Saturday, 16 September 2017

The Brighton Toy and Model Museum Heritage Open Day

As part of Heritage Open Days, Brighton Toy and Model Museum threw open its doors to visitors and provided free after hours tours of the museum, its exhibits and architecture last week.

We welcomed several groups of people who were led on tours by Eric and
Jan, who pointed out the rarities and unique artefacts that we are lucky enough to be custodians of. Not only did we learn that The Princess Elizabeth model train was top of the range for Hornby but we also learned that it was so expensive to buy that HP agreements were available to customers to buy it. We also learned that the buildings used to be the stable and cellar for the Bass Brewery, the holders of the first ever trade mark. They trade marked their symbol, the red triangle so that everybody, whether literate or not, was able to identify genuine Bass beer.
The photos in this article show the guests that our new Deputy Manager, Jan showed around. Jan has only been with us here at Brighton Toy and Model Museum for 4 months and this was her first event guiding visitors through the museum and telling us about its history. 

A Human Touch

Many of the items on display have a local or human connection. If you’re familiar with local Sussex landmarks you’ll recognise many of the features on the OO model layout, from the Wilmington Long Man to the Clayton railway tunnel entrance, designed to look like a mediaeval castle. We even have a working model of the East Hill Cliff funicular railway in Hastings.

Exhibits which don’t conform to the local aspect generally fall into the category of ‘human connection’. Most of the exhibits were collected by donors and contributors as a part of their own drive to build up a collection of their own which is not only so good, but so big that they no longer have space to display it themselves, and rather than packing it away, they choose to share it through the auspices of the museum. That human touch isn’t limited to the way the toys and models were collected. If you’ve been to the museum, you’ll probably have noticed that we don’t have a huge collection of modern toys, despite their being incredibly collectible and popular. The reason for this is
mass production. Rather than have toys that were produced in huge volumes which are still available in collectors markets and vintage shops in any town throughout the land, we concentrate on toys that were built by toymakers and craftspeople who would have taken the time and patience to hone their skills building miniature engines, sewing miniature clothes or painting miniature figures.

But what else did we learn from our Heritage Open Day?

  • Frank Hornby sent his sons to school, one in France, one in Germany, so they would be familiar with the markets when the Hornby and Meccano brands expanded into Europe.
  • Dolls were deliberately made with emotionless, blank expressions because infant mortality was so high that it would seem inappropriate to have a laughing doll, just in case.
  • Tri Ang was established by three brothers whose surname was Lines. 
  • Spot On were made by Tri Ang, produced to be in perfect scale to one another (1:42) where previous cars, trucks and vans had all been approximately the same size. 
  • Hilary Page at Kiddicraft invented the interlocking brick, a design which was later ‘adopted’ by Kirk Kristiansen in a toy which became universally known as Lego.
  • The Marklin model bridge in the centre of the O gauge display is the only known surviving example of this Eiesenbahnbrucke. 
  • The model of the Kamov co-axial helicopter was built on the original designs supplied by Kamov themselves, despite the fact that the Cold War was ongoing at the time. 
  • The Kamov 'Hormone' as it was known by NATO, and all the other large scale model aircraft you can see hanging from the museum ceiling are fully functional and have flown.

The Toy Museum will be playing host to many more events and using our space as a venue for installations and performances in future. We do our best to keep everyone informed about what we do, but to be sure to get all the latest news, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to get all the news first.