"The fascinating story of Coventry's magical toy museum"

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"The fascinating story of Coventry's magical toy museum"

Postby dutchman » Sun Jan 17, 2021 1:09 pm

Thousands of children in Coventry enjoyed a visit - and the building even featured in Charles Dickens' books

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Coventry's old toy museum is a fascinating part of the city's history, and the stuff of legend.

Based in Whitefriars' Gatehouse, Much Park Street, the building survived an arson attack and even featured in master storyteller Charles Dickens' book, 'The Old Curiosity Shop.'

Most people in Coventry will remember the toy museum as a treasure trove of children's toys that they visited on a school trip.

But perhaps the most famous part of the museum was the keeper of its collection, Ron Morgan.

A well known city activist who once dropped his own kerbs, the former Binley and Willenhall councillor passionately preserved thousands of children's toys in his city centre museum.

He set up his impressive collection in the 1970s, and with his wife and children, grew an incredible archive of children's toys over a period of 45 years.

Now, as plans have been submitted to turn the old toy museum into luxury holiday accommodation, we asked local history group, the Coventry Society, to help us look back on the fascinating origins of this medieval building.

Speaking about this important part of city history, Paul Maddocks, vice chair of the Coventry Society said: "Ron collected everything, he originally had a studio to exhibit his pottery and other artists' work, but at the same time he was a big kid and used to buy lots of old toys and got such a big collection he thought he would build a toy museum."

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Museum owner Ron Morgan

Disabled campaigner Ron Morgan, a Liverpudlian who lost both legs as a result of blood clots caused by smoking, was passionate about his adopted city and fought to preserve its heritage.

Such was his dedication to the museum, Mr Morgan lived on top of the gatehouse with his family so he could welcome visitors and keep an eye on everything.

Mr Maddocks said: "Ron's lifelong love of children's toys led to him opening the property as a Toy Museum and over the years he proudly showed off his collection to thousands of schoolchildren. He began his collection after realising how many handcrafted castles and dolls' prams were being lost in an emerging world of plastic."

He went on: "He had a camper van and would take his children and his wife to the seaside when it was raining. One day they found an old toy shop off the beaten track and Ron noticed they were selling some old toys.

"He was invited in by the owner and the owner showed him all the toys. Ron spent all his holiday money filled up the camper van and took them back to the museum, that's how he would get his stock."

From floor to ceiling, the museum was filled with trinkets and artefacts of childhood. From rocking horses to teddy bears, war-time dolls to model cars, if there was a toy made in the past century, it was likely that Ron had it.

Ron passed away in 2007 aged 82, and for 45 years, thousands of school children in Coventry got to experience the magic of the old toy museum.

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Re: The fascinating story of Coventry's magical toy museum

Postby dutchman » Sun Jan 17, 2021 1:33 pm

The building to the left was a chip shop at the time the picture was taken, hence the sauce bottles in the window. It was popular with nurses from nearby Gulson Road Hospital as Whitefriars Lane backed onto the hospital rear entrance in the far distance. I was blissfully unaware of the chip shop's existence myself despite living not far away and often made an unnecessary trip up Far Gosford Street instead! :clown:
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Re: "The fascinating story of Coventry's magical toy museum"

Postby rebbonk » Sun Jan 17, 2021 2:33 pm

Sadly, despite meaning to on several occasions, I never got round to visiting.
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Re: "The fascinating story of Coventry's magical toy museum"

Postby dutchman » Mon Jan 18, 2021 7:02 am

To be honest I don't think you've missed much?

To me it was always just a shortcut between Whitefriars Street and Much Park Street back before they totally destroyed Much Park Street and left the gatehouse as a dilapadated, isolated stone ruin like so many others dotted around Coventry.

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By the way that's not me peeking in the window of REP at the surplus electronic goodies even though it was the kind of thing I did back then.
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