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Waddingtons had Monopoly in Leeds
Victor Watson
Victor Watson is sorting out some of his old Waddingtons papers

2010 is the 75th anniversary of a Leeds firm gaining the UK rights to the game of Monopoly.

Victor Watson, who was the last Chairman of Waddingtons, has told us about some of the secrets he's found recently in the firm's archives.

John Waddington started the family firm as a theatrical printer in Leeds in 1896 and it began printing playing cards in 1921.

The rights to sell the famous game were acquired by Waddingtons in 1935.

For the English version the choice of London streets represented on the board was based on a flying visit around the capital by Victor's grandfather (also named Victor).

Victor, who grew up in Horsforth, told BBC Radio Leeds that unlike all the other property squares the one named the Angel, Islington is not a street at all.

Taxi dash

Leeds Monopoly board
Woodhouse Lane gets a starring role in the game

It was named after (what was then) the coffee house that his grandfather had a drink in after his taxi dash around the capital collecting street names.

His grandfather also made a small mistake with his research as Marlborough Street should actually be Great Marlborough Street.

In 1993 the company produced a special limited edition of the game when 500 sets were produced with all the squares named after Leeds locations.

Such is the position of Waddingtons in Leeds history that this special edition was one of the 10 objects chosen by Leeds museums to represent the city in the A History of the World project.

Personal papers

Now Victor is trawling through another tranche of the firm's archives and his personal papers, he is sorting them out to make sure any important material goes to the right home.

The West Yorkshire Archive and Abbey House Museum already houses some of the firm's papers.

His recent finds include a letter from 1933-4 written by a future prime minister, Winston Churchill. In it he thanks Waddingtons for a copy of the game and calls Monopoly 'most interesting'.

Monopoly is the world's best selling board game and at its height the firm employed about 4000 people in Leeds.

Victor Watson
The Leeds board was a highlight for the city

The game was developed in America and originally based on streets in Atlantic City, in 1935 Parker Bros acquired the rights to the American game. That same year Waddingtons bought the UK rights to the game and made the version based on the streets of London.

Escape maps

During World War II Waddingtons is also thought to have smuggled silk escape maps to British prisoners of war inside Monopoly sets.

Waddingtons produced other games such as Lexicon and Cluedo, and were taken over by the US firm of Hasbro in the 1990s.

Victor Watson retired in 1993 and in 2008 wrote a book called The Waddingtons story.

A History of the World: Leeds
11 Jan 10 |  History


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