Memories of Waddingtons
Did you know that Monopoly was made in Leeds?
As were Cluedo, Subbuteo, Risk and many more family favourites.
Waddington’s was a Leeds company that started making games in 1922.
Kitty Ross from Leeds Museums & Galleries explores further.
And overleaf we hear from Graham Hawkridge,
who worked for Waddingtons in the 1970s.
I did not grow up in Yorkshire, but one Leeds company loomed large in my childhood. As a child of the 1970s my toy cupboard was bursting with games and puzzles printed here in Leeds by John Waddington Ltd. I didn’t imagine then that I would end up looking after thousands of them as part of my job at Leeds Museums and Galleries. Unfortunately I don’t have time to play them as while at work, but have very strong memories of very competitive games played with friends and family.
Waddingtons are probably most famous for introducing the US game of Monopoly to the UK (and British Empire) in the 1935. Like most people I can remember Monopoly sessions that lasted for hours, with fraying tempers and the feeling that you were always doomed to lose. Maybe I wasn’t enough of a ruthless capitalist to win.
Like most people I can remember Monopoly
sessions that lasted
for hours, fraying tempers
I personally feel that some of the games that Waddingtons themselves devised and popularised were more interesting. In 1938, building on the success of Monopoly, they created a very complicated board game based on horseracing (and betting) which they named Totopoly. This really was a game of two halves, with a double-sided board. Then in 1949 they introduced the world to the classic country-house murder mystery game, Cluedo. Over the years, Waddington’s seemed to be able to come up with games based on many different scenarios, and in later years they were able to find ways to tie in to popular films and television shows.
Quite a few of the games seem to link back to the main theme in Monopoly and centre on spending or accumulating lots of (paper) money or property. These include Mine a Million, Financial 500, Speculate Carlette (subtitled “Monte Carlo in the Home”) and Bonanza. At Christmas 1973 (or possibly 1974) family
friends introduced me to the wonderful game of Rat Race. This involved each player trying to work their way up from Working Class to High Society by acquiring various iconic objects and status symbols. Strangely, what sticks in my mind most is that one of the Working Class objects was a “plaster bust of Beethoven”.
Others introduced children to the world of work, such as Careers, Scoop! (based on the world of tabloid journalism) and Ulcers. The latter is not a medical game, but involves each player being a manager either trying retain employees or pinch them from their appointments. My favourite work-inspired game has to be Excuses! Excuses! which is inspired by the obstacles that you might meet on your commute to work.
As Totopoly proves, sport is another theme that provides a useful format for board games such as Table Soccer, Formula 1, Tennis, Golfwinks (table golf) and the wonderfully titled sports betting game Lose Your Shirt. In 1983 Waddingtons acquired the rights to one of the classic table football games, Subbuteo which was first invented in 1947. Similarly, games based on war and military campaigns were a long-standing favourite. In 1940, Waddingtons produced a patriotic game called GHQ The Waddington War Game. Others titles included The Battle of Little Big Horn, Battleships, The Game of Nations and Campaign.
I can now recall playing this mouse-trap game for hours and also the feeling of the plastic pot smashing down on your knuckles if you didn’t pull your mouse out of the way in time. It turns out it was first produced in 1967, so is exactly the same age as me.
Sadly, Waddingtons was taken over by the American games giant Hasbro in the 1990s and these games are no longer made in Leeds. A firm that started as a theatrical printers in 1890 and employed many Leeds people for over 100 years finally closed its doors in 1998. Fortunately a large archive of games, jigsaws and company magazines survive in the Leeds Museum collections and we still occasionally find new games that we haven’t seen before to add to the collection and preserve them for future generations.
Graham Hawkridge, 86, was born and brought up in East End Park. He worked as a printer for Waddingtons in the 1970s and 1980s. He lives in Woodlesford. He shares his memories below.
I worked at Waddingtons for quite a while. I was there when they took over Artmaster, the paint-by-numbers activity. I got the job of printing boards for Artmaster. The numbers would go on afterwards and then the people that bought them would paint them. They also took over Subbuteo, so I printed all the rules and boxes for that game. We did hundreds of things.
When I was there the factory was out at Ouzlewell Green near Woodlesford. There were a lot of women who worked with us. Not many men. I was one of just two or three men that worked there. The women worked on the tables, doing the paints and stitching things. Slotting everything together. I still see some of the girls. One of them who worked for me, she works in Morrison’s now. I see her on the till. We’re all getting on a bit now!
They also had a factory in Dundee, did Waddingtons. One year there was a football match – Leeds United vs Dundee.
It was a testimonial from when Peter Lorimer retired. And I was running a junior football team at the time. So we took our team up with Leeds United and we played a ‘curtain raiser’ in Dundee before the big match. Oulton and Woodlesford Juniors we were called. Nicknamed the Owls. That was a happy memory.
They were cutting back after a while so they shut down the Ouzlewell Green base and I started off on my own.
But I carried on doing the work for Waddingtons, as a freelance. Same job but on my own.
Waddingtons was great to place to work. Just one big family. If anyone had a birthday the girls put on a party for them, it was lovely. It didn’t feel like working. We all used to chat in the canteen over our dinner. And all sorts of people worked there. Victor Watson ran the company. He came up to the factory once or twice. Not often though. Sometimes we’d see his brother, John I think it was. There was another brother, but we didn’t see a lot of him. We’d see Victor at any do’s we had.
They eventually closed down altogether. Sold to Hasbro, an American company. I did alright out of it, but it was sad when it closed.
As I say, Waddingtons was just like a family. Unbelievable. I’ve worked all over, as a printer. And I’ve never had a job like that. It was a brilliant place to work!"
Peter Lorimer’s testimonial game in Dundee
Do you remember Waddingtons? Maybe you worked there, knew someone who did or just enjoyed the games. Please share your memories below.
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