Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 133,384 pages of information and 211,458 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.


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of Lambton Road, London, N19. T.A: "Britains, Hornsey 725, London". Telephone: Hornsey 725. (1922)

Ditto Address. Telephone: Mountview 0725. Cables: "Britains, Mountview 0725, London". (1929)

Ditto Address: Telephone: Archway 4191. Cables: "Britains, Archway, 4191". (1947)

See Britain Toys

Exactly when William Britain Senior went from 'Brass Cock Maker', his original trade, to toy maker is unknown.

1893 Having previously produced a number of mechanical toys with varied success, William Britain Senior mastered the hollowcast toy soldier process. Until then, German toy makers had dominated the toy soldier world. Hollowcasting was the process by which molten lead was poured into a figure-mould. Before the entire figure set, some of the molten metal was poured back out again. Theis resulted in the lead forming a skin on the inside of the mould, but pouring out the molten lead from the centre, the mould was therefore hollow.

German hollow figures pre-dating 1893 do exist, but it was W. Britain who really took advantage of the process. Because the figures contained less metal, the most expensive component, W. Britain achieved a lower, and thus more competitive, price than the German counterparts.

From 1893 onwards, W. Britain expanded and evolved as the hollowcast toy soldier gained in popularity, with the only production hold-ups occurring during the First and Second World Wars.

1922 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Metal Soldiers, Guns (Machine, Artillery, Naval 4.7, Howitzers), Railway Station Staff, Boy Scout Sets, Kitchen Sets and Tea Sets. (Stand No. F27) [1]

1929 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Metal Toy Soldiers and Model Farms. Guns (Machine), Artillery (Naval 4-7 and Howitzers). Railway Station Staffs. Boy Scout Sets. Kitchen Sets and Toy Sets. etc. (Stand No. D.2)[2]

1947 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Cast Metal Toys in great variety. Toy Soldiers, Searchlights, Lorries, Tanks, Guns, etc.,Farm Animals, Carts, Ploughs, Rakes, etc., Zoo Animals, Hunting Series, Chessman, etc. 1,500 lines. (Olympia, 2rd Floor, Stand No. K.2445) [3]

Little changed with the style of the figures (apart from the introduction of the farm series in 1921) until the late 1950s when the introduction of plastic figures from companies such as Herald made Britains sit up and take notice (Britains eventually bought out Herald in 1959).

1966 Plastic figures then became the mainstay of Britains business with the metal hollowcast figures finally ceasing.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • [1] William Britain - Toy Soldiers and Military Miniatures