Toy collector realising dream of opening museum - in Sidmouth church
PUBLISHED: 11:00 17 November 2017
A toy collector is realising his lifelong dream of opening a museum after a dwindling congregation brought about the closure of a Sidmouth church.
Ian Gregory’s house is currently full of Star Wars memorabilia, Corgi Dinky Cars and model trains and aircraft, but he thinks they could bring people a lot of joy if they are displayed.
As a Christian, he wanted to keep the United Reformed Church in Chapel Street in public use, and he will retain many original features.
“I have a large collection of toys, models and memorabilia,” said Ian, the managing director of a foreign bank in London. “I’ve been looking for a place to display them – it’s always been my dream to have a museum.
“I started collecting well over 30 years ago. Some of the items are from my childhood. My collection has grown quite a lot in the last few years – we’re running out of space at home.”
Ian’s most treasured piece is a Triang pedal car – because he believes it is the same one his father bought him when he was two years old that he painted it a distinctive blue. Some 40 years later, he spotted a Triang pedal car at an exhibition and became convinced it was the same one.
“It was unbelievable, it was just sat there in this display cabinet,” he said. “It was in a real mess. I bought it for £25, then spent £500 restoring it.”
Ian, 60, lives in Hertfordshire with wife Rebecca but they have a holiday home in the town. The museum will be a retirement project. They have two grown children, James and Annabel, who plans to display her array of Sylvanian Family toys.
Elder Tony Burrow told the Herald last year that the church was put up for sale because the congregation had dwindled.
Sidmouth Town Band had looked at buying the premises but it proved too costly.
Ian hopes the toy museum will open in the summer of 2019 or early in 2020. He will be putting in planning permission to turn the school rooms into two cottages.