Heinrichsen metal figures in Tunbridge Wells museum

As you know toys are a bit of a thing here. They are a bit more of a thing on Shelf Appeal’s Flickr. A recent return visit to the small and dusty toy room at Tunbridge Wells Museum resulted in this image of tiny toys of a type new to me.

These tin plate toys are wee, all less than an inch tall. I hadn’t thought much more about that until I was resizing the image and could read the name on the pretty box behind them in the display case. So I looked it up. Ernst Heinrichsen, whom, it turns out, was one of the first makers of miniature toy figures – forerunners of modern plastic toy soldiers. His factory produced all sorts of miniature toy figures from 1939 – 1940. The toys were flat pressed tin shapes, but incredibly detailed for that.

The museum’s case of Heinrichsens contained a lot of gun brandishing soldiers, sailors with their ships and tiny ranks of ready for action roman soldiers. But the ones that caught my eye were the ‘village’ models here. Bucolic maids and farm hands herding their tiny tin plate sheep. With a lovely dovecot, cows and even trees. With her bright red bodice and flushed cheek she looks as perky as the day she went in to the box behind her.

It looks as though the early Heinrichsen models have been re-released in their naked metal forms, ready for painting. I used to love painting my historical Airfix kits of kings and queens when I was a kid. The great smell of the tiny tins of paint and the delicacy of the small brushes. But I am not sure I am brave enough to take on the challenge of painting such dainty things as these.


Crispin Howell-Jones

toys and tinplate are a bit of a thing here too and these are fab! If you did feel like having a go you could prime them with something and then use gouaches which would allow you to be very delicate and put right anything you didn’t like very easily. A final varnish would protect them. Sounds like a bit of a winter evening project to me!

shelf appeal

Goodness, don’t encourage me. I’ll end up buying the lot and have another mass of little things cramming up the shelves. I can see it now. Yikes.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *