Monday, 4 December 2006


.......isn't what it used to be!
So in pursuit of perfection I've been trawling the internet for months, looking for images of old fashioned toy shops. Oh the hours I've spent.
For instance, trying to find information on the once famous Lowther Arcade, which was situated in the Strand in London and housed a whole street of high quality toy and curiosity shops.
'Nearly opposite the railway station, and running diagonally towards Adelaide Street, is the Lowther Arcade. It is nearly 250 feet in length, and has shops on either side for the sale of fancy goods. As the admission is free, and the place is considered one of the "sights" of London, it is continually thronged with children and their attendants, buying toys at the French, German, and Swiss shops. The Lowther Bazaar, which flourished for a time at the period of the great Exhibition in 1851, was on the other side of the Strand. Besides stalls for the sale of fancy articles, it had many other objects of interest for the amusement of visitors.
From: 'Charing Cross, the railway stations, and Old Hungerford Market', Old and New London: Volume 3 (1878)'
Such trawling, however, also occasionally dredges up a little gem, such as this quote from J M Barrie in "Little White Bird".
"We went to the Lowther Arcade for the rocking-horse. Dear Lowther Arcade! Ofttimes have we wandered agape among thy enchanted palaces, Porthos and I, David and I, David and Porthos and I. I have heard that thou art vulgar, but I cannot see how, unless it be that tattered children haunt thy portals, those awful yet smiling entrances to so much joy. To the Arcade there are two entrances, and with much to be sung in laudation of that which opens from the Strand I yet on the whole prefer the other as the more truly romantic, because it is there the tattered ones congregate, waiting to see the Davids emerge with the magic lamp. We have always a penny for them, and I have known them, before entering the Arcade with it, retire (but whither?) to wash; surely the prettiest of all the compliments that are paid to the home of toys.
And now, O Arcade, so much fairer than thy West End brother, we are told that thou art doomed, anon to be turned into an eatinghouse or a hive for usurers, something rankly useful. All thy delights are under notice to quit. The Noah's arks are packed one within another, with clockwork horses harnessed to them; the soldiers, knapsack on back, are kissing their hands to the dear foolish girls, who, however, will not be left behind them; all the four-footed things gather around the elephant, who is overful of drawing-room furniture; the birds flutter their wings; the man with the scythe mows his way through the crowd; the balloons tug at their strings; the ships rock under a swell of sail, everything is getting ready for the mighty exodus into the Strand. Tears will be shed. "
I have only found one photograph of the Lowther Arcade, which unfortunately does not shine much light on the interiors of the shops.
Similarly, I have worn 'Google' to the bone, looking for images of Victorian/Edwardian toy shops, again with mixed success. However, Amazon regularly came up trumps with lovely, old, out of print books, some fiction, some fact, on old toy shops and the toys which filled them.
The planning stages are very exciting, and many pages of notebooks are scribbled with ideas, website addresses, book references, downloaded photos etc. Too many ideas for just one shop but such fun.

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