Friday, February 6, 2015

Woodtoys - another house and more info

While I was staying with my sister in Bathurst, we spent a couple of days in Canberra. As well as catching up with friends, meeting a collector, and picking up a dolls house that Anna-Maria was holding for me, I was able to spend more time in the National Library of Australia, and go through four years of the Australasian Sportsgoods and Toy Retailer journal, 1975-1978.
I found lots of ads or displays at fairs for dolls houses made both overseas (I'll show some of the them in another post) and in Australia - I now have several new names of dolls house makers, and have identified the makers of some of my new dolls houses.

This is one of the houses I have in Bathurst - I bought it on ebay from Sydney late last year, and the seller was happy to post it. I bought it because some features reminded me of other houses - though now I can't remember which, or by which maker.

Well, never mind - I now know that it was made by Woodtoys in 1977. You may remember that I bought a house nearly two years ago that is a dead spit for a Bodo Hennig model (1979-1987), but which has the name Woodtoys on the brick paper on the back of the house.

In the toy trade journal, I found information about Woodtoys dolls houses in 1975, 1976 and 1977. 

"The four toys shown in the accompanying photo are the work of Woodtoys, PO Box 64, Lakemba, NSW 2195, which is a partnership of father and son, I J and A T Burden. Father is a former departmental buyer and the son is a former 'Knight Of The Road' with a large general toy wholesaler.
The Burdens make no apologies for the fact that they are in a modest way, and they have had some ups and downs. "In fact," says young Burden, "the respect we have for fellows like Jim Bonaretti [of Bestoys - RG] and, in the past, Keith Lovelock, has increased tenfold - paint dust in everything, no room to move; shoving equipment around to make room for something else; returns from customers through carriers' rough handling. I could go on for hours!"
However, the trauma has passed and now the duo operate in about 3,500 ft. of space, which still is not enough but is a big improvement on the original area. They now do all their own work since the installation of a table saw, band saw, docking saw, sander and other units and employ labour.
The items illustrated show a Georgian style Dolls' house, a pony rockaway, dolls cradle and a table and chair set. They propose several new lines in 1976 including a traditional type rocking horse on a stand similar to the one put out years ago by Roebuck."
Australasian Sportsgoods and Toy Retailer, December 1975, p 62.

Woodtoys' 1976 display at the toy fair shows the same Georgian-style dolls house, which seems to be painted in a range of colours. The caption reads:
"Woodtoys, Lakemba, NSW, displayed Georgian-style dolls houses, pony rocker, toy tidy; dolls wardrobe, rocking cradle, Ampol service station; kitchen dresser; table and chair set; rocking horse and box of blocks. Pictured is proprietor Ian Burden."
Australasian Sportsgoods and Toy Retailer, March 1976.
In 1977, there are photos of Woodtoys' displays at both the Sydney and Melbourne toy fairs, so we get several views of their new dolls house.

Yes! It's my new dolls house! Can you see the canopy over the downstairs window, and the poles supporting the roof of the carport?

The caption says:
"Australian-made range of wooden toys, including coloured table and chair set, a toy tidy which makes into a desk, pony rocker, dolls house, cradle, dropside cot, Mickey Mouse and Abba table and chair sets. All toys come unassembled and are individually cartoned with assembly instructions ... they are all NEW. Most popular item on display was the Deluxe Rocking Horse."
Australasian Sportsgoods and Toy Retailer, April 1977.

I can't read all the writing on the sign, but I can see that the address for Woodtoys is now Greenacre, NSW, a suburb next to Lakemba - so perhaps the Burdens had moved to new premises with more space.

Detail of the house from the photo above - it's on the right, in the centre.
Australasian Sportsgoods and Toy Retailer, July 1977.

The photos of the display at the Melbourne toy fair show the dolls house end-on - and it's a very distinctive view, with a doorway from the rooftop patio to the house cut out of the end wall of the house:

The other Woodtoys dolls house I have has printed paper wallpaper, brick paper and flooring. This dolls house has the wall and floor designs printed straight on to the plywood.

Note the fabric "hinge" which attaches the front door to the wall.

The interior, showing the floors.

Parquet tiling downstairs and hexagonal tiling upstairs.

A geometric design upstairs, and a blue houndstooth design downstairs.

Simple red tiling for the rooftop patio, and in the carport, grass around the edges, gravel in the centre, and clear plywood for the driveway and the parking space.

This house is 16th scale. I haven't furnished it yet - I will look out some of my 16th scale pieces to take down next time I go to Bathurst.


  1. Do you know if Woodtoys still exists? It is a fascinating house, so reminiscent of the 1970s suburbia.

    1. Hi DollMum, no, I am not sure when Woodtoys finished, but it was quite a while ago, I think. I found by googling that Ian Burden started making furniture from recycled wood in Vietnam in the mid 1990s - their website, PGT Reclaimed, says that the brand was established in 1998. So Woodtoys must have finished by the late 1980s or early 1990s, I would think. Hopefully I will find more information when I can go through more years of the toy trade journal.

      It has lots of features that are so typical of the 70s, doesn't it? The front door is so 70s! Having plain wood walls in each room is not typical of that era - I guess it was cheaper than printing on both sides of the plywood. I'll see what it looks like when I come to furnish it - perhaps I can add some wallhangings or feature wallpaper to make it look more realistic. That will be fun!

  2. Hello Rebecca,
    What great pictures. the house is beautiful and seems to be in pretty good shape. A terrific find.
    Big hug,

    1. Thank you, Giac! Yes, it's in great shape overall - just a tiny loss of the white wall from the doorway to the patio, and some loss of the pattern in the upstairs tiled room, which can easily be covered with a rug or furniture. Amazing really - it's quite thin plywood! It will be fun to furnish.

  3. Love your research and old photos. Love the gravel in the deiveway. What kind and scale furniture would have been used in it in it's day. Did it come with any furniture CM

    1. Hi CM, thanks for visiting! It's 16th scale, and quite a few brands of 16th scale furniture were sold in Australia at this time - Lundby and Hanse from Scandinavia, Barton and Dol-toi from the UK, plastic Jean of West Germany, plastic Linda from Hong Kong, etc - I saw ads for some of them in the same toy trade journal! So there are lots of possibilities for furnishing it - I'll just have to try to work out which of my 16th scale furniture here in Darwin would look good in this house in Bathurst, so I don't take down a lot I don't end up using in it!

    2. PS No, it didn't come with any furniture, unlike another from roughly the same era, which came with a fairly full set of Linda from Hong Kong.

  4. Ian Burden is contactable at: