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Playful Pasts at the House of Manannan

Posted on 01.02.2018

Who remembers Saturday afternoons spent in Toymaster or Colebourn’s Computers? Take a trip down memory lane at the House of Manannan’s exhibition Playful Pasts: Our journey with Toys, a celebration of toys and play on the Isle of Man.

Image ref: L22854/6. Presentation of popular Scalextric set and cars to prize winners in Toymaster toyshop, Duke’s Road, 1980s. Fred Powell, shop owner is positioned far right.

The exhibition looks at toys and their development over thousands of years. The collection starts from the Neolithic period with a toy axe head, and showcases objects up to the 1990s. A giant scrabble board, puppets from Fraggle Rock, Scalextrix and electro classics such as the Gameboy offer buckets of nostalgia. On display is a Vikings merels board – the oldest board game in the Manx National Heritage collections – which dates from 900AD.

The exhibition includes beautiful art work and toys from wartime, when children played during times of conflict and unrest on the Island.

Image ref:  PG/7826-5. Brigitte Jedermann and her doll. Brigitte was interned at Rushen camp with her family during World War Two.

Image ref: PG/7826-2. Children interned at Rushen Camp played on Chapel Beach in Port St Mary during WW2. Brigitte Jedermann (girl) and David Hess (boy).

A unique photograph album provides a treasured insight into the life of Edwardian child Horace Cleator Cowen. Horace’s father was photographer George Bellett Cowen, owner of the Photographic Studio Ramsey. The album illustrates the life of his son from a two-week old baby into adulthood.

The centrepiece is a Meccano bike on which James May made his epic circuit of the TT course .  To coincide with the 90th anniversary of the Manx Grand Prix in 2013, a challenge was set to produce a bike capable of completing the 37.8 mile TT circuit from the infamous construction toy. Quirky inventor Simeon Oakley used over 600 nuts and bolts in each wheel alone. Over 15,000 pieces of standard Meccano were used in the build overall, taking nine weeks to complete.

On entering the gallery you’ll spot a wooden carousel horse, originally a seat from the Victorian water powered roundabout in Silverdale Glen, near Ballasalla.

Children would sit upon the horse whilst an adult held open the sluice to divert water from the river to turn the roundabout. Silverdale Glen was developed as an attraction in the late 19th century.

Image ref: 2003-0190/1. Painted wooden carousel horse from Silverdale Glen

You’ll also see a selection of treasured toys loaned by the Island’s community. Do you have any favourite toys, or toy memories you’d like to share? Email exhibition curator Anthea Young at [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you.

Playful Pasts: Our journey with Toys is a free exhibition open at the House of Manannan from 2nd December 2017 until 1st April 2018.

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