls Houses and Furnishings
D43 Oak Leaf Lodge
If you've been thinking that the Toy Works My First Home dolls houses look like Oak Leaf houses, you're right. The My First Home Lodge has exactly the same dimensions and design as the Oak Leaf Lodge, which is also packed flat for making up at home.
D37/9 Oak Leaf Doll's House
The Oak Leaf Doll's House is 3 3/4" wider than the My First Home House - it has a carport and balcony on the right side. However, the 'garden' area in front of the house is smaller, so the My First Home House is 3 1/2" deeper than the Oak Leaf House. The interior decorations of both Oak Leaf houses are the same as in the My First Home houses.
So what are the differences? The Oak Leaf Lodge has olive green shutters and the Oak Leaf House has yellow shutters, instead of the orangey-red colour used on the My First Home models. The balcony railing on the Oak Leaf Lodge is also olive green. On the Oak Leaf House, the balcony railing is not solid - it is brown in colour, and gives the impression of being made of wooden planks with gaps between them. The front door of the Oak Leaf House is also brown.
The back of the Oak Leaf House has printed decoration of windows, shutters, a back door and shrubs and vines climbing up the stone walls. I don't know whether the My First Homes models are similarly decorated, as the backs are not shown in the catalogue. The Oak Leaf Doll's House is slightly more expensive than the My First Home House - £15.07 compared to £14.21 (wholesale prices). I don't know how the Oak Leaf Lodge price (£12.74) compares to My First Home Lodge, as, strangely, My First Home Lodge is not included in the price list.
Box for the Oak Leaf Doll's House, from the 1981 Leisure Industries catalogue
There was also a chalet in the Oak Leaf range:
D41 The Oak Leaf Chalet.
14 7/8" x 17" x 11 5/8"
While the furniture available for the My First Home range was all plastic, the Oak Leaf Luxury Doll's House Furniture was largely made from wood, with fabric, metal, ceramics and some plastic also used. The catalogue describes it as "Individually designed room settings, manufactured to the highest quality and finest detail, designed to the scale of approximately 3/4" to 1'. Available in an attractive fully illustrated window style carton."
We don't know who designed the furniture. It shows strong similarities to the furniture of Lisa, in particular (and some Lisa and Hanse pieces are almost identical), but whether that is because the same designer(s) were involved, the styles were copied, or the same real-life furniture designs were taken as the models, is unknown.
Lisa children's blackboard/bookcase
Oak Leaf Children's Den set. Photo © Béatrice Dassonville
We do know where some pieces of Oak Leaf furniture were made: collectors Béatrice Dassonville and Claire Quick have shared the information that pieces of Oak Leaf furniture carry labels saying 'Oak Leaf Made in Taiwan'. Pieces found with this label include some from the Master Bedroom set, the Children's Den set, and the Kitchen set.
'Oak Leaf Made in Taiwan' labels on the Children's Den set. Photo © Béatrice Dassonville
Sets were packaged in boxes labelled 'Oak Leaf Luxury Dolls House Furniture'. The tiny writing at the bottom of the bathroom box reads 'Designed and ?? in UK exclusively for Oak Leaf Bideford Devon'. Could the word I can't read be 'handmade'?
Boxed OLA 6 Bathroom Setting, courtesy ebay seller
Boxed OLA 6 Dining Room Setting, courtesy ebay seller
Sets very similar, or even identical, to Oak Leaf were also sold by newsagents and stationers W H Smith in Value Packs. Were these Oak Leaf, or copies? Or perhaps the remaining stock of Oak Leaf furniture sold off by Riley, after they bought Leisure Industries in 1983, and repackaged?
Value Packs of ? Oak Leaf furniture, courtesy ebay seller
Oak Leaf items available in the 1981 Leisure Industries catalogue were:
OLA 1 Kitchen Setting
OLA 2 Dining Room Setting
OLA 3 Lounge Setting
OLA 4 Master Bedroom Setting
OLA 5 Children's Den Setting
OLA 6 Bathroom Setting
OLA 7 4 Light Set
These lights may have been made by Sufa of Sweden. Sufa supplied lights to many dolls house manufacturers, including Barton for Caroline's Home, Lisa, Lundby, etc.
OLA 9 Oak Leaf Family
These dolls are made by the West German Firm Hückel (Hueckel). Strangely, the price list shows "OLA 9 Family (5 figures)", and here there are only 4. Perhaps the baby wouldn't pose - it does appear in the 1984 Oak Leaf leaflet:
OLA 10, Battery cap and lead, and OLA 11, Transformer, are also available in the 1981 catalogue, but are not pictured. OLA 12-16 were available in the 1980 Oak Leaf leaflet, but are no longer supplied in 1981.
OLA 12 Piano, OLA 13 Welsh Dresser, OLA 14 Writing Bureau, OLA 15 Rocking Chair, and OLA 16 Grandfather Clock, from the 1980 Oak Leaf leaflet.
Four other sets were available in 1981:
OLA 17 Real Ceramic Bathroom
OLA 32 Four Poster Bed Set
OLA 33 Nursery Set
OLA 34 Garden Set
The Stately Home Collection
By 1981, the dolls house hobby for adults and older children had taken off, with a focus on 1/12th scale and 'antique' styles. Leisure Industries catered for this market by carrying the Stately Home Collection of period furniture, made in plastic in 1" to 1' scale by Mobistyl of Spain. They described this range as reflecting "the essence and style of the Georgian period, where good taste and excellence prevailed. Two room settings, The Adam and the Chippendale, are available. Each room setting is tastefully decorated and fully wired for lighting." The dimensions were 18 3/8" x 9 7/8" x 10 1/8".
The Adam room setting
The Chippendale room setting
Furniture for the room settings was available in room sets or as individual pieces.
Furniture sets in the Stately Home Collection. Left, top to bottom: 300 Dining Room, 303 Reception, 304 Study. Right, top to bottom: 305 Lounge, 306 Dressing Room, 307 Morning Room.
No packaging is shown for this range in the 1981 Leisure Industries catalogue. Was it, like the Toy Works My First Home furniture sets, packaged under one of the Leisure Industries' names, or sold in original Mobistyl packaging?
So you think you might have a Toy Works dolls house?
If you have a dolls house that matches the features of one shown in a Toy Works catalogue, even if it's missing doors, windows or shutters, you still have a clear identification. But we don't have catalogues for all years, nor do we have original boxes for all dolls houses from D01 to D43 (and possibly beyond).
Toy Works wasn't the only dolls house manufacturer in the UK, or even in Europe, making printed hardboard dolls houses in the 1970s. Other companies such as Park Toys, Playcraft and even Gee Bee also made dolls houses which are not always easy to distinguish from Toy Works. In the Netherlands, Dutch company SIO produced dolls houses which are so similar to Toy Works models that Dutch collector Karin Wester wonders whether the married couple who designed the SIO dolls houses, Rokus van Blokland and Corry Mobach, also designed the Toy Works dolls houses. I am contacting Lolek Holzer to ask him about this.
Compare this SIO Home (luckily named clearly on the front!) with the Toy Works D03 from 1973:
SIO Home © diepuppenstubensammlerin
SIO also made dolls houses in half-timbered style, vakwerk in Dutch:
SIO half-timbered style dolls house © Priscilla
Open back and interior of SIO half-timbered style dolls house © Dick and Lia
Park Toys made printed hardboard dolls houses very like the Toy Works models - and they also named their models after British places such as Worcester, Sandringham, Gwent, Radnor, Mayfair and Surrey.
Park Toys Worcester Dolls House original box. Photo © Marion Osborne
Park Toys Worcester Dolls House flooring. Photo © Marion Osborne
Playcraft, a subsidiary of Mettoy, included very similar Tudor-type dolls houses in their range, and also printed furnishing on the walls:
Playcraft dolls house in the Littlewoods 1969/70 mail order catalogue
Playcraft dolls house with textured orange exterior and printed furnishings inside. Photo © ebay seller busy_numba_1_mum
Late 1970s Gee Bee houses have printed designs on the exterior:
Gee Bee lithographed hardboard dolls house. Photo © Suzi McCourt
Several features of this model make it easy to identify as Gee Bee, especially the metal-framed windows. It is also clearly a development from Gee Bee DH/8, the Tudor Cottage, even retaining the wavy eaves and ridgecapping of earlier versions of that model.
There are some common features of Toy Works dolls houses, apart from the printed hardboard which most are made from, which can help to distinguish them from these other makes. Yellow plastic shutters and clear plastic two pane windows which open outward, are common. (They are also commonly missing on played-with dolls houses!)
Windows and shutters on left: 1973 Toy Works D08; right: 1975 D04/1 Avon dolls house
Yellow shutters and clear windows on the Oak Leaf House. Photo left © Béatrice Dassonville, right © Deaun
We have seen that other colours were used in 1981 on the Toy Works My First Home house, and on the Oak Leaf Lodge:
Orangey-red shutters on Toy Works My First Home Lodge
Olive green shutters on Oak Leaf Lodge
We have also seen that Toy Works used single pane plastic windows which open on a central pivot, in some models from the mid 1970s. (The Mettoy lithographed tin modern flat roof dolls house also uses these.)
Centre pivot windows on Toy Works dolls houses D01 from 1973, left, and D14 Sandhurst from 1975, right.
Park Toys windows are quite different. All the Park Toys models shown in chapter 14 of Marion Osborne's The Book of Tri-Ang Dolls' Houses 1919-1971 have clear plastic windows moulded into eight panes:
Park Toys Worcester Dolls House: detail of windows from inside the front. Photo © Marion Osborne
As shown above, the Gee Bee windows are also quite different. However, Playcraft used a variety of windows in their dolls houses. The windows and shutters in this dolls house, believed to be Playcraft, look identical to the usual Toy Works ones:
Playcraft? dolls house. Photo © Lis Garner
Most Toy Works dolls houses have yellow plastic doors moulded into 6 panels, four smaller ones at the top and two larger ones at the bottom.
Toy Works yellow plastic front door with triangular plastic pediment in 1973, left, and flat lintel in 1975, right.
By 1981, the doors used in the Toy Works My First Home and Oak Leaf ranges had 8 moulded panels, six small ones and 2 larger ones:
8 panel doors on, left to right, Toy Works My First Home House, Oak Leaf House and Oak Leaf Lodge
Toy Works garage doors are also yellow, and have horizontal lines and two rectangular openings at the top:
Yellow plastic garage door on Toy Works D14 Sandhurst dolls house
The two Playcraft dolls houses shown above which have garages appear to use the same garage doors as the Toy Works dolls houses, and the SIO vakwerk house does too.
While Park Toys also used yellow plastic front doors, theirs have moulded planks and a cut-out diamond-shaped "window" and letters slot:
Park Toys Worcester Dolls House: detail of front door. Photo © Marion Osborne
Park Toys garage doors were sometimes yellow and sometimes red. Like the Park Toys front doors, they have vertical lines, but do not have any openings cut in them:
Park Toys Mayfair dolls house ©Wendy Brown, courtesy Marion Osborne
For more Park Toys dolls houses, see Marion Osborne''The Book of Tri-Ang Dolls' Houses 1919-1971', Chapter 14.
And again, if you have or know of Toy Works catalogues, ads, or original packaging showing model names and numbers of dolls houses not included here, please let us know!