Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Assistive tableware, Russell Manoy, 1969

Currently on display in the museum as part of the Why Plastics? exhibition, is a range of tableware created by industrial designer and ergonomist, Russell Manoy, in 1969. It was intended for disabled users, with particular reference to those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, but was also considered suitable for children and the elderly. All of the pieces were designed to minimise difficulties in handling and manipulating, whilst retaining aesthetic appeal. 

The tableware on display in the museum.

Image credit: MoDiP

Melamine formaldehyde (MF) was the material selected by Manoy due to its better than normal break-strength, design flexibility, lightness in weight, hygienic, easily cleaned finish and low cost of production. It was felt that this combination of requirements could not be met by anything other than plastics.  
Compression moulded, the simple ergonomic design helped to reduce tooling costs, which was then reflected in the sale price, deliberately kept low for the benefit of pensioners to purchase at an affordable price. This consideration also led to the removal of complex insulation within the beaker from the original design; the heat transmission properties of the melamine being deemed sufficient. 

The small plate,
AIBDC : 008784
Image credit: MoDiP

Both the large and small plates were given directional flow, provided by a gentle slope which allows the food to gather towards the bottom for easy scooping. They also both have a large flange on the opposite side to aid grip (refer image above).

Several examples of the beaker,
AIBDC : 007774.1-2 (left),
AIBDC : 006616SA (top, right), AIBDC : 008785 (bottom, right).
Image credit: MoDiP

The beaker has no handle, the cantilevered weight being balanced by the base which can be held between the thumb and the palm of the hand. The design is similar to the Joe Colombo 'Smoke' glass, 1963.

The spoon/fork, AIBDC : 008786.2-3 (left and centre)
and knife,
AIBDC : 008786.1 (right).
Image credit: MoDiP

The spoon/fork double purpose cutlery (refer image above, left and centre) has a triangular shaped handle design with radiused edges to provide improved grip and the blade is angled to reduce wrist flexing in use. The same handle was utilised on the knife (on the right), to reduce tooling costs and for production economy. The blade is designed to cut in either a slicing or rocking action, the latter more suited to one-handed use. 

Entrance to the 'Plastics at The Design Centre' exhibition.

Image credit:

5000 sets were produced initially, sold at a cost of 49s 6d, equivalent to roughly £45 today. The range was displayed as part of the ‘Plastics at The Design Centre’ exhibition in 1970 and features within many museum collections all over the world. It is a good demonstration of considered design using appropriate materials and can be seen in MoDiP until 2 September 2022.  

Katherine Pell
Collections Officer 

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Tilley paraffin iron, 1953

I do not iron very often. Easy-care synthetics, especially in school uniforms, mean that in our house there is rarely a need (well, that is what I tell myself anyway!). So, when I recently catalogued a Tilley iron, I was intrigued by the fact that it was powered by paraffin, something I had never come across before and which I thought seemed both bizarre and a little bit dangerous! However, my initial research quickly made me realise just how popular these must have been in their day; practically every museum has one in their collections so obviously an object that was valued and loved by many.

AIBDC : 009270
Image credit: Katherine Pell

Irons are a good demonstration of plastics’ ability to insulate due to their resistance to the transfer of heat and electrical current. Bakelite (phenol formaldehyde) was the first plastics material to appear in the handles of irons, providing an alternative to an all-metal handle (that needed to be gripped with a cloth), wood, ceramic or even asbestos – yikes!

Asbestos sad iron laundry set, 1906
Image credit:

At first, irons could be heated directly by fire or, if they contained a box in the base, by filling them with a material that was heated such as coal, charcoal, metal slugs or bricks. The late nineteenth century saw the introduction of irons powered by gas, electricity and a variety of other fuels, including paraffin from the 1890s.

The Tilley iron, model DN 250, was first introduced in 1953 by the Tilley Lamp Co Ltd with a cream-coloured enamelled body, chrome sole plate and a large black coloured bakelite handle. It burnt paraffin, which was stored in a tank at the end of the handle, and worked by pressurising the fuel via a pump so that it would be released as a vapour. The lit flame would then heat the sole plate, performing for four hours on 1/3rd pint.

The paraffin being lit.
Image credit:

Advertised as a self-contained unit, unconstrained by wires or flexes it could be used both indoors and out, so useful to take away on holiday. The irons were also particularly popular in areas of the UK that did not yet have a reliable source of electricity. Anecdotal evidence suggests they were much easier to use than the sad/flat iron but still difficult to control the temperature, which ranged from hot to very hot! Interestingly for MoDiP, they ran too hot for the synthetic fabrics available at that time.

London Transport bus ticket with advert for Tilley iron on reverse, 1956.
Image credit:

The Tilley iron is available to view in the museum on request.
Katherine Pell
Collections Officer

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Wunup Baccyflap

A few weeks ago, we delivered an outreach engagement session to a local school, showing Year 7 pupils a selection of plastics objects related to WWII (refer image below).

A selection of the WWII related objects.
Image credit: Katherine Pell

One of the objects that really caught my attention was the Wunup Baccyflap, seen in the middle of the top row above, and full image below.

Wunup Baccyflap, AIBDC : 006319SA
Image credit: MoDiP

The museum’s catalogue record describes it as a round tobacco holder with a screw top lid and inner lip. Moulded in three sections to make the tooling easier, the inner lip is adhered in place. Compression moulded in phenol formaldehyde (bakelite), it dates from the early 1930s-1950s (circa).

If you ever get the chance to handle one of these, you will appreciate just how tactile they are. Resting perfectly in the palm of the hand, I can imagine the design makes filling a pipe both easy and satisfying. The size would fit very neatly into a pocket and the top includes a useful band of match strike. Moulding details on the bottom state WUNUP BACCYFLAP and MADE IN ENGLAND.

There is another Baccyflap in the collection, injection moulded in polystyrene and manufactured by Parker, post 1945 (refer image below).

Parker Baccyflap, AIBDC : 008640SA
Image credit: Katherine Pell

These two objects are actually linked because although very little information is known about Wunup, the name was either created or acquired by Parker. The Parker Pipe Co. Ltd was formed in 1923 and found initial success through marketing a range of mass-produced smoking accessories under the Wunup brand (the company amalgamated with Hardcastle Pipes Ltd in 1967 to become Parker-Hardcastle). The image below shows an original box for the Wunup Baccyflap promoting both Parker and Wunup, held in the collection of the Deutsches Kunststoff Museum.

It seems that the Wunup Baccyflap was certainly established by 1933, when it was advertised for sale at 2/6 in a trade journal, and it appeared in industry price lists two years later amongst other products sold by Parker. MoDiP has some other Wunup objects, including a cigarette case (refer image below) with a spring-loaded compartment and sliding lid, inscribed ‘Parker Wunup. Made in England’ on the base. It is speculated that the Wunup name may have evolved from this design because as the lid was pulled back, a cigarette would ‘pop up’ - one up.

Wunup cigarette case, AIBDC : 006545SA
Image credit: MoDiP

And here is one illustrated with an original point-of-sale marketing stand, for use in-store:

Wunup cigarette case advert.
Image credit:

Parker filed to trademark the Wunup name in the US in 1946 and anecdotal evidence suggests the Wunup Baccyflap was still available to buy throughout the 1950s. However, at some point post WWII, Parker changed the production of this popular tobacco container by moulding their name into it instead and making it from a completely different plastics material, likely due to costs. These versions were still available to buy in the early 1970s.

Advertisement for the Parker Baccyflap
Image credit:

If you would like to view these or any other museum objects, contact us to make an appointment.


Katherine Pell
Collections Officer



Wednesday, 20 July 2022


On the 7th July I went to my first ever football match.  Many members of my family have been regular supporters of our local team, and others, over generations but I am not a fan of ball sports preferring those with wheels and often engines too.  However, the Women’s Euros are on, and a number of matches have been hosted at St Mary’s Stadium, the Southampton FC ground so I decided to go with my Mum and sister to see what all the fuss is about. 

St Mary’s Stadium. Image credit: Louise Dennis.

The match was Norway vs Northern Ireland and despite the stadium being a third full the atmosphere was fantastic not least because the ‘Green and White Army’ supporters were full of excitement that the Northern Ireland team were playing their first ever match in a major tournament.

 The Northern Ireland supporters.  Image credit: Louise Dennis.

Of course, as Curator of MoDiP I felt it my duty to do some ‘plastics spotting’ whilst I was there.  The first thing that struck me was the sea of red stadium seating.  (I explored stadium seating in a previous blog post which I wrote after enjoying the Le Mans 24hourrace).  

A panoramic view of a sea of red stadium seats.  Image credit: Louise Dennis.

This time instead of fixed seat pads, the stadium is filled with flip up seats which are made up of a separate seat pad and back rest mounted on a spring-loaded metal frame.  This allows the seat pads to rise to the vertical position, providing more space when spectators are standing or passing each other, and to offer a drier surface as the rain doesn’t pool on the chair.  It is likely these chairs are made of polypropylene; MoDiP has a different kind of stadium seat in the collection also made of this material and is the same type as that used at the London 2012 Olympic games.

A close look at the seats. Image credit: Louise Dennis.

As with many venues we were not allowed to take in our own food and drink.  I was looking forward to the traditional ‘pie and a pint’ but it was a hot evening so opted for a soft drink instead.  On purchase the bottle cap was removed.  This happens for a few reasons, often falling under health and safety protocols.  A full bottle with its cap on can make a heavy and dangerous projectile which could be thrown a distance and potentially cause injury to players or spectators.  Without its lid, liquid will leave the bottle on being thrown, it will lose momentum and weight during its journey, making it less of a threat if it were to hit someone.  Alternatively, if a lidded bottle is dropped on the floor, it will maintain its shape as its liquid or air contents cannot leave.  The rolling bottle could then become a slip hazard if anyone were to stand on it.  Without the lid, the PET bottle will be squashed under foot and will not roll, it is therefore much safer.  The museum has a lamp in the collection made with discarded bottle tops from a football stadium.

A lidless bottle. Image credit: Louise Dennis.

Interestingly, we were handed flags and clappers made from natural materials such as paper, card, and wood rather than single use plastics which is sensible as it will reduce the plastics waste (but not the overall waste) generated by the tournament.  However, my Mum waved her flag with such enthusiasm it didn’t even last the whole match as it started to tear along the stick end.  The flag flying outside Southampton’s Civic Centre, probably made of polyester or nylon, was luckily faring better in the breeze.

Two flags. Image credit: Louise Dennis.

I did enjoy the game which had a final score of Norway 4 – Northern Ireland 1.  Most of the goals were scored at our end, so we saw a lot of the action.  I don’t know if I will go to another football match, but I certainly have a new appreciation for the game.

MoDiP has lots of objects which relate to football, including kits, balls, and shoes all of which can be found on our website.

Louise Dennis, Curator of MoDiP

Wednesday, 13 July 2022

Chelseas boots, Mary Quant, 1967

We recently acquired these fabulous Chelseas ankle boots, designed by Mary Quant in 1967. In black coloured cotton jersey, enveloped in transparent polyvinyl chloride (PVC), they were manufactured by G.B. Britton & Sons, Bristol. The trademark Quant daisy logo can be seen moulded into the heel and printed on the insole (refer image below).

Image ref: AIBDC : 009259.
Image credit: Katherine Pell

Released as one of five different PVC designs within the quant afoot range, they were advertised in Flair magazine in September 1967 as:

‘… boots with a difference in a sparkling first collection … in crystal clear plastic over colours that zoom into fashion's orbit, they're boots that shrug off wear and weather marks, come up shining.’

They were sold at a cost of 49/11 (everything under £5 was priced in shillings and pence), equivalent today to roughly £50.

Image ref: Flair magazine advert, September 1967.
Image credit:

The boots were the culmination of two years’ work to create affordable, distinctive, fun and comfortable footwear in PVC, a material Quant had first explored in her ‘wet collection’ launched in 1963. Encountering problems in mass-producing these designs, such as machining the seams causing the synthetic material to both split and melt, Quant collaborated with Alligator Rainwear, who were able to devise a method for welding the seams instead and successfully manufactured the plastics coats in large volumes. This partnership led to the development of the PVC boots with renowned boot makers, G.B. Britton & Sons.

In an interview with CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) in 1968, Quant talks about wanting to make shoes which were ‘like glass or bottles’ and how the injection moulding process used to make her footwear was just like pouring ‘chewing gum into a mould’ (refer clip below:

Transcript 0:17 – 1.36:

“Really, it’s how I got into this shoe thing because I’ve never had a pair of comfortable shoes in my life and it’s the same thing, you know, feet are a very complex shape and I wanted to make shoes which were like glass or bottles and had no seams and bits that rub and all that, and all bendy and loose … So, there were some chaps that had just invented this way of making things where you just pour a kind of chewing gum into a mould, into a last, and you get out what you want, and you know, rather like making sort of jelly. And so they said, more or less, come and play with my machinery and this is how we started making these shoes.”

Image ref: Quant holding a red Chelseas boot in her design studio, 1967.
Image credit: Lister, 2019.

Despite contemporary anecdotal evidence suggesting that the boots were not actually that comfortable (they could make your feet sweat in the hot summer, freeze in the cold winter and wet in the rain as the neck of the boots were so wide), they were the ideal footwear to complement the rising hemlines and tights that Quant helped to make so popular.

The Chelseas are currently on display in the museum but if you would like to view them in closer detail, or look at any of MoDiP’s other Mary Quant plastics objects, contact us for an appointment.

Katherine Pell
Collections Officer



Lister, J., (2019) Mary Quant. London: V&A Publishing, pp. 148.

Wednesday, 6 July 2022

Mouldings of Merit

I know that I have written about my own fascination with trawling though old industry publications in previous blogs but, once again, the effort of doing so has been very rewarding.  Actually, if I am being honest, on this occasion it was a colleague who was doing the trawling, but knowing that I had a bit of a conundrum in the form of two conjoined boxes sitting on my desk that none of us had managed to identify, this particular page leapt out at her. So thank you Louise.

I know it might seem a bit geeky, but you cannot imagine the pleasure of finding out what an object was meant to be used for!  As a team we had puzzled over it for some time. I am sure there will be many people out there for whom these are familiar objects, but we could not even decide which way up they were meant to be, let alone work out what they were for.    

So here they are…

The two conjoined boxes.
Image credit: Pam Langdown

…any ideas yet?

And upside down.
Image credit: Pam Langdown

These are presented the right way up and ready for use….

The right way up.
Image credit: Pam Langdown

And this is the advertisement found in an issue of British Plastics, July 1950.

British Plastics, July 1950.
Image credit: Pam Langdown

They are bench assembly trays, made from compression moulded phenol formaldehyde, by Insulators Limited.

It seems that they were available in two types, straight or curved, to enable the most efficient configuration to satisfy Time and Motion study experts, but they undoubtedly made assembly jobs easier. I have since found the same advertisement in earlier editions of British Plastics, so we know that they were in use for many years.

Regularly encountered today perhaps are the small parts or component picking trays made from injection moulded polypropylene. In fact, we put them to good use in our stores. Polypropylene is rigid, robust and inert and make good storage containers for our more vulnerable items that need to be kept open to the air to avoid a build up of any gasses given off. 

Image of the Museum Stores
Image credit: Katherine Pell

MoDiP’s collection of this precious resource of old industry publications will no doubt keep me occupied for some time to come. I wonder what the next find will be?

Pam Langdown
Museum Documentation Officer

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Re: cycling

The 2022 Tour of Britain bike race takes place from 4th - 11th September, with Stage Seven seeing the riders pass through MoDiP’s local area. In anticipation and in celebration of this exciting event, we have put together a pop-up exhibition exploring the increasing role of plastics within the cycling industry.

Here are some of my favourite objects:

Image ref: The San Marco REGALe saddle on display.
Image credit: Katherine Pell

The REGALe racing bike saddle, manufactured by Selle San Marco in 2012, was first introduced in 1984, then called The Regal. It proved very successful amongst the professional racing community, in part due to its weight but mainly because of its comfort. This successor, the REGALe (e = evolution), retains the classic shape of the original but provided an opportunity for the company to introduce more modern materials. Released in 2010, it features a carbon fibre base making the saddle even lighter than before. We always enjoy putting this object on display because viewed in profile, it reminds us of Concorde!

Image ref: A 1950s mudguard extension.
Image credit: Katherine Pell/MoDiP

This lovely object is a clip-on mudguard extension with a rear reflector, made of cream coloured, thermoformed, cellulose nitrate and dated to circa 1950s (although it may date earlier). It was featured as part of our 10 Most Wanted project through which we hoped to find out some more information, such as who designed it and which company manufactured it. All we know is that it was ‘British Made’ from moulding details on the front. 

Rear reflectors were made a legal requirement in 1927 and, in response to the increasing number of road accidents, in 1934 the government introduced new requirements for bicycles to improve their visibility at night by carrying a white 12 sq. inch panel as well. Contemporary images show rear bike mudguards often painted with a white tip so obviously people were aware that this was a good idea, even before the legislation came into force. Could this object be an enterprising manufacturer's safety accessory from around that time?

Image ref: The Rehook on display and my mucky hands!
Image credit: Katherine Pell

The Rehook bicycle chain tool is designed to help cyclists get the chain back on to their bikes quickly, easily and without the mess of oil and dirt on hands and clothes. It is something I definitely needed the other day on my morning commute to work, when my bike chain came off – refer image above, on the right!! Designed by Wayne Taylor, it is made from glass-reinforced nylon, and has an adjustable high-grip silicone strap to attach the tool to the bike frame for easy accessibility. Weighing only 20g, the handle incorporates a honeycomb structure to assist with weight reduction and using plastics materials helped to keep production costs affordable, whilst providing strength, durability and a good range of colours for the tool. Rehook was pitched on the BBC programme Dragon's Den in 2021 successfully resulting in a £50,000 investment in return for a 25% share of the company.

Image ref: The undershorts with a D3O insert on the right.
Image credit: MoDiP

Developed by British engineer Richard Palmer in 1999, D3O is an innovative material with intelligent molecules that protect against injury. The putty-like substance has free-flowing molecules which lock on impact, absorbing and dispersing energy before instantly returning to their flexible state. Here, D3O is used to provide impact protection at the hip in the Race Face cycling shorts. It has been moulded to shape and is held in place in strategically located pockets so that it can be removed prior to washing.

Also on display is a carbon fibre composite road bike wheel, a fold-your-own polypropylene sheet mudguard, a stretch silicone LED light, and knee/shin pads with Kevlar®: a variety of synthetic materials that assist cyclists in staying aerodynamic, comfortable and safe.

Re: cycling will be on display until 12th September 2022, on the first floor of the AUB Library.

Katherine Pell
Collections Officer