Victory jig-saw puzzles were a familiar sight in British homes from the 1920s to the 1980s. They were cut by hand from plywood and covered a wide range of subjects, including maps, famous landmarks, planes, ships and well-known paintings. Some, such as the best selling jigsaw of the coronation in 1953, had a patriotic theme; in fact the trademark ‘Victory’ had been chosen just after the celebrations marking the end of the First World War. Even the royal family had a passion for doing jigsaws and Victory puzzles were known to be a favourite at Sandringham, particularly with the late Queen Mother.
The inspiration behind Victory puzzles was Gerald Hayter. He began his working life as a bank clerk in Christchurch, but supplemented his income by making jigsaws out of old calendar pictures and scraps of plywood. His hobby grew into a business and, after a brief period working from premises in Bournemouth, he gave up his bank job and took on a factory building in Boscombe* in 1932.
By the 1950s, up to 120 workers worked at the Boscombe factory. The process of cutting the puzzles using jigsaws was very time-consuming. Some were extremely intricate and contained 1,000 pieces or more. One customer from Northern Ireland had a 10,000 piece puzzle made to order! To speed up the process a technique of ‘stack cutting’ was developed. This involved laying up to 8 jigsaws on top of each other, fastening them together and cutting them simultaneously.
Making puzzles in the Boscombe factory c1965
Packing puzzles in the Boscombe factory c1965
As well as making complex jigsaws for adults, Hayter also produced simple jigsaws for young children and puzzles with an educational theme. By the late 1950s, the company had also branched out into making other products, such as table tennis bats and board games. The company continued to thrive throughout the 1960s. In 1970 the company was taken over by the famous games company J W Spear & Sons.
The 1980s saw Victory starting to lose its hold on the market. The wooden puzzles could not compete with the cheap punched card jigsaws being made overseas. Also the passion for making jigsaws had dwindled due to the lure of television and other innovative puzzles and games.
The Victory factory at Boscombe closed in 1988.
*Boscombe, Bournemouth & Christchurch were part of Hampshire until the county boundaries were changed in 1974
Victory puzzle ‘A City Gate in Morroco’ 1929
Victory puzzle, ‘Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II 1952
Victory puzzle, ‘Imperial Flying Boat’ 1938
Victory Wall Quoits early 1960s
Victory puzzle, ‘The First Man on the Moon’ c1968
Photographs of the Hayter factory: Spears Games Archive