John Niblett of Sidcup started making 54mm and 65mm model soldiers in 1948.
He began working in the 20mm (or "1 inch" as it was sometimes styled)
scale some eight years later. These early small figures were mounted on socles
(small plinths) and included some English Civil War subjects, Romans, Normans
and 12th and 14th Century knights as well as some modern
figures including household cavalry, beefeaters and the like. The range was
sold, painted, exclusively through Hummels House of Miniatures in Burlington
Arcade, London. In the early 1960s foot figures sold for 9/6d (roughly 48p)
and mounted for 17/6 (about 88p).
At the other end of the scale, quite, literally, Niblett produced 150mm and
175mm military figures in white metal.
Garratt states that the smaller figures were discontinued in 1963. However,
"Model Soldiers" by William Y Carman (1973) shows a photo of some
20mm Niblett ECW figures which he says, "May still be purchased in the
West End of London". This was probably left over stock.
Niblett also designed larger figures for Malleable Mouldings and The Sentry
Box. In 1956 he joined Airfix. He was the original designer of the HO/OO range
of figures that appeared for the first time with an issue of guardsmen in 1958
- the basic figure for which seems to have come from Nibletts original
Niblett worked for Airfix until 1974 producing many of the companys ranges
including the 1/32nd scale figures, and the 54mm Napoleonic and historical
character kits. He also produced a number of large special commissions for the
Ministry of Public Buildings and seems also to have worked at Mettoy where he
met and became friends with Les Higgins.
In 1975 Niblett set up his own design studio in Herne Bay, Kent where he completed
designs for Britains and Lesney amongst others along with a range of painted
54mm knights that were sold exclusively through the shop at the Tower of London.
Two years later he decided to re-issue his original range of 20mm figures.
First releases were 14th Century knights and men-at-arms shortly
followed by 11th and 12th Century knights and men-at-arms.
In early 1979 Niblett released figures from a new English Civil War range and
the following review appeared in the Atten-Shun column of the March 1979 issue
of Military Modelling:-
"John Niblett of 50 The Broadway, Herne Bay, Kent has added some attractive
English Civil War subjects to his 20mm scale wargames figure series this
month. The new figure comprise an assortment of six foot figures and three
cavalry types, and on all of them the degree of detail is remarkable and the
The mounted figures include an Ironside trooper and his Royalist counterpart
and there's a beautiful little mounted cuirassier in three-quarter armour on
a rearing horse discharging his pistol. The horses are moulded in two halves
for epoxy assembly and on all the figures the diminutive weapons (and in
some cases, an arm) are moulded separately for the purchaser to stick
together thus making possible a fair degree of personal animation.
Among the foot types are pike and musket men from both sides, one of the
latter firing his musket on its rest, and there's a choice of positions for
the pikemen as well; an attractive little drummer rounds off the collection.
Niblett tell us that, depending upon popularity, they'll be expanding the
range, so if wargamers want more of these nice little 20mms then it's up to
them to give these new ones the reception they deserve. They sell as a set
of 6 foot figures, price 72p, or a set of 3 mounted figures, price £1.60
(plus 12p post and packing in both cases)".