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The oldest toy museum is forced to close now

The story of this Pollock’s Toy Museum starts in Hoxton in 1856. By that time, the area was famous as the area where the wealthy lived. By then, theatre toys, gramophones and lanterns were flourishing. Benjamin Pollock had married Eliza Redington and inherited her father’s Theatrical Print Warehouse.

While theatre toys were losing ground and becoming unpopular as the time was passing by, Mr. Pollock continued to sell theatrical sheets. His costumers were mainly children, seeking to the stage or city gents nostalgic for their childhood. Actors of the larger stage such as Charlie Chaplin were also visiting this place. Robert Louis Stevenson was one of the writers who was loving that place. He immortalized it in an essay: ‘If you love art, folly or the bright eyes of children, speed to Pollock’s’.

Mr Pollock died in 1937, but his daughters took over the shop which was opposite the famous Brittania Theatre. During the second World War a bomb almost destroyed the shop. However, by that time, it had already its fans and supporters who brought it back to life. The patrons came up with an impressive production line, making miniature ‘Regency Theatres’ for his showroom in the Adelphi Building. This action brought money and huge success to the business. Collaborations with artists such as Edwin Smith, actors (Laurence Olivier in a toy theatre version of the film of Hamlet) and performers of the art form like George Speight, made this post-war period a creatively fruitful time for the business.

In the 1960s the shop had to change location again and settle in 44, Monmouth Street. Marguerite Fawdry bought the shop during that time. Her interest in dolls and toys led her to open a small museum above the shop. 60’s London, pop artists, designers and musicians were loving Victoriana and folk culture and Pollock’s was once again a huge success.

Her collection eventually outgrew the merchandise and the shop slightly changed its identity. She moved the museum to Scala Street in Fitzrovia, where it remains a small private museum. It is now run by the founder’s grandson, Eddy Fawdry.

In recent years, the museum struggled, as many other businesses, due to the pandemic. It had closed for its Christmas break, seemingly expecting to open this week, but the museum is now half empty and the doors are locked. Just yesterday, they were saying that “due to problems with the buildings, the museum will remain closed for the next few months.”

However, that changed overnight. A message on Pollock’s website now explains that “due to a change in circumstances regarding the ownership of the buildings, we have not been able to negotiate a sustainable future for the museum collection at its current premises”. The museum is now no longer able to open at its traditional home. Once they find a new long-term home, the museum says that they expect to need a major fundraising appeal to cover the cost of the new building.

Apart from the charm of the collection, much of the appeal of the museum was the delightfully old building itself, with its odd little rooms and staircases. Hardly suitable for a modern museum and not at all accessible. However, it was wonderfully appropriate for the collection as you stepped back in time to a fantasy wonder world.

In the meantime, the museum owners say that their collection of toy theatres, elderly teddy bears, dolls, games and toys is in storage and they are looking for another long-term home for the museum. Nevertheless, they are also fundraising to cover the unexpected cost of the storage facility.

That said, it is still a huge loss. What made the museum so popular is not only its collection, but also the old building hosting it. Fawdry-Tatham and Baker assure visitors that they are doing whatever they can to assure a safe future for the museum.

All we can do is hope for Pollock’s Toy Museum to retain its character and its unique magic.

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