Sudbury Hall NT

Sudbury Hall NT Blog

Collecting, past and present

Last week we, the Collections team, had our Collections Corner event in the Museum, based around the theme of collectors and collecting. This got me thinking about the types of things that children like to collect, both now, and in the past. 

Me and Helen (Collections Assistant) manning Collections Corner


 The stereotypical things to collect are stamps. Children started collecting stamps right from when they were first introduced in Britain in 1840, and by the 1860 stamp collecting had spread across the world, a popular pursuit amongst children and adults alike. Other popular things to collection during the Victorian era included natural items such as birds’ eggs, butterflies, rocks, and seashells, or man-made objects like matchboxes and postcards.





























Many things have been collected over the years, from teddy bears and dolls, through antiques and curios, to popular culture artefacts such as football cards and TV character figurines.            


































Collecting has been such a popular pastime for so long that many types of objects have been produced in a form specific to collector’s, with ‘limited editions’ or ‘collectors’ editions’ of everything from teddy bears to Star Wars figurines. 
















More recently there’s been a trend towards short term crazes amongst children for the latest ‘must have’ toy, rather then long-term collecting of one thing. However, a few toys have broken that trend and children have built of large collections of these toys. Some of the more enduring crazes include Beanie Babies, Pokemon cards, Bratz dolls and Moshi Monsters.




































An interesting aspect of the Collection’s Corner event was the personal reaction that many of our visitors had to objects which they had collected themselves in the past. One object in particular sparked a great deal of interest from our visitors: a banner with a large number of Golly brooches pinned to it. We were regaled with tales of how these brooches were collected by saving up the tokens that came with Robinson’s jam and marmalade. While no longer collecting these brooches today, these visitors still enjoyed the nostalgia inspired by seeing the collection of Golly brooches in our care.




The Photography Collection – Is a picture worth a thousand words?

As we work through the online catalogue, the objects are ordered alphabetically by the original number they were each given.  These past few weeks we have reached records that have a number beginning with a ‘P’ and that means; photographs! As we edit each record, and try to fill in as much information as we can it gets a person thinking; how much can an unidentified photograph tell us? And is a picture indeed worth a thousand words?

Photography as the process we would recognise today, really stems from the 1820’s when images began to be captured and fixed in various ways to make them last. In the 1840’s William Fox Talbot had refined the ‘calotype’ process which fixed an image as a negative.  In fact his 1835 print of the Oriel window at fellow National Trust property Lacock Abbey is the oldest known negative in existence. Photographs during this period were all monochrome, or black and white, and it continued to dominate even once colour film became available, most likely due to its lower cost.

So what about the photographs in the Museum of Childhood’s collection? Much of what we have fits into the ‘portraiture’ category. Where families and individuals were keen to have an image made of themselves taken in a studio setting, Most of them have been part of the collection since before the National Trust took over their care, and very few give any clues as to who their subjects are. Or even explain the composition for the photographs. Why for example was this little boy posing with a violin? Is it even his own, or just a handy photographers prop?

Child holding Violin

Photograph of a child holding a violin














Was it hoped that this little boy was going to show some sporting prowess, could this have been the young Fred Perry!?


Boy with tennis rachet

Boy with tennis rachet











Some photographs give just a glimpse that allows us to understand them a little better and can open up a door to a whole world we didn’t know existed. These perfectly typical images of school children at the turn of the 20th century are revealed, thanks to some very faint writing at the bottom of one, to be of the ‘Railway Servants Orphanage,Derby’


Gym class at the Railway Servants Orphanage

Gym class at the Railway Servants Orphanage









A little further research reveals that the orphanage was founded in 1875 to care for the children of railway men killed on duty. Who could have imagined that such a place existed, or needed to in an era when we think only of railways as the finest form of transport?


Railway Servants Orphanage

Railway Servants Orphanage











Perhaps photographs do offer us a thousand words, but those words are up to us the viewer to interpret. It can be frustrating not to know the names of the people, and what their story was, but that is part of what is also wonderful about working with collections. We can gain just as much enjoyment from guessing at the answers to the questions these pictures raise, as knowing them outright. The photograph is just the title of the story; the rest of it is up to us.



Puzzles galore

Jigsaws, jigsaws, jigsaws…the Museum of Childhood has got over 200 of them in the collection, ranging from simple wooden puzzles for small children to cardboard jigsaws of over 1000 pieces, and dissected map puzzles to 3D wooden ships!


The origins of the jigsaw puzzle dates back to around 1760 when aLondonmapmaker, John Spilsbury, mounted a map of theBritish Empireonto hardwood and cut around the borders of the countries to create a dissected map. This was used as an educational tool to teach children their geography.


The name ‘jigsaw puzzle’ did not come into use until about 1880 when the introduction of a treadle saw, called a ‘jigsaw’, enabled interlocking pieces to be cut from hardwood and plywood.


The modern cardboard jigsaw puzzle became commonplace after the introduction of die-cutting in the early 1900’s, a process by which an intricate pattern of metal strips were pressed down on the cardboard to make the cut. This process allowed puzzles to be more intricate and difficult, thus appealing to adults, as well as children.


Jigsaws have retained their popularity to this day, as a pastime for both adults and children, and as an educational tool.


Hidden Treasures – The Circus Comes to Town

When going through the records of all the objects in the museum one by one, sometimes something catches your eye; piques your interest. Today I was intrigued by a little set of Corgi vehicles. They are an incomplete set, of what we call ‘well played with’ toys. What struck me was firstly the name printed across them; ‘Chipperfields Circus’, and secondly the unusual shape of one of the vehicles. The vehicle (once you know what you are looking for its obvious) turned out to be a ‘Giraffe Transporter’. What we have on the record turns out to be a small selection of the ‘Circus Vehicle’ models made by Corgi in the 1960s. You may well recognise some of them from your own collections.

Chipperfields Circus Giraffe Transporter

Chipperfields Circus Giraffe Transporter

 As we go through the records, we begin by editing basic information, such as the material an object is made of, and the measurements, to help you the viewer ‘see’ the object online in all it’s, accurate, glory. What we are also hoping to do is to catch your attention, and make you want to learn a little bit more about some of the wonderful collections here at the Museumof Childhood, both those on display, and in store. With Corgi models, and indeed Matchbox ones too, some are based on real vehicles, and others are simply made up or concept vehicles. I wanted to just find out, forgive my ignorance, if there really was or is a ‘Chipperfield Circus’. It turns out that they were just about one of the most famous troupes in England!

Chipperfielcs Circus model made by Corgi

Chipperfielcs Circus model made by Corgi


The Circus was a family affair, and was started by James Chipperfield who exhibited some animals at the Thames Frost Fair in 1684. Across 300 years, the circus passed through the Chipperfield family, growing and evolving as it toured throughout Englandin the 19th Century. It’s height came in the early 20th century when after World War II, under the management of brothers Dick and Jimmy Chipperfield it became one of the biggest circus’s in Europe. The name ‘Jimmy Chipperfield’ remained associated with animals into the 1960s as he branched into Safari Parks such as Longleat and Woburn Abbey. The circus slowed and almost ceased to exist, blighted by accusations of animal cruelty and stunted by dwindling audiences.  There came something of a revival n the late 1990s and it is now run by Dick Chipperfield’s descendents into the modern age; with just one major difference; without animals.


Today circuses can be a controversial subject, but whatever your views, good or bad, you can’t help but admire the craftsmanship on these wonderful little models, and it is clear that they were certainly well loved by their original owners.

 Have a look online at our online  collection and see if you can spot anything else that catches your eye, or you remember from your childhood. 



Hanging on a Wire – The Lilliput Marionettes

This week we have been editing records on a rather wonderful collection of puppets, or marionettes. They were all part of the ‘Lilliput Marionette’ Theatre’ that toured around the Midlands schools in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and we think they are too interesting not to share.

The company formed when a group of five non-professional puppeteers set up a touring company at the beginning of World War II.  Bernard Lewis (later the director of the company) met Edward Hellawell (the maker of the puppets) in Wormwood Scrubs when they were serving time as conscientious objectors. It is understood, from cast recollections, that other like minded pacifists joined the group and they began touring. The company toured much of the Midlands, mainly appearing in schools, from their base in Wolverhampton, and a review from the ‘Hampshire Chronicle’  and ‘Isle of Wight Press’ suggests they also had successes further afield.

Some of the plays they performed included ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Faust’. The puppets themselves range from this rather adorable rabbit from Hansel and Gretal;

Rabbit from Hansel and Gretel

Rabbit from Hansel and Gretel

To the slightly scarier looking characters from Faust such as Mephistopholes; 

Marrionette from Faust

Marrionette from Faust



Do you remember the ‘Lilliput Marionette Theatre Company’ coming to your school ? There is still so much we don’t know about these amazing puppets and we would love to know more. Have a look at the collection and see if you can help us out, or simply have a browse. Just click on the link, and search for ‘Lilliput Marionette’ in our collection.



Sindy’s 50th Anniversary

Did you know that 2013 is Sindy’s 50th Anniversary? To celebrate we, at the Museum of Childhood, have filled a display case in the museum with Sindy related artefacts from our collection.

The Sindy display case


Taking pride of place within the case is Sindy’s townhouse. This large, three-storey house, complete with roof terrace, spiral staircase and lift, is made of cardboard and plastic and was completely dismantled. Without any instructions to follow, it took our Collections Team some time to build!       

All the pieces!






Inserting the spiral staircase


Manoeuvring the house into the case








Admiring our handiwork

The house is complete!












Sindy’s bedroom






The large amount of Sindy furniture in the collection has come in useful when furnishing the house. Check out Sindy’s collection of clothing in her bedroom.









She even has a car.








And a horse!









Many of these artefacts would normally be packed away in storage, so do take the opportunity to come and visit the Museum of Childhood to see this lovely collection, or visit National Trust Collections online at: to browse our collection of Sindy artefacts from the comfort of your home!


Hello Dolly!

This week it’s all about dolls. Here in the Documentation Department we have been editing away at the collection records, and we are in the middle of a large collection of ‘Peggy Nisbet’ dolls. These are all costume dolls, dressed as various historical figures, popular characters and famous people. In the collection here at the National Trust Museum of Childhood we have a wonderful selection of everything from Queen Victoria to Mary Poppins.

Just one of the sets of dolls in the collection is ‘Henry VIII and his Six Wives’. Here is the beautiful Jane Seymour, said to have been Henry’s true love, because he chose to be buried with her when he died.

Those pessamists amongst you might point out that he didn’t have much choice, with two wives still living, two buried unceremoniously with no heads, and one buried abroad!

Another doll that has featured highly in our week is the eponymous Sindy! This weekend sees Sudbury Hall and the Museum of Childhood open up again on Saturday the 16th for the season. We have been helping Sue, one of the Collections Assistants’, put together a Sindy doll’s house ready for one of the displays.  Here are a few pictures of Rose (and Sue) putting the finishing touches onto the roof terrace :

Do you remember wanting one of these as a child, or even better being lucky enough to have owned one?

Is is a space ship, is it a plane …?

… no it’s the Sindy staircase of course!











And as a little nod to it being Valentine’s Day, even the collections online website is feeling all loved up today :




A new start and some fresh faces



Welcome to the Sudbury Hall & National Trust Museum of Childhood blog in its new incarnation. Our names are Rose and Laura and we will be two of the people contributing to this blog about Sudbury, and all who sail in her!

First of all we should probably say what we do. We are both ‘Documentation Assistants’ and are working here for a year in the Museum side of the property. We do pretty much what it says on the tin … we assist in the documentation of the Museum collection. This mainly involves making sure that everything we know about each item in the collection is available on the electronic database ‘CMS’ (Collections Management System), and can also be viewed by the public online on the National Trust Collections website.

We are going to be spending the next 9 months or so checking each record for every item we have, and making sure that what you can see online is accurate and up to date. This should mean a lot of fun discoveries as we get to rummage through, albeit electronically, the whole collection, item by item.

So, we hope you will read our posts and find out more about the collection here at the National Trust Museum of Childhood, and enjoy some of the things we will get to share with you.

Laura and Rose


Rose using two computers

Rose at her computers

Laura using two computers

Laura at her computers


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