London: Pollock’s Toy Museum

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All right, assuming the publishing feature worked correctly, you may be reading this on my birthday, while I’m off in Denmark, hopefully having a fabulous time and finding some new places to blog about (I’m thinking the Medical Museum and the Police Museum look promising)!   But for now, here’s a post on a museum in London with a lovely antiquated feel: Pollock’s Toy Museum (as usual, please excuse the crappy pictures.  ‘Twas very dark, and you can see my reflection in most of the glass cases).
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Given how often I head to Goodge Street for an extremely cheap and studenty yet strangely delicious pizza from ICCO, it’s odd that Pollock’s Toy Museum has escaped my attention until now.  Oh sure, I knew it existed, but I think I’ve sometimes confused it with the Museum of Childhood, which I think is more child-centric.  It wasn’t until I saw Professor Hutton visit it on Professor Hutton’s Curiosities (which was disappointingly London-centric (and this is coming from someone who lives in London), and I’m sorry, but Professor Hutton kind of freaks me out.  Something about his long, unkempt witch-like hair – he looks like the type of man who would have long, yellow, dirty nails) that I realised both where it was, and that it looked a bit creepy, and therefore awesome.
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Scala Street is sandwiched roughly between Charlotte Street and Tottenham Court Road, quite near to Goodge Street Station.  The museum space spans two narrow buildings; one Victorian, the other Georgian, which already made it cool in my book.  Walking into the gift shop/admissions, I found myself in a room that had the aura of an old-fashioned magic shop – full of shelves crammed with overhanging toys/ephemera and curio cabinets bulging with miniatures, which were lent atmosphere by the dimly lit interior.  The place was completely deserted, and I was kind of afraid someone would emerge from a back room and offer to sell me a gremlin/evil Krusty doll/frogurt with toppings containing potassium benzoate, but after waiting around for a couple minutes, and nervously calling, “Hello?” a man casually strolled through the front door with the glass of coke he’d been getting from the pub next door.  At last, I was able to pay my £6 admission fee, and enter through the heavy door.

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I was greeted by a winding staircase, and a case full of American toys, including a bank shaped like Boss Tweed.  You should know that the staircases are quite narrow and steep, and they all have toys exhibited along them, so you’ll often find yourself twisting into awkward positions to get a good look at things, whilst trying to not fall down the stairs.  This was further complicated by the fact that I was holding a large shopping bag in addition to my purse, and trying to take pictures with my crappy phone, which requires two hands; honestly I was probably lucky I didn’t break a leg or something.  I would imagine this would be a nightmare if the place was crowded; fortunately, I was the only visitor at the time.

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After successfully getting a peek at the board games on the stairs of death (I did a year-long research project on board games when I was in third grade, and I still love playing them, on the rare occasions I can find enough people to play with), I emerged onto the first floor, which was devoted to boys’ toys (that just sounds stupid and/or pervy, sorry), although some of them were unisex, like the rocking horses and zoetropes (When I was little, my grandpa bought me a rocking horse that I named Buckles, and spent hours riding whilst singing “Home, Home, on the Range” over and over again.  I must have driven my grandparents mad).  I was actually quite tomboyish when I was a kid, and I loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but my mother would never buy me any of the action figures because they were for boys, apparently.  I had to resort to hand-me-downs from one of my friends, which mainly consisted of the crappier characters (I probably had five Raphaels).  This stuff was far more “vintage”though; I think the newest things there were some robot and space toys from the ’60s, and a few GI Joes.
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On the second floor, I checked out the collection of toy theatres, and then progressed into the Georgian part of the museum, which was unashamedly girly.  There were some rather creepy wax dolls (particularly so if you’ve seen that episode of Doctor Who where Amy and Rory are trapped in that dollhouse with the faceless peg dolls), and I was the only person in there, completely surrounded by their dead staring eyes, in a room with creaky 18th century floorboards and the distant tortured cry of a pigeon from the ledge outside.  Before fleeing (I’m being melodramatic here, I wasn’t really that freaked out), I did note the English doll who was owned by an American pioneer girl, but eventually made it back to England to rest in the museum.
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The next room was full of dollhouses, which I definitely  have a fondness for.  I played with Barbies and stuff when I was little, and I had some American Girls dolls (Samantha and Felicity), but I never had a dollhouse, which is a shame, because I loved making up stories for them, and I also love miniature things.  These examples weren’t quite as ornate as some I’ve seen, but I still would have loved to own them when I was a kid, and I spent some time poring over the decorations and wee furniture.  Around the corner were some teddies arranged in trees, and naturally, in a teddy bear picnic tableux, though my favourite was a poor WWI soldier bear who had been injured, and was resting his bandaged leg.  Just thinking about it makes me go “awwwww” inside my head. (See, I do have a soft side!)
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The next room though, well, that was another doll room, mainly of the china sort.  I was never into baby dolls; I guess I’ve never had any kind of maternal instinct, so these didn’t do much for me, though the homemade Pearly King and Queen dolls were kind of cool.  The collections finished on the staircase back down with some war related games, and foreign toys.
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Even though this is a toy museum, I don’t think children would actually like it, as you can’t touch anything.  There were two young boys behind me as I left, as they had rushed through the entire museum in the time it took me to look at one room, and they seemed pretty uninterested.  However, nostalgic adults would love it, as you can probably tell from the way I’ve bored you with personal reminiscences throughout.  I mean, I was born well after any of the eras most of these toys were from, but I still found them delightful.  Dusty cases full of Victorian toys arranged in strange tableaux in a dark, quiet museum of warren-like rooms is EXACTLY the kind of thing I love.  That said, I do think £6 is kind of steep, but it is in central London, and doesn’t seem to be terribly popular, so I’m sure they need the help paying the rent.  If you like Victoriana and/or old-fashioned museums, then I think it’s definitely worth checking out. 4/5.
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