Saturday, 3 September 2011

The Lines family - defining an English childhood

Sometimes this research gets seriously personal and starts tapping into my own personal history. What started out as a "tidying up" exercise on the database led me into the toy buying habits of my childhood. Here's how it goes...

Lesley Champion's Fitzhenry family (family tree 04 on the database) married not once, but twice into the Lines family.

Benjamin Fitzhenry (1848-1925) married Mary Ann Lines on 31 July 1875 at St James Church, Clerkenwell, London. Benjamin was Lesley's great grandfather.
His sister Jane Fitzhenry married Mary Ann's brother, Joseph Lines, at St Andrew's church, Holborn, on 30 June 1877.

Joseph and his brother George were toymakers. Very successful ones. They had factories all over London and traded under the name G&J Lines which was founded in 1876.

Jane and Joseph had seven children. Three of the sons, Walter, George and William went straight into the family firm, and then set up their own firm Lines Bros. in 1919 when they returned from fighting in the Great War.

And this is where my research got seriously spooky. Because it seemed that virtually every toy that I had owned when I was a child was a product from these Lines boys. In 1924, they relocated to South London and rebranded as Triang Toys (as a triangle is made up of three Lines).

Triang grew over the next fifty years and at one time claimed to be the biggest toy manufacturer in the world. Triang acquired Hornby (model train makers), Pedigree (doll makers, creators of Cindy, the main competitor to Barbie), Meccano (click here for the original stuff made by the Triang company) Play-doh, Scalectrix (model racing cars) and Dinky (model cars) amongst others.

The Triang company collapsed in 1971 and the various components were sold. Most of the successful toys are still produced.

For a fuller history of Triang, follow this link to the Victoria and Albert Museum's website

Even better, Walter Lines, became the chairman of Hamleys Toy shop of Regent Street, London when in 1931 the Lines brothers took over the struggling business. Hamleys in the 1970s was THE toyshop in London if not the whole of England. It was such a treat to be taken to the shop on Regents Street by my parents.

Virtually every child in Britain the later part of the 20th century would have had a toy made by the Lines Brothers. And those Lines Brothers were half Fitzhenry.

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1 comment:

  1. A slight correction - the 3 brothers who set up Triang were William, Walter and Arthur. The 4th brother, George was my Grandfather, and was an Engineer, then a farmer after the war. He then returned to toymaking - working for Joseph until Josephs death in 1931, after which he worked for Triang. I have written about him at