A View of Palitoy as it was in 1978.

Palitoy Star Wars sales display

The factory as it was.

Enter the factory by the door in the vinyl mixing department and, confronted by bags of something labelled ‘Breon’ and the occasional vat of pink blancmange, you could be anywhere. Indeed, on hearing the devices in the next shop referred to as ‘ovens’ you could be forgiven for thinking that you had entered a factory which was intent upon producing gigantic puddings for the British Army. But look more closely and you will find the first semblance of a doll appearing. Heads, then pairs of arms are piled into trays and wheeled away for hand finishing.

Progress a little further and you find yourself in the blow moulding department where machines regularly eject pairs of legs, doll’s bodies and other components which are not so readily identifiable.
Now that the doll’s body set is moulded, although as yet the limbs have not met each other, treatment of the head begins. First it is painted with eyebrows and shadow, its cheeks receive a gentle application of rouge and its lips receive their coating of lipstick.

Dolls hair is made from nylon fibre and is stitched into the head in the next process. Row after row of nylon goes round and round into the head.

Now at last it’s time for arms and legs to meet body and head; hair is finally styled, eyes are popped into the head and dresses and packaging appear and wrap themselves around dolly.

The production of dolls is not the main part of the business which it once was, but it is still by far the most interesting and, to see a finished doll materialise from bags of plastic pellets and resin and a few other components, is something which always fascinates visitors.

The present site is a far cry from the original billiards-cum-dance hall on Owen Street which was the original Coalville factory. New production buildings and the astute installation of mezzanine floors has increased the are now to 87,000 square feet.

The actual value of production through the factory has increased ten times since 1969, from £1.2 million to £11.6 million in 1978.

Palitoy have not been slow in recognising and making use of new technology and considerable capital expenditure has taken place over the years on many and varied new machines.
The dough business also came to Coalville with the advent of Play-Doh and its mixing plant.
This, of course, is all history, so what of the future? Present crystal ball gazers have high hopes and though the streets of Coalville may not be paved with gold it is quite likely that they will soon be generously sprinkled with silicon chips!

On Baker Street is the Customer Service Department but this by no means completely describes the functions of the department. In fact, almost half of the area is given over to the production and despatching of Mainline Railways. Also under the Baker Street umbrella are the Employees Shop and the Sample Department who deal with all the samples from massive trade shows down to the humblest request, There’s a Display Department workshop and store and finally one comes to the Doll’s Hospital where repairs of all kinds are undertaken.

To this section come all injured Action Men, Dolls and any other items for repair, some of them many years old. All receive careful attention and are returned to their doting owners in pristine condition. Many and varied ‘Thank You’ letters which arrive as a result of the good works performed by the ‘Nurses’ in this hospital.

Comments about this page

  • My mother was a personal assistant (secretary) to one of the managers in the seventies. She was called Dorrell, a very distinctive name. I had loads of toys as a child as a result.

    By Sara Burgess (23 November 2023)

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