HyperScale Field Trip 2003
A Visit to H.G. Hannant
by Brett Green
Hannants at Lowestoft
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.
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
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
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
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
Hannants is located at
Harbour Road, Oulton Broad, Lowestoft.
Their website may be found at
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01 December, 2003
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