Saturday, February 18, 2023

Tebbutt's Strong Toy Co: 1930s dolls house furnishings made in Sydney

Late last year, Canberra collector Wendy Benson's dolls houses came up for sale. I was able to buy several, including some of the Australian dolls houses shown in the exhibition (and book) Dolls' Houses in Australia 1870-1950. One of the houses I bought is called Dunroamin, made in Sydney in the late 1930s or early 1940s.

"Dunroamin" (Photo Benson family)

I saw the Australian dolls house exhibition in 1999-2000, and also visited Wendy and saw some of her dolls houses 8 years ago. So I knew that Dunroamin had some original pieces of metal furniture, probably made in Arncliffe (a suburb of Sydney), in the 1940s. It also has some Walther & Stevenson wooden furniture.

What I hadn't realised until I unpacked it was that it also has two pieces made by an Australian toy maker I had not previously heard of!

This chair has the name E. Tebbutt, Sydney, moulded into the base. The other piece is a bath, which also has a name moulded into the base. It says "Made by E. Tebbutt, Hurstville, NSW."

With that information, it was quite easy to find out more about the maker, through Ancestry and the National Library of Australia's digitised collection, Trove.

Eric Eldridge Tebbutt appears in the Australian electoral rolls in Hurstville in 1930 and 1933. In 1930, he lived at Whinhill, Stoney Creek Road, Hurstville, and his occupation is listed as estate agent. In 1933, he lived at Morgan Street, Hurstville, and his occupation is listed as manufacturer. By 1934, he had moved to 25 Shackel Avenue, Belmore, and gave his occupation as toy manufacturer. He remained at 25 Shackel (or Schackel) Avenue until the late 1940s, although the boundaries of suburbs seem to have changed around him - Shackel Avenue was in Campsie in 1936 and 1937, in Earlwood in 1941, and in Kingsgrove in 1942 and 1943!

As the bath shows the Hurstville address, it seems possible that it dates to the early 1930s. The chair is harder to date, as all of these places are suburbs of Sydney, south-west of the city centre.

Tebbutt registered his toy manufacturing company on 2 July 1937, under the name "Strong Toy Co". The registration entry states that he had started making toys in 1930.

Dun's Gazette for New South Wales, Vol 58 No 3 (19 July 1937), page 8 (accessed through

I'm glad that the bath and the chair show the name Tebbutt, rather than the name Strong Toy Co. There was also a maker called Strong - FW Strong & Co, of Melbourne, who marked their toys "Strong Product" (late last year, I unsuccessfully bid on a miniature diecast pram made by Strong). Tebbutt is a much more distinctive name!

You're probably wondering what these pieces are made from. So was I, as I handled them! They are solid, heavy pieces, but they didn't look or feel like wood or metal. I found a possible answer in a trade directory and a Wanted ad: they are probably manufactured from a type of clay mixture.

Strong Toy Co entry in the Seven Hills suburb section of the Universal Business Directories' Sydney City & Suburban Trade and Business Directory, 1948-49, page 644 (accessed through

The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 14 Sep 1949, page 26 (accessed through

By the late 1940s, Eric Tebbutt had moved to Seven Hills, in Sydney's west. He is still listed there as a manufacturer in 1958. By 1963, however, he had moved to Rouse Hill, where he was farming. By 1980, he had retired from that too, and moved to the lower Blue Mountains. He died in Wentworth Falls in 1990, aged 91.

If anyone knows more about Eric Tebbutt and the Strong Toy Co, or has other pieces made by him, I would love to hear from you!

Addendum: here is a photo of the interior of Dunroamin, taken by the Benson family. I have not yet set this dolls house up, and the furniture is still in boxes, so it will be a while before I can take photos myself. The Tebbutt bath can just be seen in the bathroom next to the stairs, behind a Walther & Stevenson basin. I think the Tebbutt easy chair is hidden at the back left of the living room, where it is almost invisible.

Interior of Dunroamin, with some original pieces and other furnishings and dolls added by Wendy Benson. Photo: Benson family.



  1. I would love to see more of the wonderful dollhouse these Tebbutt pieces came in. Thank you for sharing the Australian made dollhouse furniture that most of us are unfamiliar with.

    1. Thank you very much for your comment. I have added a photo of the interior of the Dunroamin dolls house - as I mention in the addendum to the blog post, I haven't yet set the dolls house up myself, so I'm sharing the photo the Benson family sent me during the sale. I hope to share some other furniture and perhaps a house or too, soon!