The toy company A. Barton & Co. was founded in London by Alan Barton and two colleagues in 1945, and employed ex-servicemen who made wooden dolls house furniture and accessories to scale. Their first factory was at 31 East Hill SW18, but the move in 1955 to a new purpose built factory just outside Croydon at New Addington expanded the range to include model railway and farmyard buildings, Noah’s Arks, garages and dollshouses.
Business boomed, with a reported 60% of production being exported to Europe and America.
The factory on Vulcan Way frequently employed whole families from the surrounding new housing estates. A contemporary newspaper article quoted Mr Barton’s comment about his workforce ‘they nearly all know eachother, which makes for a wonderful community spirit’. Although a mechanised production line, there was also much careful handwork involved in finishing and painting processes, mainly undertaken by women.
Designs were up to date, and chimed with the postwar enthusiasm for all things new, clean and modern, appealing to both children and their parents. The dollshouses and garages took names from the estate. Addington Lodge for example was a contemporary style wooden flatpack dollshouse.
Barton also produced a Tudor range of furniture from 1948 until the mid 70s, reflecting the more traditional sturdy furniture available in department stores, including Allders in Croydon, where many newlywed couples were able to buy furniture to set up home directly after the war with their ration coupons.
Pollocks had stocked Barton dollshouse furniture in our museum shop for many years, and by the 1970s enjoyed a very friendly arrangement with Barton, who supplied us exclusively with the Tudor range without the dark varnish. This particularly appealed to our young customers who preferred the lighter stripped pine look or could paint the pieces with their own choice of colours.
Dollshouses in general offer fascinating glimpses of domestic design history and changing tastes. Usually a little behind, rather than at the forefront of fashion, they also reflect the reality of homemaking, with a mix of older and newer styles, with inherited or homemade pieces, besides up-to-date, and fashionable items.
Miniature accessories too track the history of appliances and domestic technology. Barton’s metal accessories were produced by two branches of an older die casting company, which divided to become F.G Taylor & Co. and A. Barrett & Sons. Models included gas cookers and fridges, top loading washing machines with wringers, carpet sweepers and vacuum cleaners, telephones with moving spring dials, and electric fires with plugs, and a pop-up toaster.
Some parts of these were gradually replaced by plastic versions cast from the same moulds, and updated appliances entirely in plastic appeared under the Caroline’s Home trademark which replaced the original Model Home logo by the late 1970s. A. Barrett & Sons had moved into part of the New Addington factory by 1970 bringing plastic injection moulding equipment, which produced the new Barton’s lines. Eventually Barrett was absorbed by Barton.
Plaster foods sold by A Barton, but produced by Kaybot Novelties also show changing tastes in food. No pizzas or burgers yet, but plenty of Sunday roast beef and chicken, plates of fruit and vegetables, jellies, cakes, breakfast cereal, and a fancy tinned salmon salad.
In 1984 A. Barton & Co were taken over by the Swedish dolls house furniture company Lundby who continued production for a while under new branding, but production in Britain had ceased by the late 1980s and It was rumoured that the production equipment and remaining stock was simply skipped!- unless anyone out there knows differently?
As part of our pop-up in Croydon, Pollocks would love to hear from anyone who worked for A Barton, has any of their toys or catalogues, or perhaps worked in a toyshop which sold them. We are in the process of planning an exhibition and oral history project to research this important local and national company. Contact email@example.com
With thanks for additional information to dollshousespastandpresent.co.uk