Contributor Christine Thelen is a writer for Atlas Obscura who recently had the good fortune to visit Pollock’s Toy Museum while in London. Below is her account, which she was kind enough to allow us to share with fellow Obscuraphiles! –Sarah
A short walk from the British Museum in London, nestled in the heart of Fitzrovia, lies Pollock’s Toy Museum. The collection was founded under the name of Benjamin Pollock, the last of the Victorian Toy Theatre printers after Marguerite Fawdry sought in vain to find a single piece for her son’s toy theater. Seeing a void in the world of toy collectors, Fawdry purchased Pollock’s stock, ultimately making possible Pollock’s Toy Museum as we know it today.
Located on Scala Street since 1969, walking around Pollocks’ innards is a lot like visiting an older relative with an expansive, er, tendency toward saving everything. Creaky old staircases and darkened rooms create a slightly eerie effect in some rooms, especially the one with hundreds of doll eyes staring at you.
Regardless of its spook factor, the collection is like no other. On the first floor, there is a collection of cast iron banks in glass cases, including the famous “Fat Man Tammany Bank”, which depicts the notorious rascal Boss Tweed accepting a bribe.
An assortment of ancient board games cover the walls leading upstairs… and the second floor is where the fun truly begins! There are mechanical and construction toys, including old robots, spaceships, and stereoscopic viewers. The detailed toy theaters on this floor, Pollock’s specialty, are especially interesting, including one from 1947 depicting Cinderella.
Further along the maze-like second floor, English tin toys and puppets fill the nooks and crannies, as well as an entire room of wax and composition dolls. The dolls are made of all materials and come from many different countries, ranging from Dutch dolls originating in the Dolomite Mountains to American ventriloquist dummies, Italian rag dolls to squeaking, rubber Czech rubber dollies, scores of figures from Egypt, China, England, Armand-Marseille dolls, Russian Matreoschkas… just to name a few. The collection is enormous!
The museum itself consists of two adjoined houses, hosting toys of all shapes and sizes in addition to the highlights above. For some, it is as much a return to childhood as a study of many other different childhoods; for all it’s a place to get lost in one’s imagination and memories.
Even if just for a little while, Pollock’s Toy Museum helps its guests be kids again.