Empire Made

A group of 14 inch vinyl dolls made by or for British doll companies.
A group of 14 inch vinyl dolls made by or for British doll companies.

Quite a large part of my doll collection is made up of dolls made in the 1960s. Dolls were still being manufactured in England then. Some of the main companies to make  hard plastic and later vinyl dolls were Pedigree, Roddy, Palitoy, Chiltern, Rosebud and BND. During my childhood many dolls were transitional being made partly of hard plastic and partly of the newer, softer vinyls. Other British doll companies were still producing cloth dolls. The main ones I know about are Chad Valley, Dean’s Rag Book and Norah Wellings. The Chad Valley dolls are very expensive and collectible and so far I don’t own one although I would very much like to one day.

I’ve often mentioned my large walking doll Christine, my Pedigree walker and of course my Sindy doll collection. My other British made dolls are mostly  dolls ranging in size from  10″ to 16″. Some are marked plainly Made in England, some are not so I can’t say for certain that they all were but companies like Pedigree also had dolls manufactured for them in other parts of the Commonwealth; Australia, New Zealand and South Africa all had doll making factories. This may be a reason why Pedigree dolls are not always marked as such. In the 1960s a lot of dolls were also manufactured in Hong Kong, then a British Crown Colony. “Empire Made” was a tag sometimes found on Sindy outfits made outside of England and I thought that it was an appropriate name for this page.

I do have a couple of dolls that are marked or have been identified as Pedigree. The others I call “Pedigree type” as I’m not completely sure about them but they resemble marked dolls that I do have.

Some of the British manufacturers produced dolls under licence for US companies. Palitoy for example made American Character’s Tressy doll.

Anyway here are some of them. As you can see the unmarked dolls do have some similarities with the ones marked Pedigree.They have rooted Saran hair and sleep eyes although some of them have lost their eyelashes. The older dolls either have all limbs made of rigid plastic material and softer vinyl faces  or rigid legs and softer arms. Two exceptions are the one with moulded hair who is made of really thick “rubbery” material and the one in the red print dress who might be a Roddy. I remember an early doll I had called “Blondie” who was made of this type of material. Blondie was “let go” when I was a teenager. She was the least loved of my dolls even though she was one of the oldest. Blondie had white hair and as I’ve mentioned I just can’t take to white-haired dolls.

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Three of the main authors of books on British dolls are Colette Mansell, Susan Brewer and Frances Baird. I’ve listed some of their books which are available on Amazon, some I think come in a Kindle version.

Links:

British Dolls of the 1960s

The Collectors Guide to British Dolls

British Hard Plastic Dolls

 

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7 comments

  1. It is always interesting to see dolls from other countries. It seems like British doll manufacturers mostly produced dolls with kissing lips. Two of my Schildkröt (they have a turtle mark in the back of their necks) childhood dolls have kissing lips too, all the others have a soft closed mouth smile.

    I like the little brunette in the red dress from the group picture. She has a very sweet expression.

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    • Brenda, the doll in the red dress, was given to me by my mum when I was about twelve or thirteen. She was my last childhood doll. I have one Schildkrot doll myself and she has pursed lips with the little opening that was designed to take a baby bottle.

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  2. I was given a Chiltern teenage long haired strawberry blonde doll in 1960 which I was lead to believe was called a “Debbie Reynolds” model. She had coral colour trousers and bolero with spotty lining. She had stockings and little heeled sandals. I still have her although alas only one shoe of her original outfit remains. I wondered if you have any info on her. I can’t find anything online. Many thanks.

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  3. G’day, as a specialist Australian (only) Doll Historian and Researcher, I am able to identify several of your unmarked dolls shown under Empire made. I will begin with the Miss of which $2 was paid for her. She is an Australian vinyl Cherub made in Heidelberg West, Melbourne about 1963. All the others I will mention are Australian made Pedigrees. One 16in in a long white lace dress is a Joybelle (still an Australian Pedigree) made by Joy Toys in Richmond, Melbourne who took over in 1971 when Lines Bros collapsed. All the others were made by Pedigree/ Moldex at the Daredin Road, Fairfield, Melbourne factory during the 1960s. They are – Dinah,unmarked doll in mauve knitted outfit (sure it doesn’t measure 18in.?), black, usually 16in,, 14in in spotted dress, 14in in knitted mauve skirt with white top and 14in green dress. I am able to supply collected references for each of these dolls if interested and all are in my collection. Yours in dollying.

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