Dolls' Houses Past & Present

A website and ezine about dolls' houses: antique, vintage and modern. Plus furniture and accessories.

Conway Valley Company

Picture below: Courtesy of Ellen Roberts of Ty Bach Twt Dollshouses & Accessories, North Wales.

The house above is a Conway valley Dolls House, it is extremely rare, this house has a working musical box which it was made with originally. The house has a winder on the side of the house and plays "Pop goes the Weasel". The workings of the musical box are boxed inside towards the back of the house.

There is only one other model of this house known of but sadly on this other model the musical box is non-working.

Conway Valley Co History                   by Rebecca Green


Conway Valley are one of the less well known makers of English dolls’ houses. An advertisement in a 1950 issue of Games and Toys found by Marion Osborne states that “BS Bacon (Games) Ltd of Besbac Works, Llanrwst, North Wales were wholesalers and manufacturers and they were selling the Conway Valley Series.”

 

B.S. Bacon was Bertie Samuel Bacon, born in West Ham in 1894. He was the son of Frederick William Bacon, a coach porter and dairyman, and his wife Sarah, a charwoman in refreshment rooms, and had three sisters and two brothers. According to the 1911 census, Bertie started his working life as an invoice clerk in a shipping company. His brother Albert, 15, was a forwarding shipping clerk, and their sister Rose, 19, did general office work in a fancy celluloid goods business. So the family had experience in the clerical side of buying, selling and shipping goods.

 

Bertie enlisted during World War I. In 1915, he married Ethel M Shields, a machinist. They had 5 children between 1916 and 1927 – Thomas E.M, Roy Bertie, Joyce Olive, Brian A. and Gordon John.

After the war, B. S. Bacon worked as a commercial traveller in fancy goods. This information comes from the birth certificates of his children, and they do not name the company he travelled for.

The first evidence we have of B. S. Bacon as a toy manufacturer is from the 1933 phone directory:

B. S. Bacon, Toy Manufacturer, 129 Church St N16 ph CLIssold 3253

So some time between 1927 and 1933, it seems that he had moved on from selling goods for others, and set up in business as a manufacturer himself.

By 1937, B.S. Bacon, now shown as an Importer as well as a Toy Manufacturer, had moved to 85 Brady St, E1, ph BIShopsgate 6937. A home address is also listed: Ethelbert Morgan Crescent, Theydon Bois, ph Loughton 1031.

The following year, 1938, the business moved again, into two locations: B.S. Bacon, Wood Toy Manufacturer was based at 99 Walmer Rd W10, ph LADbroke 2344, while B.S. Bacon (Games) Ltd, Games Manufacturer, had premises at 24 Belsham St E9, ph AMHerst 2832.

B.S. Bacon’s residence also changed in 1939: he moved to Hillcroft, Church Lane, Loughton (ph 73).

In late 1939, B.S. Bacon was involved in legal proceedings: King’s Bench Division, Da Costa v. B. S. Bacon (Games), Ltd, and anr. (2746).

During the WWII, it seems that the two manufacturing bases were combined at 85 Brady Street (now E2), with the 1943-1946 telephone directories showing this entry:

B.S. Bacon (Games) Ltd, Toys, Games Manufacturer, 85 Brady St E2, ph BIShopsgate 4923.

Following the war, B.S. Bacon (Games) maintained a base in London, at least for a while. According to the telephone directory of 1947, and the 1947 British Industries Fair Guide, this was now at 23 Wilson Street, EC2. By 1947 they had also established a factory at Llanrwst, a town on the Conwy River, and close to Conwy Castle, in Denbighshire, North Wales. Their dolls’ houses were thus named for the valley in which they were made. The factory was called Bes Bac Works, from BS BAC[on].

At the 1947 British Industries Fair at Olympia, they are listed as “Manufacturers of Indoor Games, Darts, Dartboards, Quoit-boards, Draughts, Table Tennis Sets, Shove Ha'penny Boards, Skipping Ropes, Wooden Toys, Forts, Garages, Airports, Farmsteads, Cots, Beds, Blackboards and Easels, Ironing Boards, Skittles, Garden Games.” No dolls’ houses – are any known from the pre-war period? Or did they perhaps expand from forts, garages, airports and farmsteads into dolls’ houses after the war?

A final entry in the London telephone directories for B.S. Bacon (Games) Ltd, Toy Manufacturers, appears in 1950. The address was 6 Eldon St, EC2, ph BIShopsgate 9797 – a very memorable phone number, but I wonder how long they had it for?

The only telephone directory listing after 1950 is for the Llanrwst works: B.S. Bacon (Games) Ltd, Toy Manufacturers, Bes Bac works, Llanrwst 515.

In 1952, a series of photographs taken in the B. S. Bacon (Games) Ltd Toy Factory, Llanrwst by Geoff Charles shows a dolls’ house being assembled (http://www.gtj.org.uk/en/large/item/GTJ11581/). A label is clearly affixed to the base of this dolls’ house – is it the Conway Valley label?

At least one of B. S. Bacon’s children joined the family business. Roy B. Bacon, who was born in 1919, and married in Denbighshire in 1947, became a director of the company. The final telephone listing for B.S. Bacon (Games) Ltd is in 1965 -  from 1967 until 1973, Roy B. Bacon is listed as a Toy Manufacturer at Celyn, Station Road, Llanrwst, with the same phone number: Llanrwst 515.

I am not certain when B. S. Bacon died. Roy Bacon remained in Llanrwst until at least 1985. His wife died in Denbighshire in 1998; Roy himself died in Blackpool in 2003.

 

Pictures below: courtesy of Sarah Boirin

A typical feature of the Conway Valley houses is the flower pots to the front opening door as can be seen in the two Dolls Houses pictured above.

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