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New exhibition celebrates 150 years of play

A toy from Leicester Museum's extensive collection

TOYS, teddies and talking dolls will go on display at Leicester’s Newarke Houses Museum this weekend in a new exhibition celebrating 150 years of children’s play.

From Saturday (25 March), visitors to Play Time will be able to explore the evolution of play, thanks to dozens of items from the museums service’s own collection – most of which are more than 100 years old.

Platoons of lead soldiers, a magnificent Georgian dolls’ house, a 1930s pedal car, and a vintage Meccano set will be amongst the toys on display, together with a 1940s cuddly polar bear, a 1950s Tri-ang tricycle, a Black doll made by Pedigree Toys in the 1960s, and a doll’s pushchair from the 1970s.

A reminder of Leicester’s much-loved toy store will complete the trip down memory lane for many visitors. The iconic ‘Dominoes’ sign, which was a magnet for generations of Leicester children until the store closed in 2013, will be reassembled and displayed as part of the exhibition.

Audience development and engagement manager Mark Simmons said: “This is a unique opportunity to see so many items from our toy collection in one place, and I’m sure visitors of all ages will enjoy seeing how toys evolved from Victorian times to the 1970s.

“Toys may have changed dramatically – but what hasn’t changed is the pleasure they bring to young people’s lives.”

A series of special events will take place at Newarke Houses Museum during the exhibition’s run, starting – on Saturday (25 March) – with a rare chance to see a children’s favourite from yesteryear.

Fleabea and her friends from Professor Diamond’s World-Famous Flea Circus will entertain youngsters with daring acts of bravery in a miniature circus setting.

There will also be story-telling, colouring, and a Teddy Bear Trail to mark the opening day of the Play Time exhibition.

The Play Time Fun Day is free of charge and runs from 11am to 3pm on Saturday (25 March).

Other events to look forward to include Puppet Playtime on Thursday 6 April, when a family-friendly story of a naughty crocodile who steals Mr Punch’s teatime sausages will be performed from a traditional booth. There will also be puppet-making, storytelling and other activities. Places for the Punch & Judy show must be booked online and a £3 charge applies for activities. Puppet Playtime will be repeated on Saturday 27 August.

An illustrated talk by local historian Cynthia Brown on Sunday 21 May will reflect on children’s games and toys over the last century. Marlies, Meccano and Making Our Own Fun starts at 2pm. Tickets are £5 and can be booked online.

Teddies and their owners can bring a picnic and enjoy it in Newarke Houses’ peaceful gardens from 11am to 3pm on Friday 2 June. A £3 charge for teddy-themed craft activities applies.

On Monday 17 July, youngsters can enjoy garden games and toy-related craft activities, while the Mad Hatter will host a tea party on Tuesday 15 August. Bring your own picnic and take part in themed arts and crafts. A £3 charge applies for activities at both events.

The Play Time exhibition opens at Leicester’s Newarke Houses Museum on Saturday 25 March and continues until Sunday 17 September.

For more information, go to