Gee Bee Toys and Tudor Toys of Hull
by Rebecca Green
Gee Bee Dolls Houses ca 1946-1950s
DH6 Tudor Lodge, The Beeches
DH8 Tudor Cottage
DH9 Tudor House
DH10 Modern House
DH11 Riviera Villa (Chez Nous) and B1 Californian Bungalow
DH12 Swiss Cottage and DH14 Swiss Chalet (with garage)
DH15 Tudor Court and DH16 Manor Court
Identifying and Dating Gee Bee Dolls Houses
Cover of Tudor Toys catalogue, 1973.
Gee Bee dolls houses have long been popular with collectors. An article about a small cottage in the International Dolls House News issue of Summer 1983 was immediately followed by stories about identical cottages belonging to readers in Wales, Canada and other parts of England. In our photo gallery, it is now the 4th largest category of dolls house makers, after Lines Bros Triang, G & J Lines, and Hobbies. The search for information about the maker began in 1983, when June Miller contacted Hobbies (Dereham) Ltd, who gave her the name of Tudor Toys Ltd of Hull, and Ann Wyatt, after seeing the cottage illustrated on a box marked Gee Bee, found Gee Bee listed in a commercial directory until 1977/78, and Tudor Toys listed in the Hull phone book until 1979/80. Marion Osborne collected further information over many years of searching trade journals and catalogues, and a local Hull collector, Mrs Jean Hardwicke, was able to gather information from former workers at Gee Bee.
In addition to all these sources, I have recently discovered a wonderfully full and informative newspaper article published in The Hull Daily Mail in 1947, by a journalist who actually visited the Gee Bee factory and spoke to the makers. This is her report:
Demand for Hull Dolls Houses by Jean Pratt
(The Hull Daily Mail, Wednesday July 9, 1947, p 3)
"At a toy exhibition for the trade in Hull about which I wrote in this column recently, I heard that one of the loveliest toys on show – the doll’s house – was made in Hull. It seemed an unusual industry for Hull, even though there is a doll factory here, so I went along to see these doll’s houses being made.
There is nothing modern about the construction of the factory and some of the machinery is home-made, but it can certainly turn out good and unconventional doll’s houses.
Brains and hands behind the scheme are two ex-glovemakers, Mr Richard Bell, who was in the services during the war, and Mr Charles Goodeve, who learnt jig and tool making under the Government training scheme during the war.
Wives help too, for they are now expert painters and delight in making roses ramble over the walls of the houses – and work 12 hours a day at least, except on Wednesday night, which is “night out” for both families.
They started 15 months ago in a bombed-out shop in Mytongate – the only premises they could acquire at that time – and had to block up windows and clear rubble from the floor before they could get started. Now they have extended their premises, taking in an upper floor and back rooms, but are on the look-out for a bigger and better place.
This was not the only difficulty with which they were faced. They were allowed, when they started, 3,300 square feet of wood every three months; now they get none. They just have to make do with bits and pieces of wood they can pick up which do not require a licence.
Machinery was another difficulty, but here Mr Goodeve turned his wartime knowledge to advantage and set to and made his own machinery, some to his own design.
Although the premises may be poor, there is nothing poor about the red gable-roofed houses, white-washed walls and Tudor style front, with walled-in flower garden and metal windows which really do open and close.
They are so far removed from the conventional doll’s house, with its flat roof and box-like appearance, that they are remarkable.
It is nice, too, for any little Hull girl who is fortunate enough to acquire one to know that it was made in her home town; but just because they are made here it does not mean that the houses are easy to buy here, for the fame of these ex-glovemakers is spreading.”
(It’s interesting that the writer seemed to be more familiar with box-back type dolls houses than the Tudor style developed by companies like Triang and Amersham before the war.)
The Hull-based company this journalist visited was, of course, Gee Bee - the name was derived from the initials of Charles Goodeve and Richard (Dick) Bell. I searched online historical telephone directories, and found Gee Bee Toys in the 1947 directory at 11-12 Mytongate. From the journalist’s description, it’s clear that the buildings were not in good condition, having been bombed during the war. They are no longer standing, and Mytongate is now a large roundabout.
Gee Bee Toys entry in September 1947 telephone directory for Hull and surrounding regions.
I also searched family history sources, and learned that Charles Frederick Goodeve was born in Sculcoates, East Yorkshire, in 1915. He was the son of John Shuker Goodeve, a commercial traveller, and Emily Bennett. Charles’ grandfather, Frank Goodeve, had been born in Hampshire ca 1856, but moved to Hull, in Yorkshire, by 1877. He was a manufacturer’s clerk, and later, a timber clerk. Charles Goodeve’s uncles worked as sawmill labourers in Hull.
Charles Goodeve and Richard Bell were actually brothers-in-law: one of Charles’ sisters, Evelyn Morris Goodeve, married Richard Gunby Bell in 1935 (his father, also Richard Gunby Bell, was an engineer). Charles married Isabel Rokahr in 1939, just before the outbreak of war. It seems that neither couple had children, which may explain how they were later able to work for 12 hours a day.
Our other very rich source of information about Gee Bee is Mrs Jean Hardwicke’s report of her research in Hull (thanks to Marion Osborne for sharing this). A Hull local, and later a dolls house collector, she describes how, as a child, “With my nose pressed up against the window of Duggleby’s toyshop, fingers crossed, arms crossed, legs crossed, I wished, prayed, hoped in vain year after year for a GEEBEE shop at Christmas. I never got one. Every family I knew seemed to get something from GEEBEE, a fort, a castle, a garage, a farm, but I never knew anyone with a shop. How I wanted that shop!”
This childhood longing inspired her to research the history of Gee Bee, and the relationship between Gee Bee and the Tudor Toy Co, and by “adverts in the local free paper and a series of coincidences [she] managed to speak to various people connected to both the firms concerned.”
Jean Hardwicke writes that Mr Charles Goodeve, and Mr Richard Bell started the firm in 1946 with their army gratuities; their initials, G-B, formed the trademark Gee Bee. Mrs Hardwicke learned more about the Mytongate address: it was the premises of Johnson and Brennan, fireplace manufacturers. One of the people she spoke to was Dorothy Mitchell, who started at Gee Bee when it was still at its original location. She remembered the workforce at that time as consisting of “Mr G and Mr B, the two girls, Dorothy herself and Violet Price, and three apprentice boys, Ronnie Drewery, Ronnie Peel, and another lad. Unfortunately Dorothy cannot recall the other lad’s name.” Dorothy Mitchell did not mention Mrs Goodeve and Mrs Bell – had they perhaps tired of 12 hour days very quickly? Charles Goodeve and his first wife were divorced by 1952, when he and his second wife were married.
'Original sketch as drawn by Dorothy', from Jean Hardwicke's report on Gee Bee.
Dorothy Mitchell remembered the original dolls house, the same model described in the 1947 article: “Dorothy sketched the original house for me and explained about the “raised plastic flowers” which Violet did so well. The original house was the forerunner of the well-known DH/8 Tudor Cottage. The little extension was twice as long and the whole thing sat on a garden base which protruded by about 6 inches, this was completely surrounded by Violet’s flower beds and shrubs up to the wall, a path led up to the front door which again was lined by flowerbeds. It was open backed. The second style was twin gabled, again open at the back initially. The “plastic flowers” were not plastic at all, they were modeled out of glue, plaster, and sawdust. Both styles used Romside windows. The houses were packed into wooden crates with straw and sold mainly through Mr Pointer. The local large store, Hammonds, displayed a house filled with furniture and all lit up in their window one Christmas causing a lot of interest.”
“In 1948 Gee Bee moved to larger premises at Blundells Corner, as it was known locally. It was an old paint mill on the corner of Beverley Road and Spring Bank also known as Blundells Buildings or Blundells Mill. It was occupied on the top floor by Roy’s Dolls, a firm that made composition dolls and who also sold some through Pointer’s who were in the same building. Pointer’s of Hull was a well-established wholesaler selling all sorts, fancy goods, confectionery, dolls, and became one of the largest toy wholesalers in the North of England. He also sold the sweets from the local factory, Needlers.”
Ad for Pointer's (Dolls) Ltd in Games & Toys, June 1949. Courtesy Marion Osborne.
In the early years, Jean Hardwicke writes, Gee Bee “made little Welsh Dressers, wheelbarrows in the shape of a bluebird as well as dolls houses”, and “they also made some jigging men but storage conditions ruined the whole lot”. Perhaps the “jigging men” are the walking clowns show in the ad above? Another ad in Games and Toys in April 1953 also shows dolls’ furniture, including a fitted portable wardrobe and a wardrobe and cot combined, but whether they were made by Gee Bee or another firm, we can’t be sure.
Tudor Toys ad, Games & Toys April 1953, courtesy Marion Osborne. The fitted wardrobe and cot combined shown on the upper section of the page measured 16" x 13" x 5". I don't know why part of this section has been cut off in the copy.
In 1949, the buildings occupied by Gee Bee at Blundells Corner escaped a fire that destroyed two other buildings on the site – a newspaper report in The Hull Daily Mail (21 February 1949) describes how
“Four strong jets were used to prevent the outbreak reaching some terrace houses and a toy factory in which were nearly two gross of dolls houses. John Goodeve, of Laburnum-ave, engaged at the factory, told the Hull Daily Mail that at least 30 windows in the factory were cracked and many were broken by the heat.”
(A gross is twelve dozen, ie 144, so there were nearly 288 dolls houses in the factory in February 1949. This John Goodeve would have been Charles Goodeve’s brother, as their father, John Shuker Goodeve, had died in 1944.)
The premises destroyed by the fire were used as storage by a builders’ merchant. As well as this firm, and Roy’s Dolls, Blundells Buildings was occupied by other businesses including H W Pointer & Co’s wholesale confectioners and Pointer’s (Dolls) Ltd, toy wholesalers, and the Tudor Toy Company, manufacturers and exporters. Marion Osborne noted that in “an article in Games & Toys dated January 1950, Mr Pointer was a managing director of Tudor Toys as well as the confectionery and doll wholesaling firms.”
Ad for Tudor Toy Co in the Toy Trader and Exporter, May 1950. Courtesy Marion Osborne.
Although Pointer’s Dolls and the Tudor Toy Co were listed for many years in fair catalogues, telephone directories and trade journals as manufacturers, former workers at Gee Bee have clarified, to Jean Hardwicke and to me, that Mr Pointer was a wholesaler, not a manufacturer. Jean Hardwicke writes, “In spite of the write-ups in the Games and Toys, Toy Trader, etc, neither Mr Pointer nor his company Tudor Toys made any toys whatsoever and he never had any factory making toys, he was a wholesaler. Gee Bee sold their toys almost exclusively through Mr Pointer who created Tudor Toy Company as a trading name. Mr Pointer was reputed to be one of the biggest toy wholesalers in the North of England. The toys from Gee Bee were shipped all over the world by Pointers.” Pointer's (Hull) Ltd is shown as "Toy and Stationery Wholesalers" in late 1960s telephone directories.
Tudor Toy Co Ltd display at a toy fair, as shown in the February 1951 issue of the Toy Trader and Exporter. Courtesy Marion Osborne.
Harold William Pointer had started his wholesale confectionery business before the war, and continued it afterwards, until at least 1961. There was a family tradition of sales: his grandparents, Jane Elizabeth Pointer and her husband George, were grocers, from at least 1891, and his father Arnold William Pointer started life as a lithographic printer, but then became a grocer and fruiterer.
From the September 1956 issue of Games & Toys: "Pointer's (Dolls) Ltd., well-known Hull toy manufacturers and wholesalers, recently held a very successful Trade Show in Leicester. Our picture shows Mr H. W. Pointer with two young admirers in a corner of the showroom." Courtesy Marion Osborne.
Charles Goodeve and Richard Bell had the manufacturing and inventive skills. I have found two patents assigned to Gee Bee Toys, one in 1952 for a model garage with a working lift (C F Goodeve and R Bell, trading as Gee Bee Toys), and the other in 1969, for ‘components for the assembly of toy structures, eg dolls houses, garages’ (to Gee Bee Toys Ltd and C F Goodeve). Jean Hardwicke wrote that “Mr G and Mr B were light engineers, not joiners, and they produced the jigs needed to assemble the houses themselves (they were assembled upsidedown for the most part), and they developed the tooling and presses themselves too. When the factory inspectors came and said they needed to cut down on the dust in the workplace, they produced a Heath Robinson-type concoction to do just that! They invented a “rumbling” machine to smooth certain pieces of wood to save doing it by hand. They also developed the tooling to press out the windows, shutters, doors, stairs and blinds in the late fifties, these replaced the Romside ones, and were also sold through Hobbies of Dereham as Prestatyn Mnfg. Co.”
These windows were also mentioned in a trade journal in 1965, as “a range of dollshouse windows, both lattice and rectangular, simplicity in fixing, no nailing, made of metal. Send for samples to Prestyn Mnfg Co, Blundell Buildings, Beverley Rd, Hull.” Unfortunately, I haven’t seen the original report from the trade journal, so I’m not sure if it said they were new or if they were just promoting them again, and I am not sure of the spelling of the name. I have not found the name Prestatyn Manufacturing elsewhere. Despite what Mrs Hardwicke says, that name does not appear in Hobbies catalogues. Hobbies introduced the windows and doors used by Gee Bee in their 1965 Annual (published mid 1964) as ‘Easifit’ Door and Windows. There was a tin toy manufacturer based in London called Prestyn Manufacturing Co. This started in 1949, and was struck off the register of the Companies Registration Office in 1958. I had thought that this company might have moved to Hull and changed the focus of their production, but with no further evidence, I can’t be sure of that.
'Easifit' windows shown in the Hobbies 1965 Annual.
Mrs Hardwicke also learned that Gee Bee was a family concern, and several brothers were involved from time to time. (As we have seen, John Goodeve was engaged by Gee Bee in 1949.) “In the 1970s, Mr Lesley Bell was responsible for maintenance, the press tooling and jigs. At one point, a niece earned pocket money by assembling the little door handles; when she was small, her uncle Charles gave her a dolls house with LIGHTS in! Everyone who rang said how much they enjoyed working there, and Pointers’ staff too said that they enjoyed their time there.”In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the firm was employing about 40 people, and its rooms on the first, second and third floors of two buildings on Blundell’s Corner included a joiners’ workshop (with dust extraction), four workrooms, a spraying room, a canteen, two offices, three storerooms, and a room for rubbish. (This information is from fire certificates held in the Hull History Centre.)
Marion Osborne has shared a copy of an article about dolls houses in the magazine Building Design, (December 18, 1970 issue). It refers to both Tri-ang and Gee Bee as household names with a giant hold on the toy market. According to this article, Gee Bee was then marketing “six “Tudor” models from two up and two down designs to Swiss ski chalets. Chief Designer and company director Charles Goodeve, who began his Hull toy factory in 1946, uses hardboard and plywood and bright exteriors to catch the customer’s eye.”
Ad for Tudor Toys in Games & Toys, January 1977, showing lithographed exteriors. Courtesy Marion Osborne.
Sometime in the mid 1970s, Gee Bee moved from Blundell’s Buildings to premises at Sutton Fields, a few miles further out from the centre of Hull, and started printing colour papers to decorate the exterior and interior of the dolls houses. We see dolls houses with the litho print exteriors in an ad (above) published in Games & Toys in January 1977, so this innovation must have started by 1976 at the latest. Perhaps both the move and the new finishes were associated with a change in personnel. Richard Bell died in early 1976, and Charles Goodeve died in 1978, from pneumonia and chronic lymphatic leukaemia, so he must have been unwell for some time. I would love to know who was directing the changes around this time, but the only clue we currently have comes in a source which also tells us that the changes were not successful: Gee Bee Toys Ltd was wound up and liquidated between June 1979 and September 1980. The name of the director on the liquidation notices in the gazette is S A Hunter, whose name I have not come across elsewhere. Around this time also, according to Jean Hardwicke, Mr Pointer sold out to Sinclairs, and from 1978 to 1981 the remainder of the stock of Gee Bee dolls houses, forts, castles and garages were sold by Humbrol (also a Hull company – the name was originally Humber Oil Co).
NEW: I have received further information from Garry Cooper, who worked at Gee Bee Toys as a silk screen printer in the late 1970s, after the relocation to the Sutton Fields Industrial Estate. Charles Goodeve's son Ian Goodeve was running it then. There were about 15 employees: 2 in the joiners shop, 2 printers, a paint sprayer, and 10 assembly workers. Next to the Gee Bee factory was Pointers Cash and Carry, and the toys went from the factory next door to be sold. The man Hunter, named as director in the liquidation notices, had been the paint sprayer, and then became the supervisor. Garry has also given me the name of the master printer, so I will try to contact him as well. Many thanks for this info, Garry!
Ad for the Humbrol range of Forts, Castles, Garages & Doll's Houses, in Games & Toys, September 1978. Courtesy Marion Osborne.
In the next section, I present the Gee Bee dolls house models we know of. As Jean Hardwicke noted, “to complicate dating, some features changed over the years. Every Christmas would see a slight change to a house to present a “new” selling point. Eg the DH/8 Tudor Cottage has at least six variations: the original, the newer style with open back, with hinged front with differing door and window combinations and the later printed design.” However, the same illustration could be used in catalogues over several years, so even though we might know of examples of all these variations, we don’t have firm evidence to date them. It’s also hard to know when new models were first produced, partly because we have no ads or catalogues for a period of 8 years between 1955 and 1963, and also because their first appearance in catalogues might have been some years after their first production. Jean Hardwicke again: “I spoke to one lady who quite clearly remembers joining the firm in 1960, and the Riviera Villa was already in full production but the Californian Bungalow was still at its prototype stage. When they were selling quite well then they would appear in the trade catalogues a few years later.”
Gee Bee Dolls Houses ca 1946-1950s
The first house that we know of is the one drawn by former Gee Bee worker, Dorothy Mitchell, for Jean Hardwicke.
'Original sketch as drawn by Dorothy', from Jean Hardwicke's report on Gee Bee.
The earliest photo we have, in the ad from the 1949 issue of Games and Toys shown above, shows a very similar single gable model, as well as a two gable version.
Detail of dolls houses in ad for Pointer's (Dolls) Ltd in Games & Toys, June 1949. Courtesy Marion Osborne.
Sally L has a very early single gable, open-backed Gee Bee cottage, which, as in Dorothy's sketch, has the door in the single storey side.
Early Gee Bee cottage. Photo © SallyL
Another early house has the door in the two-storey side and a double window on the upper floor, as in the 1949 photo, but unlike the houses in the photos and Sally's house, does not have vertical timbers on either side of the window on the upper storey:
Early Gee Bee cottage. Photo © anonymous ebay seller*, courtesy Marion Osborne.
Early two gable Gee Bee dolls house, very similar to those shown in the 1949 photo above. Photo © June Davison, courtesy Marion Osborne.
All the houses visible in the 1949 photo have straight gable timbers. The models shown in the 1950 ad (above), a 1950 catalogue, and the 1951 photo (above) have curved gable timbers. That would suggest that the following two dolls houses could be later than the two just shown, which have straight gable timbers. However, apart from the gable timbers and the lack of a front wall, they are almost identical to the one and two gable models just shown.
Early two gable Gee Bee house with curved gable timbers: above, exterior; below, interior. Photos courtesy Marion Osborne.
Early single gable Gee Bee cottage with curved gable timbers: above, exterior; below, interior. Photos © anonymous ebay seller*, courtesy Marion Osborne.
Another point of difference in these early houses is the chimneys. In the 1949 photo, the chimneys are short, whereas June Davison's house, and the cottage from ebay, have tall chimneys (and all have straight gable timbers, too). The one gable cottage with curved gable chimneys has a short chimney, as do the 1950 models. Does this suggest that the houses with tall chimneys are earlier, with a progression from straight gable timbers & tall chimneys, to straight gable timbers and short chimneys, to curved gable timbers and short chimneys?
The 1950 ad, and a 1950 catalogue from toy wholesalers Landey's of Doncaster, show two dolls houses – a combined Tudor dolls house and sweet shop, and a new Tudor Villa.
The New "Tudor" Dolls House and Sweet Shop, as shown in Landey's catalogue for 1950. "Combines all the grace of a Tudor Villa, with its high class finish, raised plastic flowers, attractive design. Complete with a realistic sweet shop with gay sun-blind and hanging sign. Opening at the front with its spacious rooms, this Dolls House is the most outstanding of its class, yet introduced. Each in separate carton. £2/10/0 each, Plus A Tax (Retail Price £4/12/6)" (equivalent to about £142 today).
Detail of dolls houses at the Tudor Toy Co Ltd display at a 1951 toy fair, as shown in the February 1951 issue of the Toy Trader and Exporter. Courtesy Marion Osborne.
This 1951 photo (above) shows that the central section of this combined shop & house was now narrower, with a single window.
Note also the dolls house on the right - a new model, with a single bay, simple straight side walls and a single central gable. (The timbering framing the upper bay is very like that on the cottage with curved gable timbers shown just before the shop/house. Perhaps that cottage dates from around 1951?)
An ad from 1953 (below) shows an even narrower central section on the shop/house, and no hanging sign:
Ad for Tudor Toy Co "Tudor" Dolls' Houses, Games & Toys July 1953. Courtesy Marion Osborne.
The examples I know of must date from 1951 on, and also show several other variations. In the first two photos, the upper window in the central section is single, but there is still enough width for a small balcony (missing in the second example). In the third example, there is only a narrow space on either side of the door and window, and the balcony has been replaced by a narrow red wooden awning above the door. Note also that, while all the upper windows on the shop side are projecting, on the house side, the upper window is projecting and the lower window flush with the wall in the earlier examples (in example 1, this side is placed upside down in the photo), while in the later example, number 3, the windows in the house side are set in. Only the shop side has a slot for a metal awning in the earlier examples, while both sides have an awning in the later model.
1. Tudor Dolls House and Sweet Shop, ca 1951/52. Photo © ebay seller pandoraz*toybox
2. Tudor Dolls House and Sweet Shop. Photo © ebay seller scrapnaround
3. Tudor Dolls House and Sweet Shop, ca late 1950s. Photo © Nicky Sedgewick
The shop front is painted yellow, and says 'Quality Needler's Chocolates'. Needler's was another local Hull firm; according to Jean Hardwicke, Needler's chocolates were among the range sold by Pointer's wholesale confectionery business. Charles Goodeve's father, John Shuker Goodeve (a commercial traveller, or as we would say nowadays, a travelling salesman), attended Mr Fred Needler's funeral in 1932 as a representative of the Hull Committee of the Royal Commercial Travellers' Schools and the Commercial Travellers' Benevolent Institution.
Both the display shelves in the window, and the shelving attached to the side wall inside the shop, are large enough to display the packets of sweets, tea, sugar, etc, available for toy shops of the time.
Tudor Dolls House and Sweet Shop: above, shopfront window; below: shelving inside shop. Photos © ebay seller pandoraz*toybox
I do not know when the Tudor Dolls House and Sweet Shop was last made. I suspect that the third example shown here probably dates from the mid-late 1950s, due to the inset windows on the house side.
"Tudor" Villa, 1950, as shown in Landey's wholesale catalogue. Wholesale price in 1950 27/- each, Plus A Tax. Retail price £2-9-6 (including tax) (equivalent to about £76 today).
The "Tudor" Villa, new in 1950 according to the British Industries Fair ad, was smaller and more compact than the combined shop/house. Landey's wholesale catalogue stated that "With its attractive red roofs, sun parlour and ample rooms, is the delight of any child. The low price and superior quality has already assured the success of this house."
The "sun parlour" feature of this house displays several variations. In the 1950 illustration, it has a pointed arch, and the bottom left corner of the upper floor angles down to the corner square pillar. Later models have (1) a squared entry; then (2) a shallowly rounded arch, narrower at its base; and (3) no open space at all, but an enclosed room with a small porch in front of the door, and a paper transfer over the arch of the porch reading "Tudor Villa".
1. Tudor Villa with squared opening and window awnings, as in the 1953 ad above. Photos of front and side © anonymous ebay seller*, courtesy Marion Osborne
2. Tudor Villa ca late 1950s © anonymous ebay seller*
3. Tudor Villa ca late 1950s, early 1960s. Photo © mini5
The windows on these other variants help to order them chronologically, as (1) has the projecting upper window and awnings on lower windows, as in the 1953 and 1955 illustrations, (2) has awnings and inset windows, and (3) has awnings, inset windows and shutters.
Half house shown in ad for Tudor Toys, Toy Trader and Exporter, January 1955. Courtesy Marion Osborne.
Dating the introduction of inset windows is harder, as the next useful illustration we have is from 8 years later, in October 1963, when the windows are inset and have shutters.
A 1964 Tudor Toys price list does not include either the Tudor Villa or the Tudor Dolls House and Sweet Shop, so all the variants of these models shown here must predate 1964.
Also shown in the 1953 ad is a two gable house, which can be seen as a development from the early two gable model. Like the combined shop/house, the central section now had two storeys, with the roof level with the roof of the side sections and, by 1953, extending beyond the roofs of the forward facing gables. While the earliest two gable house had two tall chimneys reaching above the central section, the chimneys in 1953 are short and placed at the far sides of the house.
Note the progression of features in the variants of this model shown here. 1, the earliest, has moulded climbers on the walls and a wider central section, with a balcony. 2 has painted climbers and a narrower central section, with the small red wooden awning we have also seen on the shop/house. The lower windows now have awnings. 3 is very similar to 2, but instead of two chimneys placed at the sides, there is now one single, central chimney. By 4, all the windows are inset, the lower windows have shutters as well as awnings, and the front door is a square-paned Romside window rather than the small Romside front door. 5 is very similar to 4, but has no gable timbers at all.
1. Tudor House, ca 1951/52. Photo © Elaine, courtesy Marion Osborne.
2. Tudor House, ca 1953/55. Photo © John B, courtesy Marion Osborne.
3. Tudor House, ca 1956. Photo © anonymous ebay seller*, courtesy Marion Osborne.
4. Tudor House, ca late 1950s or early 1960s. Photo © Paula.
5. Tudor House, ca early 1960s. Photo © Kim W.
Detail of painted garden flowers, Tudor House, ca late 1950s or early 1960s. Photo © Paula.
During the 1950s, model numbers were introduced for the Gee Bee dolls houses, forts, castles and garages. The first ad I have seen which shows a model number is dated 1963, and the only price list we have access to is from 1964. The models included in the 1964 price list are:
DH6 Tudor Lodge
DH8 Tudor Cottage
DH9 Tudor House
DH10 Modern House
DH11 Riviera Villa (Chez Nous)
We know from the former Gee Bee worker who spoke to Jean Hardwicke that when she started at the factory in 1960, DH 11, Riviera Villa, was in full production. So at some point between 1950, when the models had names only, and 1960, numbers were introduced and up to 11 models produced. Were number 1-5 given to the early models - the combined shop/house, the Tudor Villa, the two-gable Tudor house, the cottage and the single bay house shown in the 1951 photo? Or were there other models we don't know about? What was DH7, presumably retired before 1964?
DH 6 (later DH 1) Tudor Lodge, The Beeches
DH 6, the Tudor Lodge, was in fact a two-gable house which is a clear development from the model we have just seen (some of those might have been sold as DH/6).
The price in 1963 was 112/6 retail, or £5/12/6, the equivalent of over £100 today. In 1964 it was 116/- or £5/16 (66/8 wholesale, plus 16/3 P/Tax). The 1965 Hobbies Annual also gave the price as 116/-, while Thompsons Toy Co sold it for £6/3/6 in the same year. Four years later, in 1969/70, Dobson & Sons' price was £7 12s 6d.
Dating the variants of DH6 is not made easier by the fact that the same illustration appears in catalogues and ads from 1963 to 1969:
"DH 6 Tudor Lodge. Double fronted attractively designed doll's house with shuttered windows and built-in staircase. Hinged front opening. £7 12s 6d." As described in the 1969/70 toy & gift catalogue of J Dobson & Sons, Preston.
Dimensions 24¾” x 13¼” x 19” high
A new picture appears in a catalogue from 1972/73. In the later model, the windows are flush with the walls, rather than set in; the gable fronts have woodgrain paper rather than planking; the door has one oval-shaped clear panel, rather than six panes, there are no fir trees by the door, and the name has gone from above the door, replaced by a painted arch shape; and the base is narrower, with no steps or garden walls.
DH/6 Tudor Lodge as shown in the 1972/73 catalogue of A J Gardner (Stratford) Ltd. "A large Doll’s House, with all the aspects of a country residence. Spacious rooms, staircase, sunken leaded windows with bright gay shutters. This house, complete with imitation fir trees and wide open porch, is without doubt, a most colourful and realistic presentation."
DH/6 Tudor Lodge ca early 1970s, with original box (bottom photo). I have also seen one with yellow windows and shutters, and a green base. Photos © ebay seller italska123.
Many of the houses we know of show other variations on these two, like this one with windows flush with the walls and a painted wooden arch above the door (features of the 1972/73 version), which still has fir trees by the door and a wider base with walls (as in the 1963 version):
DH/6 Tudor Lodge, possibly ca late 1960s. (The window boxes are not original; the awnings are.) Photo © Helen Elson, courtesy Marion Osborne
Diane's DH/6 is similar, but is painted pale blue and has stone-patterned paper on the ground floor. It has the later oval door and no fir trees, but still has a large garden with a wall, and also has a label over the door giving the name of the house. Liza has a very similar model which is painted white and has fort stone paper on the lower floor.
DH/6 Tudor Lodge, possibly late 1960s. Photo © Diane P.
This house, intriguingly, has no shutters, but does have a garden, and did have fir trees by the door.
DH/6 Tudor Lodge, possibly late 1960s. Photo © Valerie Towers
DH/1 Tudor Lodge (The Beeches), as shown in the 1973 Tudor Toys catalogue.
The name "Tudor Lodge" still appears in the 1973 Tudor Toys catalogue. Although its description is identical to the earlier catalogues, it is given a new number, DH/1, and an additional name, The Beeches, in brackets (and over the door of the actual dolls house).
Paula's The Beeches is almost identical to the catalogue image, but only has a horizontal strip of wood across the front, not the vertical wooden plank shown in the catalogue. This strip functions as a grip, as the front now opens by sliding (presumably it would be easier to grip without the vertical piece). Paula's house also shows the new roof line (a flat area between the two gables, and two chimneys rather than one), the woodgrain paper on the gable fronts, and a plain painted exterior.
DH/1 Tudor Lodge (The Beeches), ca mid 1970s. Above, showing detail of the surface between the roof ridges; below, front showing the name above the door. Photos © Paula.
By the late 1970s, DH/1 Tudor Lodge / The Beeches, had lithographed exteriors and interiors, as well as a sliding front. On the front of the DH/6 shown in the 1977 ad below can be seen the strip of wood which was held to slide the front open and closed - interestingly, topped by the same vertical plank as in the 1973 catalogue, but which was absent from Paula's house.
Tudor Street, in an ad for Tudor Toys in Games & Toys, January 1977. A DH/1 can be seen at the back right, next to the garage. Courtesy Marion Osborne.
ca 1977 DH/1 The Beeches. Photo © Catherine S Jones.
ca 1977 DH/1 The Beeches, showing sliding front, and interior with lithographed floors. Photo © Elizabeth Jackson
The final version appears in the 1978 Humbrol ad. It has no name or number there, nor does a name appear on the house, so I am making an assumption that it is a late DH6 / DH1. It certainly continues the overall design, with two gables, a flat area between them where the chimneys stand, a central door with an arch over it, and double windows on each side of the upper floor. The central window has been replaced by a printed balcony, however, and on the ground floor there are now rounded bay windows, made of plastic with the panes printed on.
DH/1 in 1978, as shown in the Humbrol ad in Games & Toys, September 1978. Courtesy Marion Osborne.
Ca 1978 DH/1. Photo © Sally L.
DH 7 is a mystery. If you have seen one, please let me know!
DH 8 Tudor Cottage
DH 8 is the well-known Gee Bee Tudor Cottage. It appears to be a development of the very first Gee Bee dolls house, the cottage drawn by Dorothy for Jean Hardwicke. Was a cottage available continuously from 1946 to 1981? I don't know - there seem to be fewer early variants on the cottage than there are of the two gable house.
While the early cottage had the single storey side on the right, the cottage which appears as DH 8 Tudor Cottage from 1964 has the single storey on the left. This is the opposite of the Conway Valley DH/4 cottage, which leads me to wonder if there was a gap in time between the earlier Gee Bee cottage and the DH/8, during which Conway Valley introduced their cottage, so the Gee Bee cottage was redesigned to more clearly distinguish it. This, however, is only speculation, in the absence of more catalogues from both Gee Bee and Conway Valley.
As with the Tudor Lodge, we are hampered in dating the various versions by having only one catalogue image which appeared from 1964 to 1973:
"DH/8 Tudor Cottage. This beautiful doll's house with its delightful period design, has shuttered windows and built-in staircase. Another sure "sales winner". Price £4 14 s 0d. As described in the 1969/70 toy & gift catalogue of J Dobson & Sons, Preston.
Dimensions 19" x 16 ½" x 11"
The first cottage shown here is very similar to the illustration in the catalogues. It has inset windows, shutters, and the door is on the right of the two storey side of the house. Not pictured in the catalogue is the wavy bottom edge on the upper storey front. This was shown on the catalogue image of the DH/6 from the early 1960s, so perhaps this DH/8 catalogue picture shows a version that was already outdated by 1964.
1. DH8 Tudor Cottage ca early 1960s. Photo © anonymous ebay seller*, courtesy Marion Osborne.
The next example, number 2, is very similar to number 1. However, the front door no longer opens - a door-shaped piece of wood is fixed to the door opening on the inside, and a printed paper door is attached to it on the outside. Both fronts are hinged to open to the left, so the taller front swings open in front of the smaller side. (The taller front in number 1 is standing slightly ajar; it also opens from the centre.) Apart from the door, the main difference between these two examples is in the colouring - red shutters and yellow window trim above, and yellow shutters with red window trim below.
2. DH8 Tudor Cottage ca mid 1960s. Above, front; below, showing how the two storey front opens to the left, across the single storey side. Also note the striped red and yellow metal stairs. Photos © Karen.
Another example I have seen has the front door (non-opening) on the taller side of the cottage, but the position of the door and window is reversed - the door is thus in the centre of the house, with the window to the right of it and the shutter on the far side of the window.
In other versions, the door is on the left, single storey side of the cottage. The examples with this configuration all show features which are later than those of the cottages just shown - the windows are flush with the walls, rather than inset, and the gable front is covered with paper in a planking or woodgrain design.
3. DH8 Tudor Cottage ca late 1960s. Photos © Liza Antrim.
4. DH8 Tudor Cottage ca late 1960s. Photo © Valerie Towers.
The 1972/73 catalogue image of the DH6 Tudor Lodge showed woodgrain paper, rather than a plank design. This DH8 Tudor Cottage (number 5, below) is very similar to numbers 3 and 4 above, but as well as having woodgrain paper on the gable front, the front of the single storey side slides open, and the design of the chimney is simpler.
5. DH8 Tudor Cottage ca early 1970s. Above, note new simplified chimney; below, showing how the small front slides open and the tall front swings open to the right. Photos © anonymous ebay seller*, courtesy Marion Osborne.
In the next examples, both fronts slide open, and the larger side now incorporates the wooden strip serving as a grip to open it with, which we saw on the DH6 / DH1 Tudor Lodge with a sliding front:
6. DH8 Tudor Cottage with sliding fronts, ca mid 1970s. Photo © anonymous ebay seller*, courtesy Marion Osborne.
7. DH8 Tudor Cottage with sliding fronts, ca mid 1970s. Photo © Linda.
This lithographed version appears at the front of the Tudor Street in the 1977 ad shown above. Perhaps to protect the lithographed base, this model is now open at the back - a return to the original 1940s design!
8. DH8 Tudor Cottage ca 1977. Above, showing details of the lithographed front and garden base; below, showing the open back and lithographed floors. Photos © ebay seller epping123.
This final version not only shares the printed bow windows of the 1978 DH/6, but also handily came with its original box, relabelled from DH 8 Tudor Cottage to Humbrol DH8 Country Cottage:
9. DH8 Tudor Cottage / Country Cottage, as sold by Humbrol, 1978-81. Above, original box; below, the front showing the lithographed details and the plastic bow window. Photos © anonymous ebay seller*, courtesy Marion Osborne.
DH9 Tudor House
The first version of this model we know of appears in the 1964 Tudor Toys catalogue. Almost as large as the DH6 Tudor Lodge, it has a simple pitched roof instead of the double gables of that model.
DH9 Tudor Dolls House, as shown in the 1965/66 Thompsons Toy Co catalogue. "A beautifully designed dolls house with 4 large rooms, colourful staircase and most attractive sunblind. Built on modern lines, this dolls house is most picturesque."
Size 23½" x 11½" x 16"
Price 46/11 (£2 6s 11d)
Why this description alone mentions a colourful staircase, I don't know. The same staircases were used in other models, too, in a variety of colours.
Valerie and Joan Mc both have examples of this model - Valerie's has green and white windows, and Joan's has red and white windows. Both have six-paned doors - other examples are known with the oval door.
DH/9 Tudor House ca 1964-65. Photo © Valerie Towers
DH/9 Tudor House ca 1964-65. Photo © Joan Mc.
Later catalogues (1969-1973) show some differences - the chimneys are thinner, taller, and placed over the side walls, and there is a strip of wood across one section of the front, leaving room only for one sun blind. The strip of wood is sometimes on the left section of the house (as in the catalogue image), and sometimes on the right.
DH/9 Tudor House, as shown in the 1973 Tudor Toys catalogue.
Size 23" x 16" x 12"
DH/9 Tudor House ca late 1960s, early 1970s. Photo © Kim W
DH/9 Tudor House ca late 1960s, early 1970s. Photo © Kate Dwyer, courtesy Marion Osborne
The following two examples appear to date from the mid 1970s, as one has the new red, blue and silver Gee Bee label.
DH/9 Tudor House ca mid 1970s. Photos © anonymous ebay sellers*, courtesy Marion Osborne
I do not know if lithographed versions of this model were made - I can't tell if one appears in Tudor Toys Street in the 1977 ad, nor have I seen any examples.
DH10 and DH10C, Modern House
DH10 Modern House, as shown for sale in the Hobbies 1965 Annual. Described as "A Modern House with two very large rooms which will take three or four suites of plastic furniture. A popular model at an attractive price."
Price in 1964 and 1965, 46/11 (£2 6s 11d).
Size 14" x 11" x 16" high
The Modern House is small, like the Tudor Cottage, but has a very utilitarian design. Its plainness was relieved by the climbers painted on the front and the cheerful sun blind (which, however, often went missing).
Carola has a DH/10 which exactly matches the 1964 and 1965 catalogue images. It is painted a pale green, and has green and white windows. I have also seen one painted pale blue, with red and white windows.
DH/10 Modern House, ca 1964-65. Photo © Carola Eriksson.
Valerie has one that is almost identical, but the chimney is narrower.
DH/10 Modern House, ca mid 1960s. Photo © Valerie Towers.
By 1969, a slightly different model appeared in catalogues. The chimney is not only thinner, as in Valerie's house, but has moved to above the right wall of the house. The door is the new oval shape, and there is a strip of wood above the door, on the narrow side of the front. On other Gee Bee dolls houses, a similar strip provides a grip to slide the door open. I have not seen an example of this model, so I am not sure if this section of the front slides open, or whether it is simply a grip to hold when swinging the door open, as is the case with the 1972, 1973 model shown below.
DH/10 Modern House, as shown in the 1969/70 toy & gift catalogue of J Dobson & Sons, Preston. Price in 1969/70 £3 1s 6d.
The Modern House was also sold in flatpack form, and promoted as being quick and easy to pack away when not in use, and to assemble when required. Another advantage would have been the cheaper freight costs, keeping the retail price of Gee Bee's cheapest model as low as possible.
DH/10C Modern House (Collapsible), in the 1973 Tudor Toys catalogue. "An attractive dolls house of modern design but still retaining the characteristics of a country cottage. This delightful house can be packed away when not in use and can be assembled in less than three minutes, packed in printed, flat pack carton.
15¾" x 14" x 11½"
Retail price in 1973 £3.65
The next catalogue image I have is from the Humbrol ad of 1978, and the same version of the Modern House can also be seen at the end of Tudor Street in the January 1977 ad shown above. However, the next example of this model probably precedes that. It has shutters and brickwork lithographed on to a pale yellow background, very similar to the 1973 version of The Beeches, shown above. Note that the late 1970s Humbrol version is open at the back. It's not clear from this photo whether the mid 70s version is front-opening or has an open back.
DH 10C Modern House "Mihome", ca mid 1970s. Photo © anonymous ebay seller*, courtesy Marion Osborne.
DH/10 Modern House "Mihome" as shown in an ad for Humbrol in Games & Toys, September 1978. Courtesy Marion Osborne.
DH 10C Modern House "Mi Home", as sold by Humbrol, late 1970s. Left: front, and right: open back and lithographed floors. Photos © anonymous ebay seller*, courtesy Marion Osborne.
DH11 Riviera Villa, Chez Nous, and B1 Californian Bungalow
While most of the Gee Bee range of dolls house evokes traditional English styles, the Riviera Villa and the Californian Bungalow provided a whiff of glamour, and the allure of overseas travel and film stars. Both incorporate garages and outdoor entertaining areas; the bungalow also has a swimming pool.
One of the former Gee Bee workers whom Jean Hardwicke spoke to remembered that when she started at the factory in 1960, the Riviera Villa was in full production, while the Californian Bungalow was in development. The Riviera Villa does appear in the 1964 Tudor Toys catalogue, while the Californian Bungalow does not. Neither appears in the 1973 Tudor Toys catalogue, so it appears that they both had a fairly short production run.
DH11 Riviera Villa (Chez Nous), as shown in an ad for Tudor Toys in Games and Toys, January 1964. Courtesy Marion Osborne. Described in the 1964 Tudor Toys catalogue as "Without doubt the most glamorous and interestingly designed dolls house ever presented, with large spacious rooms, roof garden, sun balconies and car port. This dolls house has such play appeal that it will be the delight of any child."
Size 24¾" x 16¼" x 18¼"
Suggested retail price in 1964 129/- (£6 9s); in 1966 127/11 (£6/7/11).
DH11 Riviera Villa. Above, front - the name "Chez Nous" can be seen above the front door. Below, detail of the roof garden (the sun blind is missing). Photos © Nicky Sedgewick, courtesy Marion Osborne.
DH11 Riviera Villa. Above, left side; below, right side; bottom, back. Photos © Nicky Sedgewick, courtesy Marion Osborne.
B1 Californian Bungalow with Swimming Pool, as shown in the 1965 Thompsons Toy Co catalogue. Access to the rooms inside is through the roof, which lifts off. Courtesy Marion Osborne.
Size 24" x 24" x 8 ¾"
Price in 1965 and 1966 £5/16/-
B1 Californian Bungalow. Above, exterior; below, detail of garage, garden and entrance. The curtains are printed on the plastic windows. Photos © anonymous ebay seller*, courtesy Marion Osborne.
B1 Californian Bungalow, detail of the rooftop Swimming Pool, with stairs and handgrips. The perspex sheet forms the bottom of the pool. Photo © Sue.
DH12 Swiss Cottage and DH14 Swiss Chalet
As mentioned above, the 1964 Tudor Toys catalogue includes model numbers up to DH/11. DH12 and later models, therefore, must have been released after 1964, although they were probably being developed before that.
DH12, the Swiss Cottage, and DH14, the Swiss Chalet, both have forward-facing pitched roofs, with the roof extending over the sides of the house. The main difference between them is that the chalet has a garage incorporated into the building, at the left of the ground floor, and the roof of the garage provides a balcony on the left side of the house, as well as on the right. I suspect that this balcony extending on both sides of the house is the reason why this model is called a chalet, garages not being a traditional feature of chalets. I presume there was a DH13 at some time, although I have not seen one in a catalogue or as an actual house - I wonder whether it was a Swiss Chalet without a garage, but with a balcony on both sides?
DH 12 Swiss Cottage, as shown in the 1969/70 toy & gift catalogue of J Dobson & Sons, Preston. "A realistically designed Dolls House with four large rooms. The outside staircase and sun balcony are a real feature of this most attractive and colourful house. (Balcony furniture NOT included)
Size 14" x 16" x 12"
Price in 1969/70 £4 19s 0d, in 1973 £6.25
DH14 Swiss Chalet (with Garage), as shown in the 1972/73 catalogue of A J Gardner (Stratford) Ltd. "With four large rooms and gay coloured lattice windows. This is a most fascinating House, incorporating two attractive sun balconies, outside staircase and imposing Garage. (Balcony furniture not included)
Size 27" x 16" x 12"
Suggested retail price in 1972/73 £6.75, in 1973 £7.10.
Deaun has a Swiss Cottage, which interestingly has a 'Patent Applied For' stamp inside it, suggesting that it was made in 1969.
DH12 Swiss Cottage, ca early 1970s. Above, front; below, interior and 'Patent Applied For' stamp. Photos © Deaun.
Paula has a Swiss Chalet, with garage, on to which an extra room has been added over the garage. This example of the Chalet is probably slightly later than Deaun's Swiss Cottage, as it has the new red, blue and silver Gee Bee label introduced by 1973. The house has been electrified, and the garage serves to store the battery.
DH14 Swiss Chalet (with garage) (and home-built extension above the garage). Above, front, showing garage door, front door of house and new Gee Bee label. Below, side with stairs, little railing, balcony and side entry; bottom, interior. Photos © Paula
A lithographed Swiss Chalet, with garage, can be seen in the Tudor Toys Street in the 1977 ad shown above:
A lithographed Swiss Chalet (with garage) was sold at auction in 2011:
DH/14 Swiss Chalet (with garage), sold by Vectis Auctions, 18/8/2011. © Vectis
DH15 Tudor Court and DH16 Manor Court
The Tudor Court and the Manor Court are both three storeys high, with an external staircase. The main difference is that the Tudor Court has three floors of residence (either a 3 storey house, with 6 rooms, as described in the catalogue entry, or 3 apartments of two rooms each), while the Manor Court has two garages on the ground floor and two levels of residence above that. Again, it could be two apartments, with a garage each, or a four-room house for a family with two cars.
DH14 Tudor Court, as shown in the 1972/73 catalogue of A J Gardner (Stratford) Ltd.
DH/16 Manor Court, as shown in the 1973 Tudor Toys catalogue. "A large three storey Dolls House of real distinction, built on the most modern lines, with outside staircase and sun balconies. The two double Garages in the basement give this house tremendous play value. (Balcony furniture NOT included)
Size 24" x 22¼" x 12".
In the catalogue images, the Tudor Court has a flat roof, and the Manor Court has a pitched roof. I have however seen a Manor Court with a flat roof, so perhaps both variants were available.
DH/16 Manor Court, with flat roof, missing garage doors. Above, front; below, interior and back of garages; bottom, detail of wooden stairs with metal finish. Photos © ebay seller halls14
That brings us to the end of the models I know of. Were there any models numbered 17 or up? Did DH/7 and DH/13 exist, and if so, what were they? And what is this house? Clearly it dates from the late 1970s, as it is completely lithographed and has the curved plastic bay windows that appear in the Humbrol ad. The stone construction, the terracotta roof and paving tiles, the sun balcony, arches and balustrades all suggest a Mediterranean influence - perhaps this was an updated Riviera Villa?
Unknown late 1970s Gee Bee house. Photo © Joan Mc.
Identifying and Dating Gee Bee Dolls Houses
This heading is probably over-optimistic! However, I'll try to summarise what we know here.
Of course, the best way to identify a Gee Bee house is to find it in a catalogue, or to find a label on the house.
I know of four labels. As you can see from the examples above, they were usually placed on the front of the base or, in the early models, the front wall.
The earliest label, late 1940s, black lettering on a yellow circle: A Gee Bee Toy, with GB in a diamond shape in the centre.
1950s, 1960s and possibly early 1970s, yellow lettering on black background, rectangular label: A Gee Bee Toy Hull England. The central diamond shape is flatter than on the first label, and the EEs fit in the space of the G and B to spell the name.
By 1973 at the latest, silver print on red and blue: Gee Bee Toys. The letters G and B have the same angular form, creating the impression of a diamond shape. The rectangular label is shorter, compared with the previous label.
Late 1970s, the brand name in white lettering on a black background is incorporated into the litho print on the base of the dolls houses.
Awnings, or sun blinds, were a feature of Gee Bee dolls houses from 1950 right up until the end of production. These were formed of metal in the early years, or plastic in later years, and placed through a slot above the windows. They could thus be retracted, as a real awning could - and could also easily be lost. Not all models had them (or not in all years), but if you find a dolls house with a slot above one or more windows, you can be fairly certain that you have a Gee Bee, as, to my knowledge, other makers did not include blinds like this.
The first awning shown in a catalogue image is on the combined sweet shop and dolls house in 1950. It has very fine lines, and looks as if it could be made of cloth.
Most 1950s models have awnings made of tin, painted with yellow and red stripes.
Marion Osborne has shared a variation on the yellow and red stripes - one with a yellow border, which was found on the last version of the Tudor Villa.
The last model of the Tudor Villa has produced awnings in two other designs, too: a rainbow stripe and a clear green plastic:
Mid 1960s catalogue images of the Tudor House show an awning in a plain dark colour, with a thin white edging. Like the awning in the catalogue picture of the first Tudor Sweet Shop, this is a variant I have not seen an actual example of.
Most 1960s models have red and white striped awnings:
These pictures of the awnings also show some of the windows on Gee Bee dolls houses. At first, Gee Bee used Romside windows, instantly recognisable with their dark green frames and cream diamond lattice lights, as well as the small Romside front door. Several other manufacturers used Romside windows and doors, including Conway Valley, Pennine, Wheeler Woodcrafts, etc, and they were incorporated in Hobbies' dolls house designs, and sold by mail order by Hobbies and through Hobbies outlets and other craft stores, so these are not by any means a distinguishing feature of Gee Bee dolls houses.
At some point, Gee Bee started using windows and doors which they either manufactured themselves, or were manufactured in Hull by another company, possibly called Prestyn or Prestatyn. These were not exclusive to Gee Bee either, as they were certainly sold through Hobbies catalogues, and to other dolls house makers too. As far as dating goes, both the yellow and white and green and white rectangular six-paned windows appear in the 1964 Tudor Toys catalogue (which is in black and white, but the green is clearly much darker than the yellow). One of the houses on which they appear is the Riviera Villa, which, as we have heard, was in production from at least 1960. As that model would look quite strange with green & cream diamond lattice panes at the windows, I think it's likely that Gee Bee's windows, and the door with the central oval pane, were already being used by then.
Although probably in production by the early 1960s, it seems that the new windows were initially used only on some models, and Romside windows continued to be used on other models until the mid or late 1960s. As I have mentioned, the first colours for the new windows were green & white and yellow & white, with rectangular panes. During the 1960s, some models also had red & white windows. Probably by the late 1960s, blue doors and blue windows appeared, with white diamond lattice panes, and - later? at the same time? blue and white rectangular-paned windows.
Even when using Romside windows, Gee Bee did not use Romside shutters. All Gee Bee shutters, on models which have them, have a heart-shaped cut-out. Mostly the shutters are yellow, but red shutters were also used on some models (the Riviera Villa, for example).
Gee Bee stairs are also distinctive. Until the lithographed houses, they were made of wood, as a separate unit, with solid banisters on one or two sides (being placed against a wall, a second side was not essential, but is found on earlier models). There was no railing or balustrade around the top of the stairs, just a hole in the floor. Until about the late 1960s, the banisters were straight-edged and reached down to the floor. Later, the top is wavy (like the barge boards and bottom of the DH6 upper floor front in the late 60s), and the side did not go right to the floor, giving more space in the dolls house room. Coloured metal was cut and bent to fit the stairs, rather like a stair carpet. A range of colours has been found - blue, red, yellow, green, yellow and red.
So what other identifying features are there? Until the mid 1960s, most Gee Bee dolls house models had a small wall at either side of the base (and, early on, at the front too). However, this is also a feature found on dolls houses made by Pennine, as in this example, which also resembles Gee Bee houses in the wavy barge board and the inset windows with colourful lintels, sills and shutters. Luckily for us, it retains its original label!
Pennine dolls house. Photo © Catherine S Jones
I mentioned above that the Conway Valley DH/4 is very similar to Gee Bee DH/8, but with the opposite configuration of one and two storey wings:
Conway Valley D/H4, as shown in a Conway Valley catalogue.
Other Conway Valley models also show strong resemblances to Gee Bee designs. This two-gable dolls house is very like the early Gee Bee two gable model, and the late DH1 The Beeches design too. However, the remains of a Conway Valley label identify it definitively; the flower pots and upward-facing wavy barge boards would also point to Conway Valley, rather than Gee Bee.
Conway Valley two gable dolls house © anonymous ebay seller*
Note that the shutters used by Pennine and Conway Valley differ from those used by Gee Bee. Most Pennine shutters I have seen are solid, while most Conway Valley shutters have a diamond-shaped cut-out, and some are solid.
As far as we know, there were no links between either of these firms and Gee Bee. Did they take inspiration from the same models, whether in real life or in art? Or did they perhaps see the other firms' new designs at toy fairs, and decide to copy them with a few changes to make them distinctive?
Gee Bee were clearly concerned to claim ownership of their structural innovations by taking out patents, although I have only found two. In January 1969, an application was submitted for a patent concerning "Components for the assembly of toy structures, eg dolls houses, garages":
Patent GB1250711 (A) ― 1971-10-20 www.directorypatent.com/GB/1250711-a.html
This involves a base with locating strips on each side, openings just in front of each end of each strip, and upright strips on which are longitudinal grooves to slot walls into. Two of the uprights are attached to a wall, two are freestanding, and they fit into the four openings in front of the locating strips. There are also horizontal grooves half way up the upright strips, to take an upper floor. The patent was granted in December 1969, and published in 1971.
Another feature of Gee Bee houses, probably dating to the mid 60s, does not appear to have been patented - this was a piece of dowelling slotted into the base and roof at each side of the front of a house, to which the opening fronts were attached. This replaced hinges for a short time (and was then itself replaced by sliding fronts and then open backs).
DH/9 Tudor House - dowelling rods can be seen at each side. Photo © Joan Mc
No doubt there are other features of Gee Bee dolls houses which could help to date them. With enough examples, we could probably identify the individual hands which created the foliage painted (or moulded, in the very early days) onto the front of the dolls houses, and the changes over time.
*If you recognise these photos from ebay auctions as yours, please contact us if you would like them to be credited to your name or removed.
Many thanks to Marion Osborne for generously sharing information collected over many years of research. Thanks also to the Hull History Centre and to Zoe Handy for her help in obtaining and passing on information.