Traditional hand-made wooden toys carefully sourced from within the EU.
Cranborne House Ltd is a small family-run wooden toys business which started in Bath, but is now based in rural Norfolk. The company has been importing and selling wooden toys from the Czech Republic for more than ten years. It all started when owners Chris and Shirley Hurdle visited Prague for a weekend, and came away impressed with the quality and price of the traditional wooden toys on offer in the city’s toy and gift shops. The solid beech wood, robust design, absent of plastic and minimal use of paint made an attractive combination, when producing useable toys. On returning to the UK it soon became obvious that these traditional wooden toys were not readily for sale in the UK. Indeed Cranborne House remains the only UK importer of much of the toys range stocked currently.
Chris and Shirley now source their toys direct from the producers, and visit suppliers in their workshops several times each year, to ensure quality and provenance, and to develop new ideas. This can involve utter faith in the satnav in the search for obscure workshops in the deepest Czech countryside. The customary Englishman’s lack of anything other than schoolboy French means that one often has literally no clue what any of the road signs mean. The results are invariably rewarding when a new toy maker is found at the end of the overgrown track. The company also now sells a few products from other EU countries, such as Poland and Bulgaria, and is always looking for new sources of supply.
Today Cranborne House's toys are regularly exhibited at the world-famous Christmas Markets in Bath, Winchester and Salisbury, in addition to putting in frequent appearances at local events and hospital foyers in Norfolk. Friends and family have recently begun to take part, by taking up opportunities to sell the toys in their own areas; as the products become better known, the reputation for quality and value spreads, and the business grows.
In response to pressure from those same friends and family, Chris and Shirley have finally launched an e-commerce site for their toys, and have resigned themselves to having to hire a proper warehouse in the near future, as the house and garage are overflowing.
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