Bayko Building Sets

Driving up the A3 towards Chessington the car was buffeted; leaves, twigs, paper, and other debris were blown everywhere; potted garden plants were lying on their sides or rolling about; and some shrubs were down.  The strong winds had not abated.  Watching trees bending in the blast I wondered just how fierce had been the gales of a fortnight ago, when I was in France, to have felled enough trees to block roads and railway tracks in and around London.  As will be evident from my post of 2nd. June entitled ‘The Great Storm’ I always, one way or another, seem to miss the big ones.

Our destination was the Chessington Garden Centre where Jackie bought some plants and equipment for Elizabeth’s garden.  Having done so, she stayed behind for a coffee whilst I set off on foot along Fairoak Lane in the direction of Oxshot.  As I left the building I noticed a number of people around a frail-looking elderly woman who had been helped into a wheelchair.  The back of her head was covered in blood of which there was a pool on the car park tarmac.  An ambulance was being awaited.  The attendant directing traffic away from the scene said that the injured person had unaccountably collapsed.  I found myself speculating that she had been blown over,  and as I leant into the gusts along the wooded Fairoak Lane I thought that that had not been such a wild idea.

The wooded roadside was littered with broken branches and uprooted plants.  In the fenced off wooded area surrounding Chessington Substation of the National Grid there were a number of fallen trees.  I imagine these must have been casualties of the recent gale-force winds which had swept the area.  Having passed the entrance to the electricity station I reached a made up road going through the wood uphill to the right. This freshly tarmacked path led to a much less well made road, the dust from which at times had the appearance of a sandstorm.  My eyes and mouth were filled with grit, and when I stopped for a pee I made very sure I stayed downwind.

The shrieking of children told me that I was at the back of Chessington World of Adventure.  I had, indeed, stumbled on what must have been an overflow car park.  That oriented me to the road on which the Garden Centre was situated, and I returned there.

The vehicle in front of us as we left to go back to Links Avenue was an open-topped car whose only occupant was clinging with one hand on the end of her outstretched arm to a large pot containing a tall shrub which occupied the passenger seat.  We couldn’t see her other hand but rather hoped it was on the steering wheel.  As the plant teetered back and forth we kept our distance until she turned off.

En route to the A3 in the area off Grand Drive there are a number of what I call Bayko Building Set houses.  These are usually bay fronted and follow the design of the Bayko houses of my childhood.  I fondly imagine it is that way round rather than that the building sets replicated already extant houses.  Jackie has the same memories and we both got as much pleasure from these as today’s children do from Lego.  There must have been an overlap during the fifties between the two kits but Lego was clearly the winner.  Maybe it was a health and safety issue.  Bayko had a bakelite base drilled with holes into which thin metal rods were fitted vertically forming supports for the bricks which formed the houses.  I doubt that Hamleys today could sell toys containing such parts.  I seem to remember three colours; green for the base, doors and windows; red for roofs; and red and white for bricks.  I think the older ones had brown bases.  There were channels in the edges of the bricks into which the rods were aligned.  You could make dream houses – especially those with the bay windows.  This equipment was certainly around before the war and freely available post-war and throughout the 1950s.  I could, I know have Googled this to check my facts, but it is important to me that my memory is exercised.  Can anyone add to or correct what I have written?

We made an early evening visit to Becky in hospital, where she was looking really well, her usual lucid and amusing self.  She was able to get in and out of bed, although at one point was stricken with considerable pain as she moved about.  This required some liquid morphine which Becky said tasted like Bailey’s.  She has no memory of her cardboard hat and will no doubt need Flo’s photograph to convince her.  Everything she had been told leading up to and after surgery she was able to tell us.  Apparently the surgeon described three options that were available and said he couldn’t be sure which would apply until he’d ‘gone in’.  He wanted to know her preferences.  She said ‘surprise me’.

Jackie’s beef casserole with a couple of glasses of Marques de Alarcon 2011 tempranillo/syrah completed the day

P.S. I am grateful to Jenny Pellet of Charactersfromthekitchen, a blog well worth visiting, for the link to this article from the Grimsby Telegraph:

DURING the 1930s plastic technology was in its infancy, writes Jeff Beedham.

Mr Charles Bird Plimpton (1893-1948) was a plastics engineer and inventor living in Liverpool.

In 1933 he had invented and patented Bayko “An improved constructional toy” made from a type of Bakelite.

By 1934 Bayko building sets were on sale in Britain’s shops, produced by Plimpton Engineering Ltd, Liverpool and Bakelite Ltd, Birmingham.

The concept was simple. A brown Bakelite base with a grid of holes at 3/8th of an inch, centres that accepted 1/16″ diameter steel rods of various lengths.

Bakelite brick tiles embossed with a brick bond pattern with grooves each side were then slotted between the upright rods, creating realistic walls.

Doors and windows of various widths could also be slotted in.

The original sets were in dark green Bakelite but by 1939 more realistic colours of red and white bricks, with green doors and windows in the latest Art Deco style, topped by red tiled roofs were adapted.

After the Second World War production resumed but in 1948 Charles Plimpton died, leaving his wife Audrey to run the business.

The Bayko building sets No’s 0 to No 6 and accessory sets were aimed at both girls and boys and marketed worldwide.

In 1959 Audrey Plimpton retired, selling the business to Meccano Ltd of Liverpool who since the 1930s had regularly advertised Bayko sets in the Meccano Magazine and sold them at approved Meccano dealers throughout the world.

Meccano modified and marketed Bayko until 1967.

I remember having a No 1 Bayko building set during the 1950s, but the thin steel rods and smaller brick tiles (a health and safety nightmare today) were prone to being sucked up by the Hoover.

In the early 1980s, when Gregory’s cycle and toy shop in Hainton Avenue closed down, I purchased several Bayko accessory outfits that had languished in the stockroom since the 1960s.

In recent years there has been a renewed interest in this constructional toy with a Bayko Collectors Club being formed.

There is currently a comprehensive exhibition of Bayko models in Liverpool Museum to celebrate the 80th anniversary of this forgotten toy that gave so much pleasure to generations of boys and girls.

The header picture is from a recent Etsy advertisement. I have been unable to insert it into the text without losing the text of the Grimsby Telegraph article above.

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