This fabulous Morris Commercial J2 was used in the late 1950s and ’60s. The van was driven by a lady called Anne Kelham, and because the driver's cab is on top of the engine she would be guaranteed a warm journey on her rounds - free heated seats. Anne would deliver and collect outwork around Oakham. Work could comprise of assembling plastic flowers like the sweet peas in the photo. We still have an actual mid-century bunch in our archives and although the petals have faded a little in colour, they remain firmly in full bloom!
Rutland Plastics was established in January 1956 by Ron Smart and Don Ansell. The company started with two moulding machines on a site just 200 metres from todays' site.
Like many new ventures, there were sacrifices that had to be made to get things started. The two owners sold their cars to raise the money to pay for those first machines. Even moving into their new factory was not straightforward. The original building was an old corn mill and the millstone had to be removed to make room for the moulding machines.
In the beginning, the company moulded plastic flowers progressing to accessories for budgerigars as their popularity boomed during the 1950's, moulding all manner of toys for this popular mid-century family pet, from mirrors, ladders, little men that rocked backwards and forwards when pecked to feeders and bird baths. Later this developed into its own-brand of toys for children called ‘Rutland’ which went on to include the Katie range of domestic-themed toys. Most were moulded in polystyrene and quite brittle and it is unlikely that many survived the scrapes and bashes of a typical playtime
A change in import controls and subsequent increased competition in the late 1960’s from Japanese, German and American toy imports saw a sharp decline in the sale of British made toys. Smaller toy manufacturers started to be bought out by larger companies looking to restructure and this included buying up toy brands.