Ilkley Toy Museum will share heritage boxes containing lost toys, from toy soldiers to vintage dolls

Ilkley Toy Museum, Whitton Croft Road, was founded on a woman's private collection of antique toys, but is now a museum in its own right, with toys dating back to the 4th century BC.  Image: James Hardisty
Ilkley Toy Museum, Whitton Croft Road, was founded on a woman’s private collection of antique toys, but is now a museum in its own right, with toys dating back to the 4th century BC. Image: James Hardisty

Now the Ilkley Toy Museum, home to a treasure trove of old curios, is set to share lost trinkets and games in new heritage boxes for schools.

Old toys evoke a feeling of childhood reminiscence that never fades, said museum owner Alex Samuel, and with a little imagination they can inspire time travel.

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“Children have always played with toys,” said Ms Samuel, who owns several thousand items dating back to the 4th century BC.

“People love to see them, and say, ‘I had one before.’

“Although dolls and games could have been made from different things over the centuries, they are part of our social history.

“In the national program, we look at toys over time, and many of our collections have a story.

“While it’s not always possible for schools to come to museums anymore, it’s about finding a way to bring the museum to schools.”

Ilkley Toy Museum will now create vintage toy boxes for schools as part of the social history program, with old teddy bears and toy soldiers which can be sent to schools in vintage suitcases to share the story of the how toys have changed over time. Image: James Hardisty

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The Ilkley Toy Museum, opened in 1999, began as a way to showcase Mrs Samuel and her husband’s assortment of old trinkets and dolls.

When Hartleys Auctioneers set up a Museum of Childhood collection, it grew rapidly and has grown ever since.

There are fairground models, dollhouse displays, toy soldiers, spinning tops and rattles, Thunderbirds models and puzzles.

Alex Samuel, curator of the Ilkley Toy Museum next to Boris, A handsome white Steiff bear from Germany circa 1909, with white mohair eyes and black boot buttons. Boris originally belonged to a gentleman called Vladimir who was adopted from Russia and later went to live in America and England. James Hardy

The oldest object is a Corinthian terracotta dancing doll, dating from the early 4th century BC. J.-C., which still wears an ornamental headband, pointed shoes and some painted decorations.

The teddy bears come with a storyboard of their story, some featuring heartbreaking backgrounds.

A Steiff Boris bear, circa 1909, belonged to a Russian circus boy who was adopted at birth because his German soldier father wanted to hide his existence.

Another, called Thomas, was the prized possession of a young boy who tragically drowned while on holiday in Norfolk in the summer of 1948.

Pictured is Alex Samuel, Curator of the Ilkley Toy Museum, placing action-man figures, in a mixed display. Image: James Hardisty

With each object in the collection, Ms Samuel said, it is impossible to forget the children who would have played with them.

One of his most recent acquisitions is a 16th century wooden doll, made around 1560. Measuring eight inches tall, she has a “stern” expression.

“It’s nice to hold,” Ms. Samuel said. “When you hold it in your hands, it’s so fluid – you know it’s been held and played with and well loved over the years.

“Even though we don’t know where it came from, we can imagine who played with it and how it was passed down from generation to generation.

“Children have always had dolls, even though we go back to Roman times, some games are very similar to the games children play today. Just made of wood or clay.

The Ilkley Toy Museum, which has received £12,000 from the Culture Recovery Fund, is to create learning resources to tell the story of toys through time.

Vintage suitcases will be filled with old toys and replicas as loan boxes, creating mini-museums with stuffed animals, board games or puzzles, as well as a new website allowing schools to access information for complete the program.

The museum, closed until May 17, is preparing to reopen with new exhibits.

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