Pollock: The Adventurous Toy Museum

Pollock: The Adventurous Toy Museum

London is a city where each and every street is full of attractions. There's something for all ages, from youngsters to elders.

The Pollock’s Toy Museum is one of them.

The Pollock's Toy Museum is primarily a museum but visitors can also do some exciting shopping here. This world of historic kid wonder is located in central London. It is on a side street, so does not get much passing trade but it is more than worth seeking out.

While the museum is popular for kids, older children and adults also have a great time. There's many exhibits in glass cases, including Victorian toys with plenty of collectible toy theatres on display. The giant collection also includes dolls and the dollhouses, tiny toys, teddy bears and more, collected from all around the world.

Pollock's Toy Museum is addressed in the two big terraced historic buildings in the Fitzrovia. One from the time of 1880s and the other built in 1780s. But you need to be aware that you have to climb two flights of the stairs (and then come back down) to see the museum.


The History of Pollock's Toy Museum

This story is one of the most underrated and interesting ones and it starts in the Hoxton, east of London, in the 1850s. At that time this was the poor area and Benjamin Pollock was born in there. There was a time when toy theatres had been very popular, but by the time Benjamin Pollock and Eliza Redington got married and inherited her father's Theatrical Print Warehouse, the toy theatre fashion was already overshadowed by new entertainment -- like the magic lanterns, gramophones and wireless.

The shop and the printers, at 73 Hoxton Street was just opposite to The Britannia Theatre. But Pollock bravely decided to carry on the works of supplying the theatrical sheets costing "penny plain and two pence coloured". His customers there were local children passionate about the stage or the city gents wistful for their childhood, as well as well-known actors such as the legendary Charlie Chaplin. Robert Louis Stevenson, an ace writer of the time, was delighted by the shop and explained it in an essay: "If you love art, folly or the bright eyes of children, speed to Pollock’s".

Benjamin Pollock died in the year 1937, but till then he hand printed, constructed and coloured a number of toy theatre material housed in the museum today. After the death of Pollock, his daughters, Selina and Louise, kept the business going, but neither had any knowledge of printing as they had worked for their father as the colourists’ and cutters.

2-3 years after his death, Stocks start dwindled and WWII bomb partly destroyed the premises of shop, and it was then closed. At the end of the war, in the year 1944, Alan Keen, a famous antiquarian bookseller of its time, along with the popular actor Ralph Richardson, bought up the business and set it up in the Covent Garden. They got the production going again by starting with the 'Regency Theatres' for his newly started showroom in an Adelphi Building, on the John Adam Street.

Keen collaborated with well-known artists, performers and actors, such as Laurence Olivier, in toy theatre version of film Hamlet. But while the post-war London was creative there was also soberness, just like that of Montcalm at the brewery.

In the year of 1956, the museum was created for the first time when Pollock's moved shop to another Covent Garden location, 44 Monmouth Street. Marguerite Fawdry ended up buying stock of the copper printing plates when she tried to purchase the wire character slides for her son's toy theatre. Her acute interest in the dolls and toys led her to buying the whole business and opening up an exciting small museum above the shop.

By the year of 1969, the collection had grown too much, and the Pollock's Toy Museum moved to the Monmouth Street premises at Fitzrovia, in 1 Scala Street, where the museum shop was on the ground floor.

A charitable trust was then formed by the Marguerite Fawdry in the 1960s to overlook the running of the museum. When Marguerite Fawdry died the trust and the staff took over the running of the museum, but not the ownership.

The collection has been built up by the purchases and donations from friends, family and the public. It was basically an independent family runing the private museum. Nowadays it is run by Marguerite's grandson, Eddy Fawdry.


Things you should know

•The Pollock's Museum Trust is no longer connected to the Pollock museum.

•The Benjamin Pollock's Toy shop in the Covent Garden has been a completely separate business from the Museum since the time of 1988.


Visiting Pollock's Toy Museum

The museum receives no outside or Government funding, so there is a nominal admission charge. In case you have London pass then the entry is free.

The museum open from Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm.

Everywhere is partially packed with exhibits so ask for the museum guide to help you know what you can see.

The labels and information inside are mostly handwritten or typed on early word processors. The collection is undoubtedly enthralling and also includes Egyptian toys dating back to the 2000BC.

This isn't a museum for young age child, you can rather take them to the V&A Museum of the Childhood. You will not need more than an hour to explore the whole museum.