Former doll factory, Penmaenmawr

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Former doll factory, Penholm, Bangor Road, Penmaenmawr

Lady Lucy Cavendish stayed at the house now called Penholm (opposite side of the road from the QR codes) for three weeks in 1882 while she grieved for her husband, Lord Frederick Cavendish, who had been murdered in Dublin. Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone had appointed him the new Irish Secretary, but soon after arriving in Ireland Lord Cavendish was fatally stabbed by a group of Irish nationalists while strolling with a civil servant in Phoenix Park.photo of rogark doll

Mr and Mrs Gladstone stayed at Orme View, as Penholm was then known, in September 1882 as guests of Lady Cavendish, who was their niece.

From 1947 the large house was home to the Rogark Doll Factory, founded by George and Gladys Rogers with Liverpool-based John Clark handling worldwide distribution. The company name was a combination of their surnames. Gladys was related to the Darbishire family, which had made its fortune from local quarrying. By the mid-1950s the factory at Penholm employed 20 people while 100 local women also worked on the dolls at home. There were 50 more on a waiting list. See the Footnotes below for details of how the dolls were made.

Rogark also made miniature dolls, car window mascots and novelty egg timers. Pictured right is a Rogark doll in Canadian Mountie costume.

The house is now a private dwelling. 

With thanks to David Bathers and Dennis Roberts, of Penmaenmawr Historical Society, and Barbara Lawson-Reay

Postcode: LL34 6YB    View Location Map

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FOOTNOTES
: How Rogark dolls were made in Penmaenmawr

The dolls were moulded in separate halves by John Prior Plastics in Colwyn Bay, which produced pink, brown and black bodies.

These were distributed by Rogark’s van to assemblers who fixed pupils onto the eyes & secured the eyes into place, then glued the halves together and fitted arms and legs. The dolls were packed into the boxes they’d arrived in, and next went to wiggers who created individual styles for the dolls.

The wiggers glued synthetic hair onto the dolls. They produced: plaited long strands of black hair for “Red Indian” dolls; short blonde plaits for Dutch dolls; short, straight black hair for Eskimos; and long black hair piled in rolls for Japanese dolls. Black doll’s hair was made at the factory, as was the wavy brown hair for ‘Gwyneth’, the Welsh doll.

Next the dolls went to dressers, who glued on the costumes. The costumes were designed, stamped and cut by the women at the factory. There were 40 costumes for 23 different dolls: national dress; traditional dress, e.g. bridal; and occupational, e.g. nursing. Scottish dolls called ‘Annie Lauries’ accounted for a third of Rogark’s production.

Each dresser had her personal favourite. All were proud that their handiwork went all over the world. Many lived close enough to Penholm to cart the dressed dolls there themselves, joining the queue of out-workers waiting to have their dolls booked in. Completed dolls were checked and packed in transparent boxes marked: Rogark Ltd. Made in Penmaenmawr. When Rogark exhibited at Trade Fairs, the Rogers’ young daughter Pat and some of the women from the factory would dress in Welsh costume to appear alongside the clones!

Thanks to Barbara Lawson-Reay for this information