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 133,414 pages of information and 211,641 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Norah Wellings

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of Victoria Toy Works, Wellington, Shropshire. Telephone: 257

  • 1893 Miss Norah Wellings was born in Arleston Village, Shropshire. Her father, Thomas, was a master plasterer known for his skill, and integrity, specialising in both plain and decorative plaster. Thomas and his wife, Sarah had two children, Leonard, and Norah.
  • Leonard was a well-educated yet quiet man who followed his father into the family plastering business at a young age, and served in the Royal Horse Artillery during WWI.
  • Norah, two years younger, was also well educated, excelling at botany and art, and maintained a close lifelong relationship with her brother. Norah was soft-spoken and very shy, not given to small talk. She considered herself plain, and was overheard speaking to her reflection: “Nora, you are never going to be beautiful so you had better make yourself useful.” So, she remained at home with her mother, helping to care for her invalid father until his death.
  • 1919 Norah found a job as a designer with a Shropshire toy manufacturer, Chad Valley Co, where she specialised in soft toys and dolls. She remained with Chad Valley for seven years, and left to start her own company with her brother, Leonard.
  • 1926 Norah opened her own factory, manufacturing soft tolls and toys. She had six employees, some of whom were family members, in space rented from Leonard’s plastering premises. Eventually, Leonard ran the factory, a cousin managed the sales force, and Norah designed all the toys.
  • 1927 Norah exhibited her dolls and soft toys at The British Industries Fair at White City. The toys received a lot of good press and a positive response from toy buyers.
  • 1928 She included the Cora doll, which was presented to Queen Mary.
  • By 1929, a larger facility was needed, and the company grew steadily.
  • 1929 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturer of Soft Fabric Toys of Distinction, including "Cora", "Babimine" and "Cuddly" Dolls, "So-Soft" Nursery Animals, Plush and Velveteen Novelties, Mascots, etc. Discriminating buyers are cordially invited to inspect this exhibit. (Stand No. D.28)
  • Norah believed in producing quality products - from design right through to production. Wellings dolls were constructed entirely of soft materials including the heads which were moulded buckram over a layer of plastic wood which was then overlaid by a steam pressed layer of felt, stockinet or velveteen. All faces were hand painted in sections, allowing one part to dry before the adjoining portion was painted. The company produced baby dolls, fashion dolls, toddler dolls, and a wide variety of novelty dolls including some dressed in accurate versions of native costume.
  • Norah Wellings dolls can often be identified by the cloth tags sewn into the clothing or on the bottom of a foot. Her dolls always have an appropriate number of fingers. She also made pajama cases, tea cosies and telephone covers.
  • Unlike many manufacturers, Victoria Toy Works survived the war years; partly thanks to a line of patriotic toys. The company managed to stay in production throughout the war.
  • 1959 Norah closed the factory after Leonard’s death. Although she had many offers from toy companies wanting to purchase her factory and designs, Norah refused them all, and burned not only her designs and the special tools used to execute them, but all unfinished inventory as well.

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