No-Tourist London No.4 – Pollocks Toy Museum


What an odd place this is. A combined shop and toy museum in Whitfield Street, just behind Charlotte Street, it started life as a Victorian toy theatre shop (and still sells them, but only Ali Baba and Cinderella), but moved to its present position from Covent Garden in 1969. This morning it opened randomly around three quarters of an hour late, and the man behind the counter chatted on the phone for ten minutes before casually asking what I wanted. The only other person there was a bemused-looking Japanese girl.

The museum has, frankly, seen better days, but it still retains a strange charm in its winding narrow brown corridors. The shop hardly has anything to buy apart from the admittedly sweet theatres, and the modern kids’ toy section is rubbish, but it’s just about worth a visit – partly because we’d all miss it if it wasn’t there. However, it needs a bit of love and better stock. Having said that, I was able to purchase the one final piece of research material I needed for the next Bryant & May novel.

Still, Pollocks is more fun than the disastrously ruined Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood, which seems to have confused its brief and turned into The Bethnal Green Museum For Children (complete with vast cafe and play area, and actual exhibits relegated to upstairs).

So – pop along to Pollocks if you’re passing, and don’t expect crowds!

4 comments on “No-Tourist London No.4 – Pollocks Toy Museum”

  1. I used to love the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood. Bloody kids. Spoil everything!

  2. Andy says:

    I still enjoy Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood (admittedly I did last see it on a relatively child free day), I love wandering around thinking “I used to have one of those”.

    Old toys are a nostalgia goldmine nowadays. All those people who grew up in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s now have big paying jobs and hence the cash to blow on recapturing a piece of their childhood. I myself have a “TV Cream” book of 70’s and 80’s toys plus a wonderful “Space Toys of the 60’s” catalogue which I browse with fond memories. My brother has gone one better and paid good cashy money recreating his Matt Mason collection, plus the odd Zeroid (his was Zobar, mine was Zintar). There’s a thriving business recovering, restoring and supplying old toys to old former owners. The thrill I got from holding, after so many years, the Matt Mason Space Crawler I used to have sort of makes me appreciate why, the feel of it, the smell, all the little details I’d forgotten until then brought the associated memories of my childhood flooding back so much more clearly.

    Unfortunately children are essentially an enforced visitor component for most museums nowadays, they have to be “child-friendly”, encourage school trips and have education officers (or the more avuncular “explainers”) on hand in order to keep their grant money flowing. I used to have to take groups when I was a natural history curator in Wiltshire, make up activities and give talks. Bleah. Even spent six weeks in Gosport creating geology sessions for the “Search” hands-on science centre. The museum I’m in now is decidedly child-unfriendly, much to my immense relief.

  3. Salian says:

    Ooh! I stumbled across Pollock’s the last time I was in London (2003). Even then it could do with a bit of spit and polish, but I thought it was good fun – all these toys I’d heard or read about but had never seen.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    Toys of the ’40’s and early ’50’s, perhaps? I was a docent at our local museum for 15 years and did school tours in the archaeology, modern history and maritime programs. Very rarely did we have kids we wanted to chuck. We threatened them with being sent to the rotunda and that usually settled them down. Archaeology had an artificial dig, modern history had some fun stories and in the first nations program they got to cook salmon in a wooden box. At the Maritime they learned a little basic navigation with charts. We learned a tremendous amount about First Nations legends and customs (from the people themselves), archaeological procedures in a dig, how to split cedar shakes (I still can), and how the European and Asian settlers made our modern city. You should hear my tale of Tom and his Daisy and their ambition to have a farm in Canada where Daisy would make t’ best butter anywhere. Don’t run down the museum programs – they inspire interest in the subjects – or can, at least. Sorry for the soapbox.

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