Toy museum celebrates first year in town

Grey church building on a sunny day with a red banner and bunting around the entrance

Sidmouth Toy Museum in Old Chapel Street - Credit: Sidmouth Toy Museum

The Sidmouth Toy & Model Museum, located in The Old Chapel on Chapel Street, celebrated its first anniversary on, August 14, 2021.

The museum initially opened for a two-week period in August 2020. It was not the most auspicious of opening times for a new venture, but the trustees, Ian and Rebecca Gregory, decided to have a “soft” opening despite the ongoing pandemic.

Visitor numbers were encouraging for a new tourist attraction, despite limited advertising. The museum opened its doors again in October and December, but visitor numbers were understandably low given the rise in case numbers of Covid leading to another lockdown in January. The museum was unable to open again until May 2021 when it opened for two weeks at the end of the month. The museum opened once more in July and has now been open for 10 consecutive weeks. Visitor numbers have steadily increased during the summer with highs of over 110 visitors achieved on some days. Although operating as a charity, the museum does charge a small entrance fee to cover the running costs.

Ian said: "The museum particularly appeals to older visitors who find it to be a trip down memory lane, often bringing back fond and happy memories of childhood. Grandparents also enjoy showing their grandchildren the toys they played with, and all ages enjoy the model railway layout in the centre of the museum. The Stars Wars and Harry Potter exhibits appeal to the younger generation.

"The trustees are always looking to expand the collection of vintage toys and models on display and are very happy to receive donations. Many visitors go home to check their attics and return with forgotten toys from their childhood.

"The trustees are optimistic about the future, believing that as the museum becomes more widely known visitor numbers will further increase. The museum also enhances the visitor offering of the town; indeed, visitors have come from some distance to the museum thus bringing added footfall to the town.

"The museum is now looking for local volunteers. If you are over 18 and have a spare morning or afternoon and have an interest in social history, vintage toys and games, model railways or just meeting people, the trustees would be very interested to hear from you. Please contact them using the museum website"

The museum is now closed but will reopen on October 18 for two weeks and again from December 3 for two weeks. Christmas at the museum is particularly magical with Christmas lights and music and plans are being considered to open the museum during the evening when the lights can be enjoyed at their best. As more volunteers are recruited it is hoped that the number of days the museum can open in 2022 will increase.

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