Mettoy Playcraft Ltd was the name of a range of toys manufactured in Northampton and Fforestfach Swansea, between the 1930s and 1980s. The Mettoy (Metal Toy) company was founded in 1933 by German émigré Philip Ullmann and was later joined by South African-born German Arthur Katz who had previously worked for Ulmann at his toy company Tipp and Co of Nuremberg. The firm made a variety of lithographed metal wind-up toys. Both Jewish, they moved to Britain following Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. The firm is most famous for its line of die-cast toy motor vehicles of their Corgi Toys branch created in 1956. In the same year Mettoy merged with the Playcraft model railway and slot car company.
The company was sold in 1984 with the assets of the company transferred to Corgi Toys but it folded shortly after.
Ullman and Katz set up their toy-manufacturing business Stimpson Avenue, between Abington Avenue and Wellingborough Road in Northampton, with their company registered on 31 August 1932. They initially produced very similar tinplate toys to those being made in Germany. Within six years the Northampton factory was said to have 600 employees and from 1944 Katz was the managing director.
During World War II the factory not only manufactured munitions but a cooking stove for troops posted in tropical jungle environments.
The Northampton Factory moved to a large site, originally used as a boot factory, in Northampton at the corner of Spencer Bridge Road and Harlestone Road, NN5 7AE, now occupied by Aldi and Iceland supermarkets.
- Toy cars – The company created a “Castoy” line of toy motor vehicles with clockwork motors in 1948.
- Dollhouses – Mettoy manufactured dollhouses from 1954 to 1965.
- Toy aircraft – In addition to toy metal aircraft Mettoy issued a Vapour Trails line of model aircraft
- Toy boats
- Toy trains – The company made a variety of low cost toy trains powered by clockwork motors to compete with Hornby railways.
- Toy weapons – Mettoy designed many toy metal weapons ranging from toy machine guns to ray guns.
- Tie-ins – Mettoy made a series of Dan Dare space toys and a hospital playset based on the Emergency Ward 10 television show.
Mettoy distributed Petite Typewriters and Bandbox radios as well as Aurora Plastics Corporation plastic model kits in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth.
In the early 1980s the director of Mettoy noticed that many children were becoming more interested in home computers than traditional toys. Mettoy started the Dragon Data branch of its firm to manufacture computers for children.
- Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood, accessed 3 January 2014
- Power House Museum, Australia, accessed 3 January 2014
- Ralston, Andrew Spotlight: Mettoy Christmas presents for 1958 Collectors Gazette's January 2012
- Ordnance Survey 1:2,500 map of Northampton South 1901
- p.25 O'Brien, Karen editor & Bossen, Kate editor Standard Catalog of Farm Toys: Identification and Price Guide Krause Publications, 25/10/2004
- Laing, Gordon Digital Retro The Ilex Press Ltd, 2004
- A History of Mettoy at the Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood in east London
- The Fforestfach factory history http://www.fforestfachhistory.com/mettoy.html