Pollock's Toy Museum
The history begins in about 1856 in Hoxton, an area of London bordered by the wealth of the City and the poverty of the East End. This is where Benjamin Pollock was born. At this time the toy theatre trade was flourishing. But by the time Benjamin Pollock had married Eliza Redington and inherited her father's Theatrical Print Warehouse, the toy theatre trade had been overshadowed by new novelties such as ‘magic lanterns’ and ‘gramophones’.
However Mr Pollock, in his dark and dusty shop in Hoxton, carried on supplying theatrical sheets costing a ‘penny plain and twopence coloured’. His customers were local children aspiring to the stage or city gents nostalgic for their childhood as well as actors of the larger stage such as Charlie Chaplin. Robert Louis Stevenson was one of the writers of the time to be delighted by the shop and he immortalised him in an essay 'If you love art, folly or the bright eyes of children, speed to Pollock’s'.
Mr Pollock died in 1937 and the shop opposite the famous Britannia Theatre (later a cinema) in Hoxton Street was continued by his daughters but sadly bomb damaged in the second world war. A bookseller, Alan Keen along with the actor Ralph Richardson brought the business back to life with an impressive production line making miniature ‘Regency Theatres’ for his showroom in the Adelphi Building. His 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 Speaight made this post-war period a creatively fruitful time for the business. However the austerity of the time meant that it was short-lived, although the legacy remains in that those wooden theatres of the late 40s and early 50s started many a British actor, designer, director or producer on their real life stage careers.
The 1960s saw Pollock’s move to another location at 44 Monmouth Street. Marguerite Fawdry ended up buying the stock of copper printing plates when she attempted to purchase some wire character slides for her son’s toy theatre. Her interest in dolls and toys led her to buy the whole business and open a small museum above the shop. 60s London, pop artists, designers and musicians were attracted by the love of Victoriana and folk culture and Pollocks was revitalised. Her collection outgrew the shop and she moved the museum to Scala Street in Fitzrovia where it remains a small private museum.It is now run by the founders grandson, Eddy Fawdry.