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Toy Brands and Manufacturers

HPL logo, Harbutts Plasticine Ltd (~1948).jpg


1897 -     

Harbutt's Plasticine Limited ("HPL") was born out of William Harbutt's perfection in 1897 of Plasticine, a non-drying alternative to modelling clay.

Harbutt immediately started promoting the new material with advertising and a supporting book, and is supposed to have been granted a patent for the new material in in 1899.

After originally making small batches in his basement. Harbutt moved production to a proper factory site at the old mill in Grange, High Street, Bathampton.

The business expanded internationally and the Harbutt's range started to include character tie sets for Disney creations and Enid Byton's Noddy.

The factory was accidentally burned down by a contractor in the winter of 1962/1963, but the company rebounded quickly, and with an in-demand product, when eventually brought down Harbutt's was mismanagement: William Harbutt had died from getting a chill in 1921 during a foreign demonstration tour, and left behind a large family who then rand the business. Although the Plasticine business was sound, some family members had decided that they wanted to do more, and diversified the company into other products that weren't as successful.


Art/marking products

  • Acorn weather-resistant marking crayons
  • Little Artist chalks
  • Plasticine
  • Roman City wax crayons
  • Novlart / Colour Stencilart / Easyart stencil art packs

Other products

  • Morell's Inks, Chalks, Pastes and Sealing Wax – distribution had been taken over by Harbutt's by 1939
  • Plastone self-hardening modelling clay
  • Plasticine Dartboards (!)


The company briefly made case law with "Plasticine" Ltd v Wayne Tank and Pump Co Ltd, in which it successfully got damages from a contractor despite a limiting clause in their contract. The contractor was apparently employed to install a piping conduit system for hot wax, decided to use plastic pipes, installed a faulty thermostat, and then switched on the system at night without supervision. The overheated hot wax melted through the plastic pipes, flooding the factory with molten wax, and then (predictably), caught fire, the resulting ultra-fierce blaze utterly destroying the factory and factory building.

Where "breach of condition" arguably undermined a contract by depriving one party of the advantages that the contract was supposed to ensure, Denning's new concept of "fundamental breach" went further, and said that if the complainant received none of the advantages meant from the contract, and also suffered serious harm from the defendant's behaviour, that the defendant could not hide behind "limitations" clauses in the contract to avoid being sued. WTPC's contract to build a piping system did not protect them from liability from multiple layers of negligence that resulted in the destruction of their client's factory. This new concept of "fundamental breach" was not generally considered to be good law, and did not "stick".


  • Harbutt's Plasticine Limited – 3 Bathampton, Bath (~1916)
  • Harbutt's Plasticine Limited – 99 Bathampton, Bath
  • Harbutt's Plasticine Limited – 79 Bathampton, Bath
    • London Office and Showrooms – 56 Ludgate Hill, London EC4

External links and sources

  • William Harbutt, Harbutt's plastic method: and the use of plasticine in the arts of writing, drawing, & modelling in educational work (Chapman &​ Hall, 1897)


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Pages in category ‘Harbutt’

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Media in category ‘Harbutt’

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