Heard of Hugar, for example? Many collectors probably haven't, but Paul Brookes is certainly a big fan. Offered at Teesside saleroom Vectis (20.83% buyer’s premium) on October 31 was a collection of Hugar lots he had amassed.
Not only has he been an enthusiastic buyer but he also wrote The Illustrated History of Hugar British Models (privately published, 2014 ).
Hugar Models hailed from Epsom, Surrey, run by Hugh Gardner – hence the ‘hu’ and ‘gar’ of the title. It often supplied much larger firms such as Britains and Bassett-Lowke.
Mainly trackside and farm buildings, the late 1930s-40s range of somewhat crude structures featured some military subjects. Other models, though, included OO gauge model railways such as a Southern EMU (Electrical Multiple Unit), produced with wooden bodies during the war when metal was scarce, and waterline recognition ships, 1938-40, built to 1/1200th scale as RAF recognition models.
The Paul Brookes Hugar Reference Collection offered at Vectis in around 30 lots comprised farmhouses, sheds, stables farms and a rare First Aid Post, along with three of the waterline recognition ships.
The Hugar for Gamages/Britains First Aid Post was a “previously unknown” small version of Set 1869 (RAMC Casualty Clearing Station), 1940- 41, featuring a barn with thatched roof. Vectis notes the underside of the thatched type roof “is constructed from unused box lids/catalogue sheets from the Britains 1938 Walt Disney Sets – the illustrations being visible from the inside”.
The condition was described as “some minor age wear otherwise generally excellent overall”. The structure was offered with Britains RAMC (Royal Army Medical Corps) figures usually found in Set 1897.
Vectis adds: “The building and figures were purchased from Gamages by the original vendor’s father in Christmas 1940 as a ‘set’ [in lieu of Set 1869 as this was too expensive]. He could not remember there ever being a box. The set remained with the family from 1940 until being sold by Vectis in March 2012.”
Now consigned by Brookes – and possibly unique – it sold within estimate at £2200.
Another highlight was an example of the Hugar for Britains Set 1869 RAMC Casualty Clearing Station, 1940-41. This is larger than the First Aid Post but not as rare (although Vectis notes it is uncommon to find one in such generally excellent condition). It took £800, again within estimate.
Both these lots mentioned were bought by international commission bidders.
While not regular auction visitors, Hugar models do appear from time to time. Newbury saleroom Special Auction Services sold a Casualty Clearing Station for £780 in May 2019, dipping below estimate. The red cross on the roof had been overpainted.
A Hugar for Britains Set 103F, 1940, ‘Mansard’ type barn – one of the non-military range – took £400 at Lacy Scott & Knight of Bury St Edmunds in May 2016. Also at Vectis, a Hugar for Britains Set 504F Thatched Farm House (post-war issue) sold for £100 in February 2020.
And there are more Hugar lots to come at Vectis – the saleroom says: “We have OO gauge stations, buildings and accessories in our December Model Train Sale, and more civilian and military buildings to go into a future military sale.”
Forest wood carver
Another lesser-known manufacturer is Frank Whittington (1876-1973) who established a toymaking workshop at the end of the First World War in the New Forest, making basic but utterly charming carved, hand-painted animals and people, inspired by the local surroundings and regular trips to London Zoo and the Natural History Museum.
As demand increased (Queen Mary ordered two dozen Noah’s Arks when visiting one of the British Industries Fair), in 1922 he built a factory in Brockenhurst: Forest Toys.
The factory closed at the start of the Second World War.
At Chiswick Auctions (25/12% buyer’s premium) on November 28-29 a 38-piece carved and painted wood fox hunting group catalogued as ‘attributed’ to Whittington made by Forest Toys was estimated at £600-800 and sold at £2800.
Two of the most popular Forest Toys products were The Meet and The Hunt: the former with standing horses, people and hounds, the latter at the gallop. Chiswick’s group seemed to include elements of both.
Several Forest Toys lots were consigned as part of a collection of dollhouses, dollhouse furniture and juvenilia discovered in a jam-packed 1930s bungalow in Poole now being sold to benefit the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.
A fox hunting group attributed to Forest Toys sold for a hammer price of £1900 at Woolley & Wallis of Salisbury in July 2018. It comprised six horse and riders, six hound dogs and a fox; again seemingly a mix of Meet and Hunt examples.