Newest Review: ... is a hub of noise the feeling of fun and excitement oozes in here. By the entrance there is a gift shop area and then a large cafe area. U... more
WHAT DID WE DO BEFORE GAMEBOYS??
V&A Museum of Childhood (London)
V&A Museum of Childhood (London)
Date: 01/11/01, updated on 13/02/02 (557 review reads)
Advantages: Free!!!, Loads to see, lots of things you probably haven't seen in years., Children learn but don't realise it!
This is how the Bethnal Green Museum of childhood describes themselves and I couldn’t have said it better.
This place is BRILLIANT!!! It’s a wonderful place for adults who can look at the toys and reminisce and also for children to have fun and learn (even though it doesn’t seem like learning to them!). If this museum was in central London (although it’s easy to get to) it would be packed to the seams.
Ok, so lets take a little tour…………….
The building is an imposing red brick structure on Cambridge Heath Road easily visible from the road, and is grade 2 listed. It has a quirky sign above the door which reminds you of children’s toys but doesn’t quite fit in with the building. Infront of the museum is a picnic area with tables and benches where on dry days you can sit, the area is very clean. Inside the building is huge, light and airy and very well looked after.
The Bethnal Green museum was opened by HRH the Prince of Wales on 24th June 1872 although the intention was to depict local life that never happened. There were a number of exhibits including one on food and another on animal products; showing what useful things could be made of fur and feathers. In 1923 a special children’s exhibition was established which was the start of the current collection. The museum is actually a department of the Victoria and Albert museum. Any restoration work on display pieces is done at the V&A. The museum has had its fair share of celebrity visitors, one was Van Gogh who visited between 1873-1875.
~~THE GROUND FLOOR~~
All the exhibits are housed in enormous glass
cabinets which make viewing very easy (even when there’s little fingerprints on the glass from over enthusiastic viewers!!). One of the most impressive collections is the first that you will see as you enter the museum - the Dolls House Collection.
The houses range in sizes, some are enormous and have so much detail that it takes ages to take it all in. The oldest is the Nuremberg Dolls house from 1673. The museum has thought of everything and kindly provides cushion pads to place on the floor so that you can view in comfort. Whilst I was there I saw three boys (all aged about 8-12) sitting on them looking at the houses – this was a lovely thing to see as usually a TV screen is the only thing to get such rapt attention!! Parents were cleverly using the houses to teach the children and asking questions such as what do you think that is? and what do you think it was like to live in that house? (very smart, the kids had no idea they were getting a history lesson!!).
There actually is a “boys” dolls house which is called Dingley Hall, this was made for 2 boys and is absolutely fascinating, there’s a grand staircase, a nursery full of children and even its own chapel. The houses range from the 1700’s to a modern dolls house from 1999, the Charles Rennie MacIntosh House made to celebrate the millennium and as a tribute to the architect himself.
Some of the dolls houses are huge and some are smaller single rooms such as the one depicting Martin Luther and the Christmas Tree. This comprises of 2 little rooms, which look like scenes from Christmas cards. Martin Luther (religious reformer) is believed to have started the tradition of Christmas trees. He was walking through a pine forest when he saw stars twinkling through the branches and he thought how nice it would be to set one up at home. He used candles to depict the stars. (See you’ve learnt something already!!).
Another display well worth
a mention is the 2 Chinese rock gardens, made from ivory, shell, wood and even kingfisher feathers. The scenes depict Chinese people fishing, boating etc amongst wonderful trees, flowers and insects. Originally part of a gift from the Emperor of China to Josephine, Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife.
The museum is undergoing some major changes and the dolls houses are eventually being moved upstairs. I have made my own contribution to this part of the museum. In the depths of my flat I have some toys dating back to my youth and as I wasn't a destructive child they're nigh on perfect. Amongst my toys was a dolls house which was called Jennys house. They were made in the early 60's and were plastic rooms that you bought and built up a house as big or small as you liked. I had 2 units complete in original perfect boxes with loads of furniture from the age, again in excellent condition. I could have sold the items but I liked the idea of children getting to see them on display so I offered them to the mueseum. I have to say they were very excited by them as not many survived. So if you go look out for Jennys house donated by ......moi!!
I’ve named this level the upper level as its only 2 or 3 steps or a ramp to get to it. On my last visit there was a section closed for renovation but it didn’t detract from the other hundreds of exhibits. This floor houses dolls from all centuries, even the classic such as Barbie, Cindy and the Cabbage patch dolls are here.
There are also mechanical toys and toy theatres and puppets galore. In a central position is a Marionette theatre made in Venice in the 18th Century. My favourite puppets are 2 Japanese Bunraku puppets, which need 3 men to operate them. One operates the head and right arm, one the left arm and the final one operates the feet of male puppets (females don’t have feet!!). The operators are visible and dress totally in black; they stand beh
ind and slightly lower than the puppets. It takes years to learn the art.
Around the corner past all the puppets are housed the train sets, meccano, Lego and something I haven’t seen for years – hobby horses!!
There are loads of other things I haven’t mentioned but needless to say every sort of toy from modern to old is represented somewhere. There are even some displays, which can be operated on the insertion of 20 pence and are well worth the money as they’re very funny. One of the machines tests your daring, are you brave or not!!??
The Upper floor is divided into sections:
The Early Years
~~Learning Days/The Early Years~~
This section covers how children first learn, for example by “lets pretend”. There are tea sets, sewing machines and even a toy flymo!! In the centre of the floor are interactive toys that children can actually play with. There's such things as a tiny synagogue with all the males on the ground floor and all the ladies in their best hats upstairs, its all done in wonderful detail and there's a description of what everything is next to the synagogue.
This section seems to reflect social history. There are wonderful displays of clothing including some from wartime and school uniforms. My personal favourite was a fancy dress “Christmas Cake” outfit (dated 1929) which is hilarious and even had a hat shaped like a Christmas pudding! There’s also a huge array of cradles, prams and baby walkers’ etc. There's even a child’s wardrobe that looks like a dolls house. At the end of this section is a very painful looking item which is apparently a birthing chair as used in 15th Century, you’re invited to try it out…Emmm…I think not!
The final section upstairs is where children can sit and re
ad or listen to stories being told, its very spacious and has plenty of seating and desks.
Located in the center of the ground floor the small shop sells souvenirs of the museums such as pencils (25 pence),rubbers (40 pence) and books, teddies etc There are plenty of dolls house items from little bibles to pots and pens. I was struck by a moment of nostalgia when I spotted paper dress up dolls, you have a choice including – the bride, Miss Emily and Lady Jane, unfortunately the price wasn’t nostalgic at £5.95!!
Located near the shop for when you need a break. Limited menu includes:
Can of drink 75p
Sandwiches from £1.50-£2.15
Children’s lunchbox: fruit, sandwich, carton of drink and chocolate bar £2.45
Toilets (very clean and well looked after).
Ramps and lifts to give access to wheelchairs, anyone with any other special needs can phone in advance and the museum will assist.
Guided tours for adult groups, must be booked in advance.
Children’s holiday events and Saturday workshops
Jump Around (for under 5’s) – Let the children loose in a soft play zone, open every weekend. Parents/guardians must supervise but there are
complimentary weekend newspapers to keep you occupied. £1.50 for 40 minutes session.
Children’s birthday parties from £6 a head.
~~COST/HOW TO GET THERE/OPENING HOURS ETC~~
The cost? – An astonishing NOTHING!! Yes it’s free!! There is a collection box in the entrance and I think its well worth a contribution to keep this magnificent museum running.
Address is: Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green E2.
Nearest Tube is Bethnal Green tube on the central line. Exit the ticket barrier take a sharp right go up the steps and follo
w your nose in one minute you're there.
Bus: 8 from Victoria via Oxford St to Bethnal Green road or Roman Road. 106, 253, 309 and D6 to Cambridge Heath Road. Ask for the stop nearest the tube station.
Open: 10am to 17.50pm. Closed Fridays and also 24-26th Dec and 1st Jan.
Info line: (24 hours) 020 89802415.
GO ON RECAPTURE YOUR YOUTH, GO ON, GO ON, GO ON………(sorry couldn't do the Irish accent!).
More reviews in the field of Museum National
- Victorian Nostalgia
- A John to be proud of
- HIC! It waz avzoloootely vabuloooz, darling, hic!
- A project to be proud of.
- A French Chateau in County Durham
- The Titanic Experience Belfast-Well Worth a Visit Informative and Surprisingly E ...
- Stepping back in time at the Churchill War Rooms in London
- An Air Adventure, Without ever leaving the ground.
- A star attraction
- Toddler to granny. . . .toys for everyone!
- Captain Cook Memorial Museum (Whitby)
- Aeroventure Museum (Doncaster)
- The Crystal (London)
- The Dinosaur Museum (Dorchester)
- Dinosaurland Fossil Museum (Dorset)
- Life and Death Pompeii and Herculaneum (London)
- The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum (Marton)
- Shepherd Wheel (Sheffield)
- Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery (Doncaster)
- National Maritime Museum (Falmouth)