by Liza Antrim

This text and the images of furniture are copyright of Liza Antrim, 2006, and may not be downloaded or reproduced in any medium without the written permission of the author.

John Evans was listed as a toy and Japan manufacturer in Dudley Road, Wolverhampton in 1816, and by 1827 he and his stepson Sidney Cartwright were in business there together as toy manufacturers, factors and wood turners. This was their heyday, when they employed nearly 160 people, many of them children. By the time Sidney Cartwright had taken over, in 1842, business had taken a down-turn, due partly to the general depression, and also to the Americans stopping imports of English toys, having started to manufacture their own. The work force had shrunk to sixty, but the firm continued for quite some time, until eventually going out of business in the 1870s or 1880s.

Sydney Cartwright

Cartwright appears to have been a good employer. He was a Poor Law Guardian, and felt strongly about education for children up to the age of nine but was realistic enough to realise that their earnings after that age became too important to be dispensed with.

He was an eminent citizen of Wolverhampton, involved in banking and mining, acting as a magistrate and supporting the Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Museum, which he endowed and to which he (or his widow) bequeathed his collection of paintings. He died in 1882.

The tin furniture which the factory produced had for many years been thought to be French, but a lucky purchase in an auction of a lot which the auctioneer described as a “box of old junk”, gave us the first clue that the real story was quite different. My eagle-eyed daughter noticed some faintly impressed letters on one of the chair legs, and we managed to make out ‘..ANS & CARTWRIGHT. Margaret Towner, a friend, put 14 and 2 together, and tracked down the factory to Wolverhampton.

The Ordnance survey map for 1901 still shows the site of the toy factory on the Dudley Road, opposite Cartwright Street where presumably Sidney provided housing for many of his workers. This area has sadly all been demolished. The factory site is now partly a car park and partly a vacant plot beneath a hoarding (how wonderful it would be if some industrial archaeologists decided it would be an interesting place for a dig!).

Chair by Evans and Cartwright

Table by Evans and Cartwright

The pieces which the firm produced were mostly of rolled or punched tin-plate, with many of the patterns being used over and over again for different  articles.

The Japanned finish was predominantly in the familiar “foxy red” wood grain, although some pieces appear in a dark red lustre. The washstands, though, often seem to be painted in bright colours, with flowers and leaves.

We now know for sure what they made for the doll’s house (my main interest) but have never (knowingly) seen any of the other toys which were made at the factory known affectionately as “Whistle Hall”.

The site of Evans and Cartwright's factory, now with the hoarding and the car park beyond it.

Cartwright Street.  The corner building may possibly date from from Sydney Cartwright's time but the rest has now gone.

Robert Cordon Champ has kindly provided us with these photos of a snuff box in his possession:


Bob describes this as  "a circular, convex snuff box with tortoiseshell finish, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and clearly marked 'Evans & Cartwright' on the internal hinge plate. The box is very well-made and finished, with a small applique mount of a cat with a bird in its mouth in the centre of the lid. Both lid and base are convex as is the spacer (side) between the two. The inside finish is tin as is usual, the mark stamped in very small upper-case".  

   A little Evans & Cartwright brass vesta case, lined in tin.
   Courtesy of
Liza Antrim.

If you have any further information about the company, please let us know.

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