Since its formation in 1685 Toye & Co has been guided through the reigns of fifteen monarchs by the members of one family. Expertise in weaving, lace-making, embroidery and gold and silver wire making was passed from father to son until the 1830s when William Toye began the expansion of the firm. He introduced modern marketing techniques, exploited new technology and increased the emphasis on narrow fabric weaving to capitalize on the growing demand for ribbon. The next generation added stamping, engraving, enamelling, gilding and plating to the metal work craft skills.
Always alert to new commercial opportunities, in the early 1900s Toye & Co began manufacturing celluloid covered items including flag-day and electioneering buttons. This venture prospered particularly when demand for patriotic novelties rose during the Great War and in the early 1920s the company began manufacturing sporting trophies and identity products.
In 1937 the company worked day and night producing banners, emblems, robes and insignia for the Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The velvet cushions on which the Royal Crowns were carried into Westminster Abbey were made by women at Toye & Co in conjunction with the Royal School of Needlework.
Toye & Co was also responsible for many of the robes and accoutrements on display at Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, including the Queen’s train. While preparing the train a young girl pricked her finger and spilt blood onto the magnificent material. With commendable enterprise she sewed on two new leaves – one to cover the blood, the other to match it.
In accordance with the Companies Act 1908, the firm was formally registered as a Company in 1909. Forty year later a woman was elected to the Toye & Co board for the first time; Miss H.E Toye had completed thirty years service on the sales side.
Under the direction of Bert Toye, father of current chair Bryan Toye, the firm acquired George Kenning & Spencer, a business well known for producing masonic regalia, making the new combined business the largest operator in the sector. He also embarked on a programme of modernization moving the manufacturing operations from London to Bedworth, the home of the UK’s weaving industry, and Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.
Perhaps Toye & Co’s greatest achievement is that it has preserved the talents of highly skilled craftspeople, many of whom have had their talents passed down through generations of family.