Thursday, 1 January 2009

Norah Wellings

Norah Wellings was a very talented artist and designer of cloth dolls, she started her career with Chad Valley in 1919 and became one of their chief doll designers. Leonard Wellings her brother was also an artist and well known for his plastering skills having his own premises in Wellington, Shropshire. When Norah left Chad Valley it was Leonard who suggested Norah rent a room in his building to make Cloth Dolls and Soft Toys. Norah moved into the premises in 1926 with only six women employees and called the small factory room The Victoria Toy Works. Norah Wellings began production and the catalogues and letterheads described the company as ‘Manufacturers of Soft Fabric Toys and Novelties’. Leonard was involved in the business and promotion side of the company as well as continuing with his own plastering firm. Norah designed all of the dolls and soft toys herself. In 1927 Norah attended her first British Industry Toy Fair where her Products were shown for the first time with great success. The business grew very quickly and Leonard and Norah decided they needed larger premises and in 1929 bought a Baptist Chapel in King Street, Wellington, which was expanded and buildings added over the years. At the peak time during the 1930’s there were around 250 employees. Norah Wellings was also one of Britain’s leading doll exporters with over 70% of sales going overseas, this is why so many dolls are found world wide today. Many of the products were sold on board ship as holiday souvenirs. When Leonard Wellings died in 1959 at the age of 67 Norah had lost not only her brother but also her business partner and best friend. Norah decided it was time to retire and so on September 4th 1959 Employees were given two weeks notice and production ceased. Norah spent her retirement doing the things she enjoyed, painting, cooking and gardening, Norah Wellings died in 1975 at the age of 82.


  1. Help! I have inherited a Norah Wellings doll and i know nothing about her or the doll. He is male, black with glass eyes, he has a bald head which swivels. a black velvet top with orange and black striped trousers. Can you help?

  2. Hello,
    Thank you for your question. Sounds like you have inherited a Norah Wellings doll called 'Sammy'. He was model 126 and made from early 1930's to 1940's. The earlier one like yours had the glass eyes and the later ones had painted eyes. He would have worn a felt hat and had a bow tie around his neck when first purchased. My article on this blog should help on information about Norah Wellings or my book gives more information and also shows a picture of 'Sammy' on page 66.I hope this helps.

  3. Hi Gillian
    I love your site! I have been collecting Norah Wellings Dolls for a few years now and just love looking at new and unusual dolls that I havent seen before. Keep up the good work!
    Lisa x

  4. Hi Lisa,
    I am so pleased you are enjoying my site. So much to add since writing my book. It's great to hear from fellow collectors, thank you.
    Very Best Wishes

  5. Hi, Gillian. I am happy that I found your blog via Googling "Norah Wellings dolls." I enjoyed the above article of yours on Ms. Wellings. She was quite an amazing person, an amazing artist! I recently acquired a Norah Wellings doll, a Spanish dancer nightdress case. Prior to reading your blog and checking out the photos, I had no idea that my type of NW doll was even called a "nightdress case." I suppose that would explain the pockets in her skirt (one deep pocket on either side of her skirt). I have a question: When I received the doll (yesterday), a previous owner -- not necessarily the person from whom I purchased the doll -- placed tissue paper in the pockets to help the skirt retain its ballooned shape. So, do you recommend that I leave the tissue paper in the pockets?

    I am excited to have my very first Norah Wellings doll. Why I chose her: her intricately designed hairdo (doubled braids at the rear of her head, a thick coil of hair on either side of her face) and her elegant floral-on-black print dress with cross-strap bodice. She is 9 inches high. I wonder if she is post-1930s. I cannot discern the decade in which Ms. Wellings created her.

    I would appreciate anything more you could tell me, and share with your other blog readers, about my doll.

    New Jersey, U.S.A.

  6. Hello Angela,
    Thank you for your comments. Can you please email me a photo of your doll so I can confirm the model number. She sounds like a handkerchief doll due to the size only 9 inches rather than a nightdress case. Tissue in the pockets can help when displaying the doll but it is really your own preference whether you keep it inside. I personally do not use tissue as I need mine to sit flat but tissue would help retain the shape. Once again if you are able to email a photo I will let you know the model.
    Kind Regards