Monday, January 21, 2019

London: Time for Toys

After our St. Paul's/Tate Sunday, I needed a lighter day. Yeah, those feet.

Before we move on to today's post about Pollock's Toy Museum (a real treat!), I wanted to clarify something that I may have badly stated last time when I spoke about that first experience in the wheelchair -- here's the quote:  "And then I really broke because it felt so embarrassing to know you had to be pushed through a museum. I mean, going to museums is what I DO." And I feel I should clarify this, for I may have offended some with that word 'embarrassing.'

I know or have known loads of people rely on the chair to get them just about anywhere. My dad did in later years as does another extended family member whom I admire more than just about any woman I've ever met. I've never viewed the wheelchair embarrassing for those who need them. And we may all need one at some point or permanently sooner or later. The wheelchair can open up the world to those who can't see it on their own two feet.

What I was embarrassed -- and probably a little angry -- about was the fact that I was broken and could not do what I usually do -- walk about and enjoy the art under my own steam. I was embarrassed and angry that my body had rebelled in a very painful way, so painful I had to rely on assistance when in my regular world I would be the one pushing someone else. Embarrassed that this happened in public. By the end of the trip, any self-consciousness I had on that zone had disappeared and in fact, I was as likely to say to Rick, "hey, can you please find the wheelchair" as I was to try to go it on two feet. That first time is tough, knowing your limitations are greater than you planned. But it was also a great blessing.

So, if I inadvertently offended, forgive me. If anything, it provided a greater empathy that I know will be useful in the future. Now...

Those of you who have read Jenny Woolf's travel blog know that she'll often feature some fascinating and off-the-grid places and I found out about this one from her. Pollock's Toy Museum in London doesn't always make the guidebook cut but it is well worth a visit if you love old toys.

And for me, it had another attraction -- the wonderful toy theatres, some of which are very old and all made by hand. (Jenny wrote about a recent toy theatre production of Aladdin right here and here and she has some terrific photos.)

So, while Rick went back to the guitar center, I took the tube to Pollock's, and when I rounded the corner, this is what I saw.

Now, isn't that the most charming building? Actually, it is two buildings, from the 17th and 18th centuries, combined.

And it's full of all the features old buildings like that have -- low ceilings and narrow, winding staircases. (In other words, not for those who can't climb.)

In brief, the museum, in London's Fitzrovia, was originally a shop and printers dating back to the 1850s. The collection is largely Victorian and displayed in six small rooms and on every available bit of wall space. Of special interest (especially to me) were the toy theatres. Benjamin Pollock hand printed, constructed and colored much of the toy theatre material housed in the museum today.
It came to it's current location in the late 1960s. 

Well, of course I bought my low-priced admission ticket and stepped inside to enjoy a time travel trip, back into the toys of the past. Come take a look!

You wind your way up the narrow staircase and into various rooms. Large cases protect much of the collection.

And what a collection it is! If you loved dolls, you have everything from the little baby doll... elaborately dressed little girls...

...and fancy-dressed dolls.

This one was a little creepy.

Even Queen Alexandra was preserved in doll form!

Military toys dolls were not ignored.

Nor were dollhouses and miniatures.

This one was quite spectacular and it was just about impossible to get a halfway decent photo, much less a decent one!

Teddy Bears? We have a few...

...and a few more!

Blogger Elizabeth is a rocking horse fan.

These are for you!

This scene is supposedly of Mr. Pollock, creating one of the toy theatres.

There were board games and tiny animals, puzzles and puppets!

Of course Punch and Judy were included!

There were even toys I remembered and owned!

Every square inch was covered, ceiling to floor!

But my favorite part was the toy theatre section. The typical size of these was about two feet wide and maybe a little bit taller.

Benjamin Pollock created most, if not all, of these himself and they are elaborate representations of actual London theatre stages.

This is a bad photo because of the lighting but you can see there are several sections with grooves in the base.

These allow characters to slide in and out of a scene at different depths of field, adding to the perspective.

Can you imagine seeing a show in one of these? (Jenny did HERE)

The detail of the scenery painting was exquisite.

And you can only imagine the countless hours it took to not only engineer one of these but actually design, draw, create, cut out and assemble the various parts.

And of course the museum empties out into a fun gift shop where I found a few things from times past!

It was time to leave Pollock's and meet Rick back at St. James Church for another concert. Then we enjoyed lunch in the marketplace outside the church.

Wonderful crepes, made while you waited!

From there a short walk to the National Gallery and a special exhibit at the Canada House! Next time!

Sharing with:    Let's Add Sprinkles    /   Best of the Weekend   /     Pink Saturday   


Sami said...

What a delightful Museum, I had never heard of it.
The toy theatre is really exquisite. Lovely visit Jeanie.

Debbie-Dabble Blog and A Debbie-Dabble Christmas said...

What a fun post but also filled with so much eye candy!! Thanks for sharing! Loved the dolls I shared the previous posts with my son and he thought they were awesome!!

David M. Gascoigne, said...

This makes you wonder how many little off the road fascinating places exist, seldom visited by the general tourist crowd. Many years ago I was somewhere in upstate New York and I came across an old synagogue which had been kept open as a museum. It provided a fascinating glimpse into the lives of early Jewish migrants to the area and the discrimination they faced, and also a window into the general conditions that existed at the time. And the great thing was that we were the only two people in there and had the undivided attention of the volunteer curator who kept us entertained for a couple of hours, and was genuinely pleased that we had stopped by. It was a grand experience. Now it seems to me that my comment is all about me, and not about your experience, and that seems hardly fair!

eileeninmd said...

Hello, the Toy museum looks fun both inside and out. I like the toy theatre. The dolls are so pretty. The crepes look yummy. Looks like a great outing. Happy Monday, enjoy your day and new week ahead.

Valerie-Jael said...

Don't be embarrassed about what you said, I understood you exactly. That museum is an absolute treasure trove. I could just live there, wow! Thanks for sharing, hugs, Valerie

Sketchbook Wandering said...

I have experienced exactly what you are talking about re. the wheelchair experience. I remember rolling along at the grocelry store when I was healing from an ankle injury and yes, feeling embarrassed. Then I got used to it because it enabled me to shop. The last time it was I who pushed John in an art musuem because he had plantar fasciitis. Traniitions to decreased physical ability, to illness, to pain, to wheelchairs, are indeed not easy. You certainly didn't offend me, but I appreciate your sensitivity in following up. (that experience is also not new to me...the after thought of what I've said, and and how it might have affected some one...)

The toy museum, the theaters, and that building: Marvelous!! I went to a toy museum in Colmar, France and what I remember the most was this vast collection of Barbie dolls! Barbie has her faults, but the variety of the costumes was remarkable. Anyway: thanks for sharing the joys and the pains of travel. Rita

Sketchbook Wandering said...

Correction: I meant "transitions"...

Misadventures of Widowhood said...

Wow, that toy museum was different. I think I would have gotten claustrophobic with the narrow staircases and small rooms but so worth it to see all the great old toys.

No need to apologize for your honest reactions to needing the wheelchair. In my experience, being around a LOT of people in chairs, is that what you felt was the norm rather than the exception. said...

What a wonderful collection of fantasy! All that and crepes too! I'm sure your wheelchair experience was humbling, my brother in law is handicapped so we are always creating ways for him to be able to join us, even got him on the boat last summer...I have great respect for him and his great attitude!

Iris Flavia said...

I understand what you mean.
In her last weeks my Mom was bound to a chair, too. I got so angry at a woman who looked "down" at my Mom like... like SHE was embarrassed.
But, my Mom being my Mom, she just grinned at that "lady" :-)
I also had my Dad in such a chair in the end, it is painful to see but then... if it "keeps you going" ... so what. You learn on the journey called life, right.

Oh, that horse! My Nieces´d love that!
And those dolls, - sure a different quality of what you find these days!
And agred, creepy ones, too - but that, you find today as well.

Oh, yes, the "movie-thing" I had as well!

So creative, the theatres!

Hmmm... not-sweet crepes, loooove!

Mae Travels said...

Toys, dolls, and miniatures are some of my favorite things. I loved Legoland in Denmark (we were there when it was the one & only Legoland). I also love windups and mechanical toys -- I don't see any in your post so maybe this museum doesn't collect them. I hope I can manage to get there on some future trip.

best... mae at

Thelma said...

I would love to visit that museum. Such treasures. I went in Sept. to London. It being my first time there, I visited the main attractions. If ever I return again, I certainly will visit this exhibition. Thanks for sharing. Your photos are lovely.

My name is Erika. said...

What a cool place to visit. It's fun to find these little gems that aren't on the usual tourist agenda. And it's very easy to ignore them because there are so many "big" sights to see. And i get what you mean about using a wheelchair. I don't know what would be worse for me, losing my walking ability, my eyesight or my hearing. We take them all for granted, don't we? Hugs-Erika

Lynne said...

Wonderful visit and post.
Years of collection . . .
Thank you for treating us to pictures from the Pollock Museum.

Preppy Empty Nester said...

What a fun post, Jeannie. That first little boy doll stole my heart. Thanks for taking me along on the tour!

Susan Kane said...

An amazing place. What an imagination!

coffeeontheporchwithme said...

What a spectacular place, Jeanie! Just the building itself, let alone the contents. Such history. Don't apologize for your very human emotions. When our bodies fail us, we feel personally offended. -Jenn

Denise said...

I do hope I didn't offend YOU, Jeannie, I was really just trying to show that being in a wheelchair is not to be ashamed of or embarrassed about, but it's an opportunity and a way to push against the boundaries created (in my case, anyway) by my disabilities.

In this post you've really shown us a glimpse of the past, and also something we're not likely to see in the regular tourist venues. I really appreciate this, living as I do in Orlando, Florida. The side streets and off-the-beaten-path places can be much more interesting and fun.

Nancy's Notes said...

What a wonderful toy museum! Thank you for sharing this with us, the toys were just incredible. Loved seeing each unique photo. Oh I bet those crepes were delicious!
Have a great week!

Anonymous said...

Jeanie, what a colorful building! It looks so delightful and inviting! What a fun time it must have been to visit all the toys. I love the bears best and do not like Punch and Judy much (they are creepy to me!). And then crepes too - sounds like a perfect day!

Pam Richardson said...

Jeanie, what a fascinating toy museum. You left no stone unturned in London when it came to museums that are unique. I could have stayed for hours peering into those showcases. Thanks for taking me along and I love crepes!

Pamela said...

What a great museum. I hadn't known about it, or I think I would have visited. I understand what you meant about the wheelchair. It wasn't offensive.

Liz@ HomeandGardeningWithLiz said...

That had to be fun to tour that museum. My mother has a collection of old dolls and a couple of those have the same faces. I love bears so I enjoyed seeing those too. The crepes had to have been wonderful!

La Table De Nana said...

So many things make us swallow our pride as events unfurl in our lives.
Some breeze through life..and others ..hit stumbling blocks.
The mystery of it all.
The unfairness some say.
You're a trooper..and you always will be.

A store such as this with all it's curiosities so interesting!
So many treasures..for all ages and appreciations.
Remember Vivian Swift showing us she paints in a wheelchair?
Have a great day.

Hena Tayeb said...

That looks lovely.. I think the theater part is my favorite too.

The French Hutch said...

Wow, how did I miss all of this! Since I did I'm so happy you've posted these amazing toys and for me the dolls. I love dolls, except the occasional "creepy" ones. Old toys and theater, I know you were in your happy place. Jeanie, I think everyone understands what you were expressing so don't feel bad about anything. Have a wonderful day...........

Joanne Huffman said...

Looks like a really fun museum!

R's Rue said...


Beatrice P. Boyd said...

This looks like the sort of place I'd really enjoy poking around in and thanks for the explanations and photos. I kept thinking about a movie called Mr. Magorium's Emporium while reading this post (have you ever seen it?). I don't think anyone would have been offended by your previous comment about the need to use a wheelchair, and I'm sure folks would understand how you felt mostly being angry with yourself.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I know you well enough to understand the meaning behind your comments in the previous post about needing a wheelchair. It was kind of you to explain your reaction to needing one. It's hard to accept our limitations when they are out of our control! But I am glad you did so you could enjoy the sites of London with less pain!

That toy museum is so cool! I love those play theaters. So fun. My cousins and I would have had a ball putting on plays with one of those!

My parents kept the toys of our childhood that stood the test of time so now Paul plays with them and it brings back so many memories! One of his favorite toys is this little rotary phone that you can pull behind you with a string - he's not advanced enough to use the string but he loves pushing it around as it makes noise and the eyes on the front it bob up and down. The toy box feels like a little museum of my youth!

Pam said...

Cool Museum looking at all those toys.

Victoria Zigler said...

In my opinion, you don't need to apologize for your wheelchair comment. I know my situation is slightly different, but I still sometimes get that feeling when I have to ask for assistance. It's the norm for me by now, but it's still tough accepting that I need it.

Did you buy any toys from the gift shop?

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I guess they would have told me it's closing time...I have to leave now! I would want to keep looking and oooohhhing and aaaahhhhing! And to go back again the next day! I love toys, especially vintage toys. If I remember them from my childhood that makes it even better! Thanks for sharing. Now where did I put my view master! heehee! Hugs, Diane

William Kendall said...

What a marvelous place- especially the teddy bears.

Red Rose Alley said...

Well, I had to comment on your doll post of the London series, cause I LOVE dolls, especially cloth dolls! Pollock's Toy Museum looks like a delightful place. The baby dolls are sweet, and some of them look so old. That white doll house is something else! I'd like to get a doll house someday, now that I have granddaughters. The girls had one when they were little, but I ended up giving it away, and now I wish I still had it. The theatre stages here are enchanting. I really enjoyed this post, and might come back and see it again. : )


Marilyn Miller said...

First the crepes look amazing! Yummmm!
I do love old toys and would have thoroughly enjoyed this museum. I have 4 dolls from this era that I am getting ready to send to a friend. They are most wonderful. The dollhouse is so lovely too.

peggy gatto said...

Oh my what a wonderful morning seeing this shop and your toys! Thank you!

BB said...

Oh, this looks like so much fun. The dolls are beautiful. I'd love to have that rocking horse sitting on the library table in my foyer. He is gorgeous.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

The dolls were adorable, the tiny theater was perfect, the games were something I could get into, BUT the rocking horses stole my heart. Seems they aren't that popular in the states, but in Europe, they are still wildly popular. I was thrilled you thought to take these photos with me in mind. Thank you for that, dear Jeanie.

Doodle T said...

How very lovely...definitely worth a visit.

Jean said...

I remember taking my children here over 35 years ago. Just found this post when exploring your blog. I love the out of the way places.

Stevenson Q said...

Dearest Jeanie, I really love your additions to the Timeless Thursday memes because it takes me with you on your beautiful trips and memories! These dolls are gorgeous and very precious but I have to be honest (and I think you will agree) that some of them looks a little creepy especially when they are all grouped together, I'm like on a movie setting! But my favorite were the detailed dollhouses and that cute Military Doll!

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