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Essex Models and Miniatures archive
Category: Plastic animals & Figures
Although mainly I collect lead animals and figures, my interests and range has now increased to plastic animals and figures and the history behind them, I don’t collect everything and tend to stick to animals I like or have a connection with in real life, horses being one of them.
Britains started off with lead animals across the range but in 1955 and in a partnership with plastic toy maker Herald Ltd started producing plastic animals and figures.
Most of the Britains animals were numbered in the early and later series the numbers below are from images I have found on internet sites relating to horse names and recognition and not necessarily 100% correct.
Most of these below are from the 1970′s and along with the Britains name, ‘Made in England’, there is also a date on most examples I have, these are from the new molds from 1969/70, previous plastic horses were taken from the old lead moulds and Herald plastic moulds (see history below)
The two below have 1970 on the underneath.
These are a heavy horse breed, possibly No.2101 Shire Horse, both are a slightly different colour.
The one below is from the same mould as above but with a different colour scheme, these heavy horses have a textured matt finish to the plastic which looks a better quality than some of the later one’s.
Below a 1970′s foal or colt, No 2122 and a much later mare from 1992 with a smooth shiny finish, a lot on one website shows this horse as Thoroughbred Horse No 2102 for the brown.
The two below I have had for some time and dated 1972, I’ve seen these labelled as cart horses and Shire horses among other things and although missing a yoke around the neck are in fact No.2104 Clydesdale Horses.
The Suffolk Punch below has the same texture as the heavy horses above but no clear date, No.2108 Suffolk Mare.
The rider and horse is also marked 1972 and comes in various colours, Set 2079 – Female Rider & Horse, the saddle and reins are missing on my example.
The little foal or colt below is not dated and the painted detail has seen better days likely to be No2121.
A recent brand new set shown below are all older mouldings sold as a set Number 40956, ‘Riders and horses’ Britains the company are now owned by Tomy.
The female rider and horse is the same as my 1972 version above although complete.
W. Britains Ltd. began their metal ‘Model Home Farm’ line of collectible cast figures, animals and accessories in 1921 in an effort to improve their peace time sales after the First World War. The line was originally introduced with 30 individually available pieces, including trees, shrubs and a farm cart available at a price children could easily afford. The line was added to each year with the inclusion of more animals, village figures ,including a ‘village idiot’ in 1926, and village clergy. Fox hunting figures and cast metal wall sections were added, and following changes in farm life, the first farm truck or ‘lorry’ was introduced in 1934.The range of animals and poses became quite large, at one point there were thirteen different rabbit poses, beehives, donkeys, blackbirds (crows?) and a range of other items. In 1948 the first model tractor was added.
The cast metal (lead based) figures were sold from 1921 until 1966 when cast metal toys were discontinued. Beginning in 1955, Britains created a partnership with plastic toy maker Herald Ltd, completing a full merger in 1959, and the model home farm line was continued in injection moulded plastic. As fashions changed some lines evolved and some were discontinued, the fox hunting line ended production in 1966. In later years there was more focus on farm vehicles, and the animal range did not increase. The Britain family sold their ownership of the company in 1984. Ertl acquired the Britains line in 1997, mainly to accompany their line of metal farm equipment. A few plastic animal figures continue to be sold by Ertl. The Britains name continues with the production of a line of cast metal military miniatures by First Gear, but the range of farm figures has been reduced to a few items, mainly various herd animals.
The plastic Britains Model Farm Range is a mixture of molds from the original Herald animals of 1955 and 1956, and the Britains metal models, which were switched over to production in plastic beginning in 1957. By 1968 the combined range was being produced in PVC plastic, and by 1969, most of the range was being remodelled from the combined older molds of Herald and Britains.
Britains history by Lesley Shepherd
- 1955 – Herald release their first lot of plastic farm animals
- 1956 – The first Herald farm figures are released: a farmer and his daughter
- 1957 – Britains release their first lot of plastic farm based on the old lead moulds
- 1959 – The first Britains and Herald merged catalogue is released presenting the two ranges as one. The range is renumbered
- 1964 – The majority of Herald symbols are removed and replaced with “Britains Ltd England” or simply “England”
- 1965 – The range is trimmed, removing a lot of overlap between the former Herald and Britains ranges
- 1968 – The plastic for the majority of the models is switched to PVC
- 1969 – The process or replacing almost the entire range begins