Dolls' Houses Past & Present

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Dixon Bros and Romside Manufacturing Co by Rebecca Green

Romside Manufacturing Co made metal components for dolls houses, such as stairs, fireplaces, chimneys, shutters, windows and doors. Some companies, such as Tudor Toys and Pennine, used Romside windows in their dolls houses, and the components were also available through Hobbies for use in dolls houses made at home following Hobbies’ plans.

Romside advertisement in Hobbies 1957 Handbook


Often, these dolls houses are confused with Tri-ang, a much better known firm. The easiest way to distinguish them is that most Romside windows have diamond shaped lattice panes, while Tri-ang houses almost always have square or rectangular panes. However, Romside also made square paned windows, the difference being that the Romside ones open. Lines did use diamond shaped lattice windows on some designs (eg  the Queen’s Doll’s House), but generally if a dolls house has original diamond shaped lattice windows, it is not Lines / Tri-ang.

In her book A to Z 1914 to 1941 Dollshouses, Marion Osborne shows an advertisement from a Hobbies Annual, and says that apart from this, and one appearance in Games and Toys, Romside was a very elusive firm. She was told that there was a connection with Dixon Bros & Wood, a company which made metal toys, including large scale dolls’ furniture, before WWII. Here is a little more information about these firms, from phone books and censuses, etc.

The first appearance of the name Romside in British telephone directories is in 1930, for a Sports Club! Romside Sports Club was listed at Brooklands ho[use], North St, Romford (1930-1948).

Romside Manufacturing Co. Ltd Engineers first appears in the telephone directory, above the Sports Club’s listing, in May 1938, at 119 North St, Romford, ph. Romford 2791. In the November 1938 directory, until 1942, the address is given as “rear of 147 North St, Romford” (same phone number).

From 1943 - 1947, the firm appears as “Romside Manufacturing Co. Ltd Engrs, Metal Stampers, 147 North st ph *Romford 2791”. So, to whatever engineering services the firm had supplied, they now added metal stamping. I imagine that during the war years their output would have been directed to the war effort.

From 1948 until 1964, the description “engineers, metal stampers” continues. The address changed in 1948 to Brooklands approach, North St, Romford.

In 1966, the description “engineers’ was dropped, and the firm is simply “Romside Manufacturing Co. Ltd,  Mtl Stampers, 2 Brooklands app ph Romford 62286”.  This entry continues through until 1973.


Romside display card, courtesy of Eleanor


An internet search on Romside found these references in Wikipatents:

“Improvements in and relating to hand tools GB Patent #            GB603524   Abstract            Trowels.  DIXON, C. L., and ROMSIDE MANUFACTURING CO., Ltd. Oct. 23, 1945, No. 27890.

“Improvements in hand tools            GB Patent #            GB611198   Abstract            Handle fixings. DIXON, C. L., and ROMSIDE MANUFACTURING CO., Ltd. April 25, 1946, No. 12484.”

Here is the name Dixon, which Marion Osborne had been told was connected to Romside! Back to the telephone directories – C.L. Dixon is listed at 31 Sheila rd  Romford, ph Romfrd 3982, from 1954 to 1960 (the address and phone number change to 31 Sheila rd Collier row Romford 43982). From 1961 to 1966, C.L. Dixon has the same phone number, but has moved to 132 Cambridge av Gidea Pk.

So it seems likely that C. L. Dixon was an engineer with Romside Manufacturing Co. Ltd (we’d probably need company records to know exactly what his role was). But where had he come from, and was he part of Dixon Bros & Wood, as Marion Osborne had been told?

According to Mrs Osborne, Dixon Bros appeared in the Toy and Fancy Good Trader in 1915 and 1917, and Dixon Bros & Wood appeared from 1934-1937.

Dixon Bros & Wood first appears in the London telephone directory in February 1932, as Dixon Bros & Wood Ltd, Automatic Mchns, 92 Harrow rd E.11 ph LEYtnstn 1252.  By August 1932, they had moved to 7 Forest lane E.15 ph MARyland 4461. By August 1933, their street number has changed to 1A Forest Lane, and the description has changed from Automatic Machines to Engineers. Toy Manufacturers is added to the description in 1935. This listing continued through 1938.


Dixon Bros & Wood cupboard, 1930s, © KT Miniatures

This unfortunately doesn’t give us their names. It would have been much easier too if C. L. Dixon had used at least his first name! However, after searching birth and death records and censuses, I think I have found the right family.

In the 1911 census, a family of Dixons is living at 185 High Road, Leyton, Essex. Marion Osborne notes an entry for Dixon Bros at Buckland Road, Leyton, in Toy and Fancy Good Trader for September 1917. So the address fits.

The members of the family are Walter, the head, an engineer change hand, born in Hull, Yorkshire; his wife Ellen; and three sons: Walter, aged 26, an engineer’s fitter, Cecil, aged 23, also an engineer’s fitter, and Ralph, aged 19, a shop assistant.

Thus Dixon Bros were probably Walter and Cecil Dixon, both engineer’s fitters. I have no idea who Wood was!

Tracing the Dixon family back through the censuses, we find that in 1901, the family is living at 33, Citizen Road, Islington; father Walter is a Zinc Plate Worker, son Walter is an engineer’s apprentice, and Cecil is still at school. In 1891, sons Walter and Cecil were 6 and 3 respectively; the family was living at 10, Rodney Street, Clerkenwell, and father Walter J. Dixon is described as a “General Smith”. In 1881, Walter J. had not yet married – he was a Whitesmith, living at the Golden Lion, 8, Penkhull Street, Newcastle Under Lyme, Staffordshire.  In 1871, Walter J. was a merchant’s clerk, and living at home at 10 Temple Court, High Street, Kingston Upon Hull. His older brother Arthur Henry Dixon, aged 20, was a Watchmaker and Jeweller. It seems that between 1871 and 1881, Walter decided that metalworking was more exciting than being a clerk!

The Dixon family were also at this address in 1861, when Walter J. was 4. His father, James Dixon Junior, is described as a Bank Messenger and Preserver of Birds [could this mean pigeon keeper?]. His mother’s brother Henry Lawson was also living with them – he was a Whitesmith + Bellhanger (Journeyman). Walter’s grandfather James Dixon lived next door – he was a tailor, so it seems likely that the metal working tradition came from Walter Dixon’s mother’s family. (James Dixon was born in King’s Cliffe, Northamptonshire, where my maternal grandfather’s ancestors came from. I am probably related to him by marriage, as my 3x great uncle married a Dixon in King’s Cliffe in 1844!)


Romside metal fireplace in Barton wooden surround © Sarah Boirin


To summarise:

Dixon Bros advertised metal toys from 1915 to 1917. Dixon Bros & Wood Ltd, engineers and toy manufacturers, is known from 1932-1938. The sources I’ve had access to don’t show whether the firm existed in the 14 years from 1918-1931. The brothers were most likely Walter (1885-?) and Cecil Leopold Dixon (1888-1967).

 In 1938, Romside Manufacturing Co. Ltd, Engineers (and later Metal Stampers) appears at Romford; C.L. Dixon was definitely connected with this firm. Romside existed until at least 1973.

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