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HyperScale Field Trip 2003
A Visit to H.G. Hannant

by Brett Green

 

Hannants at Lowestoft

 

 

Introduction

 

Where I come from, you'd think that England stopped at Cambridge. Even my fat Lonely Planet guidebook deals with all of East Anglia in less than a single page.

In reality, the east of England is full of interesting towns and attractions. I just spent a very pleasant night at a beautiful town called Bury St Edmunds, east of Cambridge - well worth a visit as a destination in its own right. For the modeller and aviation enthusiast, the east also offers a labyrinth of RAF and USAAF airfields. Duxford, the current home of the Imperial War Museum's collection, is the most famous of these. Of course, nearly 60 years after the event, most of the other airfields have been plowed under or built over. However, some gems may still be uncovered with perseverance, a little help from locals and a good map!

Lowestoft is a town with a population of 60,000 people, perched on the coast as the easternmost point in the United Kingdom. It is a tourist and transportation centre, but it is also the home of a modeller's landmark - H.G. Hannant Limited.

 

 

Hannant's History

 

The current proprietor of Hannants is David Hannant. David's father lent his initials to the organisation when H.G. Hannant became a Limited Company around 40 years ago. However, the lineage goes back much further than that.

 

 

Hannants was originally established in Lowestoft as a tobacconist and newsagent by David's Grandfather in 1890.

During the First World War, the original shop was shelled by a German ship offshore. The shell penetrated the front wall, passed through the back of the building and finally came to rest unexploded!

More misfortune befell the shop in 1942, when the building was hit during a bombing run by a Focke-Wulf Fw 190. The staff were sheltered under a stairwell and escaped serious injury, but the shop was effectively destroyed. Hannants moved to new premises in town, and that remained its home until the mid-1990s.

Around this time, David's father shifted the focus from newsagent to toy shop, and his mother also operated a successful wool shop.

David Hannant eventually took over running the family toy shop. His areas of interest included plastic models, and the range expanded dramatically during the 1960s.

In 1975, whilst on a family vacation in California, David first saw Microscale Decals and brought a small selection back to Lowestoft to sell via mail order. In fact, Hannants had already experimented with mail order for model railways, but had closed that side of the business some years earlier. This time, however, the timing was right. Fresh models were flooding onto the market and, as fate would have it, Monogram's new 1/72 scale Fokker D.VII kit suggested the use of a Microscale German Lozenge decal sheet. Demand for the sheet in the UK was enormous, and the Hannants mail order business would never look back.

Nearly 30 years on, some things have changed. A website with searchable catalogue has supplemented the mail order operation. In fact, Internet orders have now overtaken the conventional mail orders.

 

 

Hannants also moved into new, larger premises. The 29,000 sq. ft. warehouse was originally built to house canned food, but it was refitted around 6 years ago with offices and other facilities more suitable to the business. The Lowestoft premises houses the entire retail and wholesale operation, with telephone and Internet orders being received, processed, picked, packed and posted from under the same large metal roof.

Today, around 24,000 unique items are held, resulting in a mind-boggling array of stock on the shelves. This plastic shares the space with some interesting 1:1 scale relics too. Scattered in various corners are two Harriers, a replica Spitfire, a WWI fighter and various vehicles!

 

 

In recent years a second retail premises was established close to the RAF Museum at Hendon.

Visitors are welcome at the Lowestoft premises. They may browse the long aisles and buy models or any other items in stock during their stay.

Just try to walk away from that plastic candy shop empty handed!

Thanks to David Hannant for his hospitality during my visit.


Hannants is located at Harbour Road, Oulton Broad, Lowestoft.
Their website may be found at http://www.hannants.co.uk

 

Additional Images

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:


Text, Images and Model Copyright 2003 by Brett Green.
Page Created 19 November, 2003
Last updated 01 December, 2003

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