Sunday, June 03, 2007

S G Hulme Beaman

I've recently covered some of the authors of children's TV shows, although in most cases they have been related to comics in some way. Well, this is no different...

S. G. Hulme Beaman was the creator of Toytown and its most famous inhabitant, the tremulous-voice Larry the Lamb. The little mystery I was trying to solve was that at least one story in TV Comic Annual was credited to Mrs. S. G. Hulme Beaman and I was trying to figure out whether this was the Betty Hulme Beaman who is also credited with some of the Toytown books that have appeared over the years.

Sydney George Hulme Beaman (pronounced "Hume Beeman") was born in Tottenham, London, in 1887, the son of George Hulme Robins Beaman (1855- ), a surveyor and risk assessor for an insurance company. George had married Eleanor Nicholls in 1881 and the couple had at least three children, Sydney George Hulme (1887), Dorothy Eleanor (1889) and Winifred Gladys (1892).

The family were related to Ardern George Hulme Beaman (1857-1929), who had served as a diplomat in Egypt, the subject of his book Twenty Years in the Near East (1898), and who wrote one of the first books about bridge, Pons Asinorum; or, Bridge for Beginners (1900); and novelists Emeric E. J. Hulme Beaman (c. 1865- ) and Ardern Arthur Hulme Beaman (1886- );

S. G. was raised in Tottenham and became a music hall performer whilst studying at Heatherley's School of Art. After the First World War, he set up a workshop in Golders Green making wooden animals and figures for model theatres which became very popular -- Mr. Noah and the inhabitants of Noah's Ark were especially well received. In 1923 the comic strip 'Philip and Phido' began appearing in the Golders Green Gazette and S. G. deliberately styled the strip after the wooden creatures he had been creating. Several stars of the later Toytown would emerge from this strip. The first Toytown (or Toy Town) books appeared in the mid-1920s when S. G. wrote and illustrated The Road to Toytown and Trouble in Toyland (both 1925).

A collection of his early stories, Tales of Toytown (1928) was discovered by May Jenkin ('Aunt Elizabeth' of the BBC's Children's Hour radio show) and S. G. went on to produce 28 radio plays featuring the inhabitants of Toytown from 1929 until 1932.

S. G. married Maud M. Poltock in Fulham in 1913 and had at least two children: Geoffrey S. Beaman (b. Edmonton, 1914) and Betty Beaman (b. Barnet, 1918). (This at least proves that there was both a Mrs. S. G. Hulme Beaman (i.e. his wife Maud M. Hulme Beaman) and a Betty Beaman (his daughter), although given the known writing abilities of his daughter, I wouldn't be surprised to find that any new stories written in TV Comic Annual were by her).

S. G. continued to experiment with the Toytown characters and created marionettes for a model stage show version of the story 'The Arkville Dragon'. This became the basis for an animated version of the story, shot with the assistance of Pathe Films. Unfortunately, the experiment was never realised as S. G. Hulme Beaman died of pneumonia in February 1932 at the age of 43. At the time he was living at 11 Sneath Avenue, Finchley N.W4.

His characters lived on for many years. The first Toytown adventures were broadcast in 1929 and continued to be remade (this was in the days of live broadcasting) until 1963, some featuring Derek (Uncle Mac) McCulloch as Larry. A friend of Beaman, writer and producer Hendrik Baker, turned four of the Toytown stories into a stage play entitled The Cruise of the Toytown Belle which was subsequently filmed as Larry the Lamb for broadcast in the For the Children TV slot by the BBC on 10 May 1947; the character were also the inspiration for a 1969 musical by Sheila Ruskin and David Wood.

Larry and Toytown have appeared in various guises over the years. The BBC produced a series of 20-minute marionette plays produced by Gordon Murray: Portrait of the Mayor, The Great Toytown Mystery, Dreadful Doings in Ark Street, How the Wireless Came to Toytown, The Great Toytown War and The Enchanted Ark (broadcast 21 Sep-30 Nov 1956), The Tale of the Magician (7 Mar 1957), The Frightfulness at the Theatre Royal (27 Jun 1957) and The Cruise of the Toytown Belle (11 Sep 1958).

The famous animators Halas & Batchelor made two cartoons, The Showing Up of Larry the Lamb (1962) and The Tale of the Magician (1964) and a new series of 26 animated shows were made in colour in 1972-74, produced by Larry the Lamb Ltd. for Thames Television which inspired a regular Larry the Lamb Annual, published in 1972-74 (dated on covers 1973-75). A further annual appeared from Grandreams in 1981.

Around the same time as the Halas & Batchelor cartoons (1963), Hendrik Baker recorded a number of episodes which were released on 45 rpm EP records by HMV, these including Tea For Two (HMV 7EG 86??), The Toytown Mystery (HMV 7EG 8607), The Tale of the Magician (HMV 7EG 8835), The Showing Up of Larry the Lamb (HMV 7EG 8836), The Mayor's Sea Voyage (HMV 7EG 8837) and The Arkville Dragon (HMV 7EG 8838). The latter four stories were released as a 33 rpm album entitled Stories from Toytown (MFP 1103).

Books (illustrated by the author unless otherwise noted)
Aladdin. London, John Lane, 1924.
Jerry & Joe. London, Humphrey Milford/Oxford University Press, 1925.
Pig-pig and the Three Bears. London, Oxford University Press, 1925.
The Road to Toytown. London, Humphrey Milford/Oxford University Press, 1925.
Trouble in Toyland. London, Humphrey Milford/Oxford University Press, 1925.
The Wooden Knight. London, 1925.
The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor. London, John Lane, 1926.
"Out of the Ark" Books (Grunty the Pig, Ham and the Egg, Jenny the Giraffe, Jimmy the Baby Elephant, Teddy's New Job, Wally the Kangaroo) London, F. Warne & Co., 6 vols., 1927; in one volume as The Toy-Town Book, Warne, n.d..
Tales from Toytown. London, Humphrey Milford, 1928.
John Trusty. London & Glasgow, W. Collins, Sons & Co., 1929; adapted by Muriel White in 2 vols. as A Trusty Tale and Two Trusty Stowaways with the original illustrations by S. G. Hulme Beaman. London & Glasgow, Collins, 1938,
Wireless in Toytown (contains: How the Wireless Came to Toytown, The Encharted Ark, Larry the Plumber, The Mayor's Sea Voyage, The Arkville Dragon, The Toytown Treasure). London, Collins, Dec 1930.
The Toytown Mystery (contains: The Toytown Mystery, The Extraordinary Affair of Ernest the Policeman, A Portrait of the Mayor, The Disgraceful Business at Mrs. Goose's, The Showing Up of Larry the Lamb, Dirty World at the Dog and Whistle). London & Glasgow, Collins, 1932.
Stories from Toytown (contains: 10 stories). London, Oxford University Press, 1938.
The Adventures of Larry the Lamb (Toy Town series), illus. Ernest Noble. London, G. Lapworth & Co., 12 vols., 1942-47.
__2: The Brave Deed of Ernest the Policeman.
__3: Pistols for Two.
__4: Mr. Noah's Holiday.
__5: Mr. Growser Moves.
__6: Dreadful Doings in Ark Street.
__7: Golf.
__8: The Frightfulness at the Theatre Royal.
__?: The Toytown Mystery. c.1947
__?: The Extraordinary Affair of Ernest the Policeman. c.1947.
__?: Portrait of the Mayor. 1947?
__?: Dirty Work at the Dog and Whistle.
Larry the Lamb. London & Glasgow, Collins, 1946.
Toy Town Tales. London, News of the World, 1952.
The Cruise of the Toytown Belle, adapted by Hendrik Baker. London, Samuel French, 1953.
Toytown Series (credited to Betty Hulme Beaman & S. G. Hulme Beaman):
__1: Ernest the Brave, and The Toytown Mystery. London, Oldbourne Press, 1957.
__2: Tea for Two and A Portrait of the Mayor. London, Oldbourne Press, 1957.
__3: The Disgraceful Business at Mrs Goose's. London, Oldbourne Press, 1958.
__4: Dirty Work at the 'Dog and Whistle. London, Oldbourne Press, 1958.
__5: The Theatre Royal, and, Punch and Judy, illus. Kenneth Lovell. London, Oldbourne Press, 1958.
__6: Toytown Goes West, illus. Kenneth Lovell. London, Oldbourne Press, 1958.
__7: The Enchanted Ark, illus. Kenneth Lovell. London, Oldbourne Press, 1958.
__8: The Mayor's Sea Voyage, illus. Kenneth Lovell. London, Oldbourne Press, 1959.
__9: Larry the Plumber, illus. Betty Larom. London, Oldbourne, 1961.
__10: How the Radio Came to Toytown. London, Oldbourne, 1961.
__11: Mr. Noah's Holiday, illus. Kenneth Lovell. London, Oldbourne, 1961.
__12: The Conversion of Mr. Growser, illus. Betty Larom. London, Oldbourne, 1961.
__13: The Great Toytown War. London, Oldbourne, 1961.
__14: Mr. Growser Moves House, illus. Kenneth Lovell. London, Oldbourne, 1962.
__15: The Extraordinary Affair of Ernest the Policeman, illus. Kenneth Lovell. London, Oldbourne, 1962.
__16: Pistols for Two, illus. Kenneth Lovell. Oldbourne, 1962.
__17: A Toytown Christmas Party, illus. Kenneth Lovell. London, Oldbourne, 1962.
__19: Dreadful Doings in Ark Street, illus. Kenneth Lovell. London, Oldbourne, 1963.
__20: The Arkville Dragon, illus. Kenneth Lovell. London, Oldbourne, 1963.
__21: The Showing Up of Larry the Lamb, illus. Kenneth Lovell. London, Oldbourne, 1963.
__22: The Toytown Pantomime, illus. H. Faithful. London, Oldbourne, 1963.
The First [Second, Third] Larry the Lamb Story Book. London, Piccolo Books, 1972-73.
The Book of Toytown and Larry the Lamb, with a biographical note about the author by Hendrik Baker. London, Harrap, 1979.
Toytown and Larry the Lamb, illus. by S. G. Hulme Beaman and John Donnelly. London, Thames Methuen, 1985.
Toytown. The World of S. G. Hulme Beaman, ed. G. G. Grange. London, G. G. Grange, 2000.

Illustrated Books
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. London, John Lane, 1930.
The Smith Family by Mrs. H. C. Craddock. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1931.

Radio Plays (dates are for the earliest broadcast I have been able to trace; any help with dates would be very welcome)
Proud Punch from Toy Town (18 Jul 1929)
The Tale of the Magician (1 Aug 1929)
The Tale of the Inventor (16 Aug 1929)
Captain Brass the Pirate (28 Aug 1929)
The Giles Barn Gang and the Baby Brother (11 Sep 1929)
The Tale of Ernest the Policeman (25 Sep 1929)
How Wireless Came to Toy-Town (29 Nov 1929)
The Enchanted Ark (2 Jan 1930)
The Arkville Dragon (30 Jan 1930)
Larry the Plumber (18 Feb 1930)
The Toy Town Treasure (12 Mar 1930)
(The Toy Town Times, arranged by Charles Bewer and Sara Sarony, 27 Mar 1930)
The Great Toy Town Mystery (3 Apr 1930)
The Portrait of the Mayor (6 Jun 1930)
Our Programme, by the Citizens of Toy Town (18 Jul 1930)
How John Trusty and his dog Walter stowed away on the good ship Firefly (9 Sep 1930)
The Disgraceful Affair at Mrs. Goose's (14 Nov 1930)
The Kidnapping of Father Christmas (23 Dec 1930)
The Cruise of the Toy Town Belle:
__Part 1: The Start of the Treasure Hunt (3 Feb 1931)
__Part 2: (in which Mr. Growser's worst fears are realised) (10 Feb 1931)
__Part 3: The Wreck of the Toytown Belle (3 Mar 1931)
__Part 4: The Wreck of the Toytown Belle (19 Mar 1931)
Mr Noah's Holiday (21 Apr 1931)
Pistols for Two (12 May 1931)
(Toytown from Within, in which the Author meets Mr. Growser, 16 Jun 1931)
Disgraceful Doings in Ark Street (1 Sep 1931)
Golf--(Toytown Rules) (27 Nov 1931)
Mr. Growser Moves (1 Dec 1931)
A Toytown Christmas Party (22 Dec 1931)
The Conversion of Mr. Growser (23 Feb 1932)
The Brave Deed of Ernest the Policeman (15 Apr 1932)
Dirty Work at the Dog and Whistle (16 Aug 1932)
Toy Town Goes West
Frightfulness at the Theatre Royal
Tea for Two
The Sea Voyage
The Great Toytown War
The Babes in the Wood (a pantomime)
The Showing Up of Larry the Lamb


  1. Fascinating; and so comprehensive. Reading Alan Bennet I noticed his comments on the name of S G Hulme Beaman. I have often wondered about this writer. I listened again to one of the Toy Town stories in recent years and it makes me laugh as much as it did when I was young.
    Yours is just the quality of site that shows how wonderful the resource of the internet can be, thanks to your ability and effort. My only reservation is its ability the suck us back into the past!

  2. figman136@ptd.net5 Jan 2010, 20:45:00

    hello like your article s.g. hulme beaman did illustate in my book i have [the strange case of dr. jekyll & mr. hyde] thank u for telling me more about the illastrator

  3. I am researching Kenneth Lovell, my uncle, the illustrator of dome of the later books. Any information would be appreciated

  4. Paul, I've put together a little piece on what I've been able to find out about Kenneth Lovell, which you can find here.

  5. The illustration to the TV Comic Annual story at the top of the page is by George Moreno Jr (and/or artists from his studio).
    George was an American animator (he joined the Fleischer studio in Miami to work on “Gulliver’s Travels” in 1938) who set up an animation studio in London after WWII. (J. Arthur Rank had invited ex-Disney director David Hand to set up a Hollywood-style cartoon studio in the UK (Gaumont-British Animation) and I think –but don’t know for certain - that George’s company, British Animated Productions, was financed by British Lion as a cut-price rival.)
    In 1950 Rank, in financial constraints after a temporary embargo on British imports by US distributors (angered at the increase in tax levied by the UK government on US imports) had ruined their American distribution plans, axed G-BA along with several other unprofitable units.
    I am guessing British Lion saw no point in offering cartoon shorts if Rank were not doing so. Certainly BAP also closed down in 1950, just as his initial series, Bubble & Squeek (about a Cab driver and his Taxi), had spun off a proposed new series featuring Colonel Rat.
    George retained his staff and set up again as Moreno Cartoons, making cinema commercials for Pearl & Dean, but was constantly searching for entertainment series ideas, looking to sell to the BBC.
    After the 1950 Boxing Day televising of the theatrical play adapted and produced by Hendrik Baker, it seems to me possible that he might have proposed an animated version of the popular Toytown stories, and (speculation only!) perhaps the BBC – reluctant to put the iconic characters in the hands of a brash American cartoonist – pushed the illustrating job his way as a sop.
    Besides The TV Comic Annual, Moreno illustrated 3 books of ‘Toytown Tales’ published in the early 1950s by the News of the World’s children’s imprint ‘Betterbooks’, each book containing two of Hulme Beaman’s stories: A Sea Voyage/Pistols for Two; The Great Toytown Mystery/Mr. Noah's Holiday; and The Kidnapping of Father Christmas/The Arkville Dragon.
    (The debut series of Larry and co. on BBC television went, of course, to the more established producer of marionette shows for the BBC Puppet Theatre, Gordon Murray - who made the series of rod-puppet films in 1956. Among his puppeteers were Bob Bura and John Hardwick, whose sideline in animation led Murray to producing Camberwick Green, et al. Bura & Hardwick’s studio flourished and in the late 60s they started work on a stop-frame Toytown series, apparently for Associated Rediffusion, produced by Hendrik Baker. Associated Rediffusion subsequently lost the London ITV franchise to Thames Television, who took up the series and introduced it in their 1972 schedule.)

  6. Hi Peter,

    Fascinating to learn more about Moreno. I did some digging but have yet to discover whether he continued to live in the UK beyond the 1970s. G. Moreno Film productions Ltd. went into liquidation in 1973 and Moreno was still in London, possibly as late as 1981.

    If I manage to find out more about him, I hope you won't mind if I republish your comments in a fresh post.



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