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Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood

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As a child I spent a great deal of time in museums and libraries. This was the start of my love of life long learning.

A great day out

The Children's Museum contains the largest collection of early Victorian childhood memorabilia, artifacts and some of the earliest toys in the world but more than that.

It is a place of magic and wonder to the eyes of a child. Looking at the intricate Chinese and Japanese dioramas kept me spellbound for endless hours. Remember when you were a kid and how everything was magical.

The Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood to give it, it's full title, is a treasure trove of early children's toys. The museum has strong historical links with the British Royal family via Prince Albert. (August 26,1819 - December 14,1861)

It contains ancient dolls, early Victorian puppets and modern day dolls, children's pedal cars and many mechanical toys including working Zoetropes, and other early moving image devices.

It contains children's toys from many far flung places around the world. The photos displayed here, represent just a fraction of what there is to see.

The building itself is impressive

The roof was donated from a building used by Prince Albert in another exhibition in Kensington, London. See photo below.

The roof was donated from a building used by Prince Albert in another exhibition in Kensington, London. See photo below.

As you approach the museum building, you may be interested to know; that it too has a unique architectural history.

This impressive Grade II listed building, was built in 1872, and used a donated prefabricated roof, from an earlier exhibition in South Kensington West London.

NB: Grade II listing, means that the building must be maintained and preserved for the nation.

Prefabrication on this scale was a relatively new idea at the time, and the roof is still in good condition today.

Victorian dances were quite risque!

Visiting the Museum

Built during the reign of Queen Victoria & Albert in one of the poorest parts of London's East End. It is just 50 yards from Bethnal Green Underground Station and well served by surface transport. It is very easy to find and loved by East Enders,

This was part of an overall plan to improve the area, in order to stop the mass exodus of the urban middle classes, for the leafy suburbs on the new fangled London Underground Railway

Along with laying out of the glorious Victoria Park, just a few hundred yards away.

It inspired many to stay in this part of London and gentrify the area. It still has that gentrified feel about it today.

Zoetrope Early Moving Image Device

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Cultural Boost

The museum gave the area a much needed financial and cultural boost. Prince Albert was keen on improving public education, and making London a more habitable place to live.

The idea for green spaces (green lungs) in cities, can be traced back to these early pioneers.

This was the actions of a caring man. It was also the realization of a astute leader.

To keep the finances coming in and the city ticking over and growing. Prince Albert needed to keep the middle class happy, and living in London's Bethnal Green.

What's the best selling toy of all time? LEGO™

Prince Albert had been instrumental in getting a massive development underway in South Kensington and the roof of the museum came from one of these buildings.

The museum in the early days displayed a wide variety of exhibits. In the 1920's it began to focus more on childhood and children's toys. Including toys that were made by children. So it is not surprising to find simple spinning tops and jump ropes in the collection.

As you will see in the photographs, some of the toys are very primitive and crude in construction. As you would expect from children using their imagination and whatever they had to hand.

Today's most popular toy is a simple concept of connecting bricks into whatever toy the child can imagine and allows endless hours of creativity.

The permutations give the child the potential to make just about anything. Many children still play with these simple building blocks into adulthood and in some cases it determines their careers.

Many Architects and Engineers will tell you that they got interested in building things from they childhood days playing with LEGO™

A Great Day Out

Admission was free. It's a wonderful experience to wander around all these ancient toys and wonder about the lives of the children that played with them.

Today the museum has the largest collection of toys and childhood artifacts in Britain. It is a centre for research and a great day out. Hope you get the chance to visit it someday.

Praxinoscope stop motion animation.

Wheelchair access and address

The museum has wheelchair access. It also has a good cafeteria and function rooms.

It is a less than one minute walk from Bethnal Green Tube Station and is served well by several bus routes from all sides of London.

It is situated in a very famous part of London and there are many other historic buildings in the area. For example.

Right next door to the museum is York Hall. This world famous boxing venue was also built in the Victorian era and across the street is Paradise Road from the song of the same name.

The Children's Museum is a great day out. I suggest you give it a visit and have a truly wonderful day.

Free Admission (donations welcome)

The V&A Museum of Childhood
Cambridge Heath Road
London E2 9PA
United Kingdom

International Dialing Codes Included

Tel: +44 (0)20 8983 5200
Fax: +44 (0)20 8983 5225 Free Admission

Opening And Closing Times 10.00-17.45 Monday-Sunday (last admission 17.30)
Closed Over Christmas 24, 25 and 26 December and 1 January every year

Bethnal Green

Front Entrance

Museum front entrance.

Museum front entrance.

Your Museum Question

© 2012 Micheal


Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on April 30, 2012:

Hi ytsenoh,

It really is a fabulous museum. I have been to the seaworld in florida. That was a great day out too.

Cathy from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri on April 28, 2012:

Very fun. I love the puppets and the zeotrope. Museums are such wonderful ideas to preserve history. Thanks for taking us to one in the UK. I have never heard of a museum of childhood in the states, so it's an interesting subject. We do have Sealife and LegoLand for children.

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on April 11, 2012:

Hi Alastar,

It really is an amazing place. I love looking at the old mechanical toys and automatons.

I used to spend a lot of time there, when I was kid.

It still holds the magic for me.

'Sold to the American, one ticket' lol.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on April 10, 2012:

Man would I like see all the toys in person. Sold to the American--a ticket for a very long visit! Pleased to share one of Britain's treasures with the followers.

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on March 09, 2012:

Hello Theresa,

I spent many a rainy day in the many great museums of London. I basically educated myself from the age of 12.

The childhood museum was near to my secondary school, so really school was a poor substitute and had little chance.

It is a small world really.

RAF Mildenhall and Lakenheath are not far from where we are.

I am pretty sure your Father would not have heard of this museum.

The childhood museum is not well known, even by Londoners.

Many people spend their time looking at the pavement back and forth from work and miss the beauty all around them? Shame.

Thanks for commenting Theresa nice to hear from you as always.

Theresa Ast from Atlanta, Georgia on March 08, 2012:

Michael -

Great Hub and what a wonderful museum. I had never heard of it. How wonderful to be able to spend much of your childhood visiting that museum. What a blessing.

My brothers spent some time in England in the 1970"s. My father was Air Force stationed at Lakenheath or Mildenhall, I forget which. I know they made trips into London; I will have to ask them if they ever visited the Museum of Childhood.


Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on March 07, 2012:

Hi Justin,

It really is worth a visit.

To see the toys that kids had years ago is pretty interesting.

Hope you get the opportunity to visit sometime.

Thanks for sharing.

Justin W Price from Juneau, Alaska on March 06, 2012:

up and shared, Michael. This looks like a must see in London... if i ever manage to cross the pond

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on February 23, 2012:

Hi Martie,

Glad you enjoyed this hub and that it brought back some fond memories for you.

Prince Albert really was quite a revolutionary in terms of urban planning.

He dragged the Royal family into the 20th century and spent a lot of his energy on urban development projects.

Virtually the whole of Knightbridge and Kensington is a result of his efforts. Still visible today in the form of the Science Museum.

The whole area around it was known as albertsville.

Martie Coetser from South Africa on February 23, 2012:

I love museums! Can spend hours in it. Thanks to my father who was also a lover of history and all evidence of previous life. Awesome pictures you have in here. I am in awe of Prince Albert. What I've read about him has given me the impression that he had made a radical change in Britain's development. But maybe I am wrong.... it was only an impression.

Thanks for sharing, molometer.

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on February 22, 2012:

Hi alocsin,

It's less than 3 or 4 miles as the crow flies. On the underground it would take around 30 minutes from the V&A that you visited.

It is really worth a visit if you get another chance to come to London. There is so much to see.

I could make 5 more hubs with the pictures alone.

An amazing museum.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on February 22, 2012:

I'm sorry we missed this on our recent trip to London. That Doctor Who exhibit and the praxinoscope would've been fun to see. How far is this from the regular V&A, which we did see? Voting this Up and Useful. Thanks for SHARING.

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on February 21, 2012:

Hello thumbi7,

Then it was my pleasure, to show you these wonderful places. I am happy that you enjoyed reading and viewing the pictures.

Thank you.

JR Krishna from India on February 21, 2012:

I dont' know whether I will ever be able to visit these palces.

I thouroughly enjoyed your hub and the pictures

Voted up and shared.

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on February 21, 2012:

Hi Dexter,

Glad you liked it. It has a truly amazing collection. I love museums too.

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on February 21, 2012:

Thanks Vellur,

It is a great place for a day out. If you ever get the chance go visit.

Dexter Yarbrough from United States on February 21, 2012:

Hi Molometer! I love museums. Thanks for sharing this historical museum!

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on February 21, 2012:

Great museum and an excellent hub. Very interesting and full of information. Voted up.

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on February 21, 2012:

Hi formosangirl,

You will have a great time visiting Bethnal Green where the museum of childhood is. It is a very historic part of London and there is much to see.

Thank you for dropping in.

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on February 21, 2012:

Hello ishwaryaa22,

The interesting thing is that the roof of the museum came from exactly where you speak off.

Back in the 19th century there was an exhibition in kensington (Albertsville to be precise) and when it finished they built the V&A in Kensington the science museum and a few others. The roof came from one of the exhibition buildings that was dismantled.

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on February 21, 2012:

Hi prasetio30,

I know you would love this museum, it has many very intricate toys and devices to examine. The Chinese gardens are spectacular.

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on February 21, 2012:

Hello Marcy Goodfleisch,

I really is an amazing place and well worth a visit whe you get the chance.

@Sunshine625. I hope you get the chance to see it too.

formosangirl from Los Angeles on February 20, 2012:

I love London. The next time I am there I am going to check out this museum. Thanks for sharing.Voted up and interesting.

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani from Chennai, India on February 20, 2012:

I visited Victoria & Albert Museum only in Cromwell Gardens, London last year. I have not heard of another museum under the same name till now thanks to you. The pictures of toys are attractive, especially railway buildings and Lego top selling toys brought back my childhood memories of creating buildings out of toy-blocks under the different brand-name in my country. Look like you had a whale of a time in your childhood, exploring many museums and art gallerys-your childhood passion.I would like to visit this museum in the future.

Thank you for sharing. Interesting. Vote up and socially shared.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on February 20, 2012: I love this museum and toys as well. We can't deny that most of people has childish side. From the picture I can see that this museum has tons of toys and everything to remind our childhood memories. Brother, your descriptions are intriguing and the photos and videos are perfect. I give my thumbs up and all votes belongs to you. Thank you very much. Take care!

Blessing, Prasetio

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on February 20, 2012:

If I'm ever in the UK I'll be sure and visit this museum. It looks very interesting and entertaining!

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on February 20, 2012:

Oh, this is just too cool! What a great idea for a museum! That does it, I have to go there. Maybe next year . . .

Voted up and awesome!

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