A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Tey Pottery Buildings – Another Back-Door Collection

A couple of people have expressed interest in the ceramic buildings which I used in my ECW siege testing a couple of months ago. For the most part, these were made by the Tey Pottery company, now defunct, which operated from various locations in Norfolk. The range of which I seem to have become an accidental collector is the Britain in Miniature series, which suits my purposes admirably.

Tey Pottery "Britain in Miniature" - Grannie would have been delighted. The
white-backed buildings in the background make effective town blocks - the
textured-all-round items nearer the camera are more suitable for standalone pieces
I didn’t really need another unofficial collection, but I am pleased with what I’ve obtained, and have consciously cut down on purchasing now, in the sense that I am very picky about what I go for. I note that at the start of this year I wasn’t sure at all about the viability for the wargames table of items primarily intended for your grannie’s sideboard – these are ornaments, let’s make that quite clear – pottery knick-knacks, and they are neither serious models nor exactly accurate.

Some points (for and against) and things to watch for, if you have half a mind to acquire some of these miniatures:

(1) They suit me perfectly – they have a cheerful, almost playful brio which I find very appropriate to accompany toy soldiers – the Britain in Miniature (BiM) series are (mostly) to an approximately constant(ish) scale which I would describe as “smallish 15mm”. I deliberately use underscale buildings with my 20mm figures, because the smaller footprint is more acceptable (given the constant paradox of incompatible ground and figure scales), and because I believe a cluster of undersized houses looks more like a village than a single representative structure which matches the figure scale.

(2) Tey’s BiM range – if you are selective – will fit nicely in a 17th Century setting. The buildings are, mostly, what in ship model terms would be called “waterline” representations, without bases or landscaping, and can be combined into effective town blocks which would be difficult and expensive to achieve otherwise. Be careful with sizes – the churches are too small for my taste, and the Countryside Collection and a few others contain smaller-scale items – anything which is obviously a generic cottage usually will not match.

(3) They are readily available and splendidly cheap – on eBay you can pick up nice examples for just a few pounds (they are available on US eBay, too though slightly dearer). Typically, I obtained lots for about 3 to 5 pounds each, and was the only bidder. On occasions, an attractive off-catalogue or commissioned item will attract heavier bids, so I normally duck out when the going gets tough. It’s only a hobby, for goodness’ sake…

(4) They are ornaments – they are delicate (though not too bad, if you store them sensibly) and they are glazed to a high gloss. Being a very bad person, I give them two coats of acrylic matt medium – if I need to do any touching up, or obliterate any anachronistic shop or pub signs, I can do that with acrylics between the varnish coats. I expect serious Tey collectors to be outraged by my destruction of their collectors’ value by this varnish business, but these things are plentiful, the value is not great and they are mine anyway (heh heh) – consider it equivalent to converting original Hinton Hunt figures!

(5) Some serious bad news – many of these pieces are untextured and plain white on the back, so have to be placed with care to make a convincing street scene, but this doesn’t cause me any difficulty. This can be a fairly confusing aspect of collecting Tey buildings – some of them are textured and painted all round – these tend to be detached-style buildings rather than sections of town blocks – and I mostly go for these now if I can. Some of the buildings have changed during their production history, so I have (reluctantly) been forced to learn more about the catalogues than I might have wished – in particular, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage appeared in a number of versions, some of which had plain white backs and some, like mine, are finished all round. Yes, I know, this is getting nerdy. 

So, overall, if they suit your purposes (or porpoises – thank you, Jonathan), these guys are cheaper and handier and quicker to deploy than wargames-specific  resin buildings, lighter and more robust (and less irritatingly cute) than Lilliput Lane or David Winter houses (though I cherish a fair few of those, too), and I find they bring a pleasing, colourful vibe to my siege activities, which really benefit from a bit of scenic interest. I still need specialist Hovels houses and similar, but as a bulk buy to make an easy, flexible town the Tey houses are great. Buy them selectively, keeping a careful eye on sizes and they do a nice job. For matching churches, I have found the most satisfactory source is the products of Sulley’s Ceramics, but these are rarer and more expensive.

At a whimsical level, I find it deeply amusing to set up a town which features Shakespeare’s birthplace, the Bronté family’s parsonage, the Rows of Chester, the Siege House (Colchester),  John Knox’s House (Edinburgh), and all manner of famous tourist sites – all in the same spot. Fantastic – I should wheel out one of my miniature tour buses to show off the rich heritage! I am cutting down on watching eBay now, but I keep an eye open for Anne of Cleves’ House, the Mermaid Inn and a few others. No – of course I am not a collector.


  1. Oh no! Straight over to eBay, curses...

    1. Before you go in there, write your name and address on the soles of your boots...

  2. That's fantastic - can you get miniature 1980s Ammerican tourists to go in the tour bus? Do they do Dick Van Dyke's birthplace? Cor blimey guv!

    1. HI Ian - I can only get 1960s Old School tourists in proper 20mm. I may have told you before the story about the wife of a former work colleague of mine, who used to work part-time as a Summer tour guide in Edinburgh - after one party of Texan schoolmistresses did the Historic Edinburgh extravaganza (castle, Holyrood, Grassmarket, Big Rab's Tartan Trash Store, etc) she was told the city was beautiful, but it was a shame the castle was built so close to the big railway station. My fake tourist siege town would be perfect for this market, I think.

  3. I always fancied using Lilliput Lane models, but the price would make Bill Gates weep.

    1. Hi Gary - I have some LL models - they are awkward to store - heavy, and the surface is a bit like wedding cake icing. Big problem with them is the variability of scale - very hard to predict how big an item is - American eBay sellers are more fastidious about putting sizes in the listings, so you can pick up some clues there. Aesthetically, the LL stuff is OK, but the landscape bases are a bit lumpy.

      David Winter's "Centre of the Village" series has been useful - much more constant scale (around 15mm, again) - they have the same arty bases problem, they are even cuter than LL (!), but for my ECW games they do some very nice, quirky half-timbered houses, though you have to be careful your representation of Worcester doesn't look more like Bree.

      LL and DW stuff is available for reasonable money on Fleabay - if you are interested in doing this, I can email you some photos and suggestions for buildings I found useful - let me know. I don't see why I should be the only freak out here who uses poncey ornaments for wargames...

    2. David Winter! Good God, I'd forgotten about him and I think he was the original wasn't he? If you've got any info, it'd be tampting/useful, although I imagine Chris would try to confiscate any acquisitions :O(