Outings: Inside the giant doll's-house

Deborah Jackson and family visit the London Toy and Model Museum

A stone's throw from Kensington Gardens, where James Barrie met the boys who inspired him to write Peter Pan, is the London Toy and Model Museum. It is a surprise to find this grandly-named collection squeezed into the various rooms of two Victorian terraces. But the scale of each small gallery is ideal for children: the effect is like stepping into a giant's doll's house.

The museum was founded in 1982 and completely refurbished in 1995, at a cost of pounds 4m to the Japanese corporation which bought it (the company president is a toy collector, with a toy foundation and a children's library in Japan.) The result is a friendly, well designed museum, which takes the visitor on a tour from a first-century Roman gladiator doll made of clay to the robots of the future.

When you've climbed enough stairs and pressed your nose against the last glass cabinet, take the mock elevator for a rooftop view over Baywest, a miniature city where night-time dramas are enacted every half hour. Or let the children loose in the back garden, for free rides on a steam train and a Twenties hand-turned roundabout. Adults can watch in peace from the Conservatory cafe.

The visitors

Author and journalist Deborah Jackson and her husband Paul, a training consultant, took their children, Frances, nine, Alice, six, and Joseph, two.

Frances: I liked the doll's house. It had a switch so you could turn on all the lights in it. And it had a bath and lots of stairs. There was a hole with a switch by the side of it and you turned it on, and the lights came on and you'd see Father Christmas and his sleigh and all the houses and people looking out of them - red, green and black.

I was interested in the man who collected 300 teddy bears. It makes me want to collect some. They labelled one of the bears as Sweep, but it was Sooty.

I liked the steam train because it actually went, with people on it, and all the steam kept on puffing in our faces. I like the miniature trains all running round the track, and the big, big trains with steam and traffic lights which went red and green and the sounds from real trains, so it sounded like they were real. I also liked the miniature city. It's amazing to see what our world looks like to a giant.

Alice: I liked the steam train, which we rode on, because it went inside and outside; and I liked the little trains we watched, which went quickly round when you put some money in the little money hole.

When we saw the miniature village, I could imagine going up the hill and looking at the view.

I liked the doll's houses with the little dolls in, and the little things which go in it, too. I found a Dream Dance Barbie. I liked the new dolls better than the old ones, because they look clean and shiny. And I liked steering the boat - I don't know if it was real, but I think it was.

Joseph: [watching the miniature railway] I want to see Thomas. Lift me up. Here comes Thomas, Mum. It's going through the tunnel now. It's going round and round.

[looking at the modern toys in the display cabinet] I want Power Ranger, Mum. Get it out, get it out.

Deborah: It was fascinating to compare this well organised collection with a recent visit to the toy museum at Bourton-on-the-Water, where visitors roam among the dusty exhibits. The London museum has rejected the hands- on approach for thoughtful cabinet displays - mostly to suit the height of toddlers.

I was drawn to the Doll Room, the Toy Arcade and the Games Room. I enjoyed the detail of older toys, such as the revolving model of animals entering Noah's Ark. I also loved the Peter Pan cabinet, featuring JM Barrie's writing-case and letters, and stage instructions for making Peter fly. Another treat was the palmist hand-reading in the Penny Arcade.

We followed the arrows from room to room, although there is no special order to the galleries. This is deliberate, to reflect the eccentricity of the original museum.

However, a little forethought would have provided an upstairs bathroom for visitors - I had to make a separate trek to the basement with each child.

Paul: It's a really good exhibition. The museum provided lots of nostalgia, reminding me of favourite toys I had played with in the past: the Chad Valley slide projector, for instance; James Bond's Aston Martin model with ejector seat; and the Batmobile with triple-rocket launcher. There were Man from UNCLE toys, just like I had when I was a boy. I could not find a Subbuteo set, though. And I would have liked to have seen some computer games in the Whatever Next gallery. But I was impressed by the working models, especially the mining village and the railway set.

The deal

The London Toy and Model Museum (0171-706 8000) is at 21/23 Craven Hill, London W2 3EN, near Paddington, Bayswater, Lancaster Gate and Queensway Tube stations.

Entrance: adults pounds 4.95, children four-to-16, pounds 2.95, concessions, pounds 3.95, family ticket, pounds 13.50. Excellent ring binder museum programme, pounds 2.50.

Opening times: Every day, 9am-5.30pm, last admissions 4.30pm. Allow two to three hours for a thorough visit.

Access: Tricky. Originally, the museum was on two lower floors and its founders lived over the "shop". When it was converted, the sitting tenants refused to move - their kitchen is where the lift shaft should be. For now, wheelchair access is restricted to the basement and ground floors. "We don't make a charge," said an apologetic receptionist. With small families, it is wise to make your loo stops before embarking on the four steep flights of stairs.

Toilets: Clean and well kept. Baby changing and disabled facilities.

Shop: End of the Pier souvenirs, beautifully presented and cleverly arranged to satisfy the appetites of children who have been salivating at toys through glass for two hours. This is the place to start that teddy bear collection.

Refreshments: Adequate snacks and lunches in the Conservatory cafe.

Attractions: Monthly prize draw to win the Hamleys Toy of the Month. Rooms to hire for children's parties.

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Arts and Entertainment


These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth