My toys from the 1960s

Two Toy Telephones

2 toy telephones

The little telephone has a jingly bell inside it, which sounds when you shake the toy. This toy actually dates back to the late 1950s. The bigger telephone looks very like the real-life counterpart of its era, the early 1960s. The key winds up a realistic sounding ringtone. Once it’s wound up, then pressing the button below the dial, in rhythmical bursts, creates a convincing ringing sound, all ready for the child to ‘answer their call’. It has a spring-loaded dial, again, just like the real thing, but the toy also doubles up as a money box, with a stopper in the base that rotates for the retrieval of coins. It originally had a round sticker in the centre of the dial with, if I remember correctly, a number on it, which has become detached and lost since its much-played-with heyday.

Miniature Garden

When Britains Ltd (makers of scale models such as farm animals, knights in armour and the like) launched their 1960s plastic miniature garden sets (superceding those made in metal earlier in the 20th century), my pocket money was a shilling (1/-) a week. I never had a big set, but the smallest sets cost 1/11, a penny short of two shillings. This meant that, every other Saturday, I would hop on my bike, cycle through the centre of town, over two bridges, to the bikes and toy shop on the very edge of town. There I would spend a good while poring over the choices. I hardly dared look at the larger, more expensive and so unattainable sets, but concentrated on those within my budget. My first set was a flower bed with sunflowers and hollyhocks. The flowers slotted into holes in the bumpy plastic flowerbed.

My next set, if I remember correctly, was daffodils and tulips. This set came complete with a little ‘spade’ – a brightly coloured tool that resembled a spade handle at the top, but whose tip was rounded metal, strong enough to push the flowers’ centres to make it stand, leafy and proud, in another flower bed.

So my collection slowly grew: a young weeping willow tree, a rockery, rhododendrons, sets with flower-beds of different shapes, quarter circles and so on, that tesselated with the regular rectangular beds. Some bigger sets were Christmas and birthday presents: a lawn and crazy paving, a large fir tree, a greenhouse with seed trays and flowerpots. What fun!

Sometimes I played with it on its own, at other times in conjunction with my dolls’ house (not to scale) when my little dolls would play in the garden. I still have all the bits, but some of the lugs have broken off the fir tree so its branches are somewhat sparse. It was a lovely, gentle toy, and one that was for a time an addictive obsession. I wonder why they stopped making it? Such a shame!

This motorbike was a push-and-go-toy – best used on lino(leum) rather than carpets. (I still remember pulling and cutting the fluff out of the works when I did try it on even our threadbare pieces of carpet.) The method was push-push-push on the wheels, on the spot, then pull back and let go. It whizzed along, making a fairly realstic motor-bike noise. My brother had one, too: identical. Of course, we managed to find some minute difference in order to identify whose was which and then we raced them. My brother, three-and-a-half years my senior, nearly always won, as his pushes probably had extra oomph! I say it ‘was’ a push-and-go toy, as it stopped going many years ago now, being probably 1960-vintage. However, such toys – even if not working – are still collectors’ items. This little biker rode off into the sunset to the Land of Internet Auctions, so is still being treasured by someone somewhere.

Push-and-go motorbike and rider, made of tinplate

While on the subject of motorbikes, here’s a Matchbox toy Lambretta. It was a present from my mother to cheer me up when I was off school with the German Measles in about 1962-3. I have always loved miniatures and admired the detail of scale models, toys or ornaments. This was both for me – but I wasn’t one to play at road-crashes, so it was still in excellent condition, complete with its box, when it, too, drove off to new climes via an internet auction site.Β  Only one aspect of the toy annoyed me – it was not to scale with my matchbox cars, so looked like a giant bike by comparison. This in no way detracted from its beauty in isolation and its having no rider rather added to its attraction.

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49 Responses to “My toys from the 1960s”

  1. Carolyn

    I had that very same garden, with the little wall, and the bendy greenhouse, and the tulips that sometimes got stuck if you dug them in too hard – and the crazy paving too. Actually, I have to confess that the past tense isn’t quite accurate. I think I might have all of it still, hidden away under the stairs – even though I now have a life-size real grown-up garden to play with.

    • Celia Warren

      Thanks for your comment, Carolyn. As you see, I still have mine! My very first set was a flower bed that came with daffodils and tulips. They must have been quite an early set as, later, I acquired more tulips and, by then, the heads were separate, and you had to stick the stalks’ tiny green stems through the miniscule hole in the tulip flower head. Much easier with child-sized fingers than adults’. Happy days!

  2. Carole

    I also had this garden, wish I still did. I also had a kit where you made your own flowers but I cannot remember what it was called? You had a stem then added sepals, petals, stamens etc, can you remember it, have you any idea what it was called? These toys would sell like hot cakes today.

    • Celia Warren

      Thanks for your comment, Carole. I’m glad I still have mine, even though the plastic has become very brittle now, and some flowers and tree branches have snapped. I suppose the plastic is biodegrading?! I don’t remember the flower-making kit, I’m afraid. It sounds really delightful. I suppose children these days would create these things virtually on a tablet or i-phone app? Not quite the same hands-on tactile pleasure, though.

  3. Sue...

    I was so excited when I saw this,I had one when I was a child and I loved it I wish I still had mine I would love to purchase another one to share the fun I had,with my own granddaughters,I have often thought about the hours I spent designing my own garden….

    • Celia Warren

      Thanks, Sue. It was great fun, wasn’t it. I remember changing the flowers in my flower beds to match the seasons, as well as rearranging the garden layout.

  4. Maggie Hooper

    I too enjoyed this gardening toy I remember saving up for the pond! I wish they still made it I think I would still enjoy it now.

    • Celia Warren

      I suppose today’s children would enjoy a computer-game / virtual-garden more? I still have my set, but unfortunately the plastic is brittle with age, so not very useable.

  5. June Armstrong

    I have my garden set and looking at yours it reminds me of how fiddly the green house was and how difficult it was to get the willow tree leaves pointing in the right direction. I had many many hours of fun with this. It is stored in a golden wonder christmas treat drum!!

    • Celia Warren

      Yes, indeed. The greenhouse was extremely fiddly. And getting the shelves to stay in position AND seed-trays on them was very tricky. My fingers are rather larger and more fumbly nowadays, and I have less patience. I still love the toy, though.

    • Lesley

      I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of the miniature garden’s name. I had sets similar to you and loved playing with them, designing gardens. Thank you for having a photo that brings back happy memories. I can see from the posts we all enjoyed this toy.

      • Celia Warren

        It would be great if they brought it back – especially since this surge in gardening interest. It’s a toy I thought I’d never part with, but sadly the plastic had gone so brittle with age, it was no longer usable.

  6. Christine bristow

    What a trip down memory lane. I searched on the internet for information on the miniature garden. I remember it just as you described with push in daffodils and other flowers. At the time i was so exited if i got an extra piece for it. Thank you for leading me down the memory path.

    • Celia Warren

      Glad you enjoyed the memories. It was quite an addiction for a time and every new set was an added joy. It helped that there were no weeds, too! πŸ˜‰

  7. Jennifer Lane

    My friend came round last night and in the course of conversation we started talking about this fantastic little garden toy. Mine disappeared somewhere down the line but she swears she still has hers at home somewhere. We both loved it. I imagine it’s been taken off the market due to some irritating Health and Safety issue – size of the component parts maybe.

    • Celia Warren

      Yes, those tiny flower heads could easily be swallowed (!) Or you might poke yourself in the eye with the point of the ‘spade’ … blooming health and safety! Mind you, children probably prefer electronic games now.

  8. Elaine Whitehead

    I still have my set, and my brothers, so I have two lots of some of the pieces! I also have people in mine – an entire family, from children up to grandparents. I remember how fiddley some pieces were, and how the flower heads would often fall off. Like you, I used to save my pocket money, then spend ages deciding what set to buy. My set hasn’t had an airing in some years now, I think I may have to check it over soon ( as in “have a play”)

    • Celia Warren

      Ha ha – we’re never too old to play. I used to put dogs in my garden from my box of Britains farm animals – oh, and sometimes a duck on the pond!

  9. Neville Cheeseman

    Hi I still have my miniature garden set, I used to save my pocket money too & hope birthday & Christmas were good, I have all the garden tools, hose sprinkler Mower wheel barrow, garden benches, dove cot Garden shed, greenhouse & cold frame & collie dog on the lawn plus lots more. I iluminated the pond with my Lego brick that lit up & made gravel paths with the sand from the bottom of my real life buggie cage, I still have it all & my children were allowed to play with it but then box it away again, They are now 28 & 26, so its being kept for Grandchildren now, what great memories. Neville 59

  10. Val Phillips

    I am so glad that this garden toy us real…I remembered having it but as my parents and older brother have now sadly passed away, had no-one to corroborate this memory. Now you have and I am so pleased! I had to give mine to my brother as I took his etch-a-sketch to school without asking him if I could, it got dropped and broke. So on fessing up, he had the choice of one of my toys, so chose the garden set! Grrr! πŸ™‚

    • Celia Warren

      Ha – what a fabulous story! Oh, the follies of one’s childhood, eh! So glad that you now know you didn’t dream up the toy and I hope seeing it here brings back many more happy memories. Thanks so much for writing.

  11. Sue Stone

    Thank you for proving my memory is not playing tricks on me. Sadly l was the second child of seven and we had little storage room and were taught to pass toys on to younger siblings as toys were sparse. I now have the real thing. The children today miss so many of the hands on toys now it is buttons and tabs.

    • Celia Warren

      I had the opposite problem. I was the youngest of three and discovered later that toys I thought were mine were not, and they eventually found their way back to my older siblings. Mind you, by then I was old enough for it not to matter … except it was dolls’ house furniture I missed … I still have my dolls’ house!

  12. Sandi

    I looked this up online as in my memory it was the most wonderful thing ever. I remembered the pond especially, and looking at the images I am surprised at how basic it all looks now. As a child, I thought it magical. Wish I still had it.

    • Celia Warren

      I spent hours playing with it. The plastic has gone very brittle with age now.

    • Linda Horn

      Can anyone remember what it was called and what the boxes looked like. I used to love it and often wonder why they stopped doing them. Surely no more dangerous than Lego.

      • Celia Warren

        It was called Miniature Garden – made by Britains. It was first made before the war in metal and relaunched in the 1960s, I think, in plastic. The packets were little sellophane bags, with a stapled card that they hung from. You could see the contents as you looked at them on a rotating stand in the toy shop I used to go to. Each basic set cost 1/11 (one shilling and elevenpence) and the bigger sets more, of course. A basic set was, typically, a flower bed, some flowers that you snapped off the plastic stick, and a planting tool that had a handle like a miniature gardening spade – in yellow, orange and pale blue that I know of.

        I guess children today are more into digital games?

  13. Christine

    I remember the toy garden I looked it up online and there it was Just as i remembered I even ordered some daffodils and tulips They arrived in good and now they are displayed in my cabinet

  14. caterrellJane

    I may be too late on the comments here..can’t see how old they are! My Dad brought an English country garden set home as a traveling gift to my family in the US probably the late 60’s. I was fascinated with it! Loved playing with it and imagining myself in England! Great memories!

    • Celia Warren

      Hello, and thanks – it’s never too late to comment – and lovely to hear from you. It was a delightful toy and it’s great to think it travelled across The Pond to spread joy further afield. πŸ™‚

  15. Angela

    I have recently retrieved my garden set from my Mum’s house – couldn’t resist setting it all up – carefully as it is rather brittle. What astonished me was that I have most of the features in my actual garden – willow tree, greenhouse, swing seat, walls with daffs and tulips in……….I could go on – was something subliminal going on in my mind all this time ? I am 61 !

    • Celia Warren

      How wonderful! Makes you wonder. Tulips and daffodils planted in the walls were one of my favourites. (I’m a year older than you.) I had a similar experience with my dolls’ house. When our children were small we moved into a 1930s house and it felt instantly as if I’d “come home”. It took me years to work out why: it was just like my dolls’ house in outward appearance. Inside it differed, fortunately – it had more than two rooms and had stairs to move between them! πŸ™‚

  16. Lesley

    Just been telling my daughter and husband about this garden as we watched the granddaughters playing with playmobil. I remember having so many happy hours rearranging the few bits we had. Looked it up and found your website and had many memories jogged reading the comments I.e the walls you could plant flowers in. I wish they still made it as my granddaughters would love it!

    • Celia Warren

      Thanks for your comment. I think this toy has attracted more attention than any other. I wish they still made it, too. Happy memories!

  17. christinebristow

    The garden is sold online look at Britains website I ordered some daffodils and roses and they are as I remembered

  18. Celia Warren

    There seems to be plenty of vintage sets and parts available, but if they are anything like mine, too brittle with age to play with. I’d love to hear if and when they resurrect the product in modern plastic.

  19. Carolyn

    Yes, I know where my minature garden is now – all safely packed in my Pelham Puppet boxes and I have increased my real playground to 3 gardens and 2 half allotments and now I realise how much that original toy garden must have influenced my garden designs over the years. At my first house I had a hollow brick wall built where I planted creeping and wooly thyme and camomile.On my first half allotment, in the 1980’s I designed it so there were beds with curved edges and for many years now there is crazy paving under the fruit bushes to supress the grass (and, being removable, makes it easier to control the bind weed). At home I have a bed for hollyhocks and the like and another full of daffodils and tulips. and a rockery. However, I haven’t made the mistake of growing a willow tree. 2 greenhouses and a double potting shed = lots of seed trays in the spring and i use those small pots for potting on. I wonder, if collecting and creating your toy garden has influenced your subsequent gardening.

    I agree they should bring out something similar also bayko, this being more informative than lego. CE mark regulations though make it difficult to be a toymaker in UK now.

    • Celia Warren

      So pleased you found it. I never had Bayko, but I played with my older sister’s set. How lovely to discover how the toy inspired your real grown-up gardening.

  20. Donna

    Oh I was so pleased to come across your thread. I was just looking at Bayko on eBay, which I was obsessed with as a child, possible why I ended up restoring houses! I spent hours and hours building bayko houses, and thought I would try and get some for my grandson, as my son owns a loft conversion company and I thought they could enjoy it when he gets a bit older (he’s only 15 months!) Then I remembered the little gardens I used to build around the houses and couldn’t remember at all what that was called. It was actually really exciting to see the photo of your garden, and brings back so many memories, so thanks very much

    • Celia Warren

      So pleased to hear from you. Miniature Garden seems to have been so popular. It’s attracted more comments than any other toy so far. Good luck with your bayko searches.

      • Carolyn

        There is a Bayko Collectors Club that meets somewhere just off the M40. I’ve not called in there yet but their AGM is on Sunday March 6th at Lane End Village Hall,
        Church Road, Lane End,Buckinghamshire. HP14 3JE 10am for 11am to 4pm I won’t be goingbecause I shall be at a Camp Leaders training at Woodlarks Camp Site.

  21. Karen Henderson

    Thanks for the memories of Britains model gardens. My experience is almost identical to yours. My garden was thrown out when Mum considered me too old and had a clear out. I still miss it as I know my 5yr old granddaughter would love it.

    • Celia Warren

      Thanks for your comment. If it’s any consolation, mine has gone brittle with age, so not very useable. Sets come up for sale on eBay from time to time, though, so maybe worth looking. πŸ™‚

  22. Christine

    I sent strait to manufacturer for some tulips and daffodils and other bits expensive but worth it for the memories
    They are much smaller than i remember

  23. Susan Nysen

    Hello, my name is Susan and I also had The Britain’s Floral Garden.
    I first played with a set at my primary school had purchased in the mid 1960’s for the rainy day toy cupboard. The following Christmas I found one of my own under the Christmas tree. Many a happy hour was spent designing and re- designing that garden.
    Mine is also plastic but not yet brittle. It travelled with us to our new home in Australia in the late ’60’s and is now layed out in all is glory in a room dedicated to the toy’s of my childhood and some… The only piece that gave me grief was the white plastic greenhouse. Right from day one there was a twist in the plastic and just as I got it set up, the shelf would pop, sending all the little cacti pots awry !
    Thank you for the memories.

    • Celia Warren

      Thanks so much for your comment, Susan. Glad you still have the lovely toy. I had the same experience with the greenhouse. Still fun though!

  24. Gardening in Miniature | Parks and Gardens UK

    […] “My pocket money was a shilling (1/-) a week. I never had a big set, but the smallest sets cost 1/11, a penny short of two shillings. This meant that, every other Saturday, I would hop on my bike, cycle through the centre of town, over two bridges, to the bikes and toy shop on the very edge of town. There I would spend a good while poring over the choices. I hardly dared look at the larger, more expensive and so unattainable sets, but concentrated on those within my budget. My first set was a flower bed with sunflowers and hollyhocks.” [Celia Warren] […]

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