Join in the Marble Mania in St Neots

A china doll and pram on display at the St Neots Museum in New Street.

A china doll and pram on display at the museum in New Street. - Credit: ST NEOTS MUSEUM

The St Neots Museum will be once again running its popular Marble Mania summer exhibition. If you didn’t catch up with the giant magnetic marble run in 2019, don’t miss out this year!

Making a long marble run along the gallery wall is great fun at any age and many families enjoyed experimenting on the metal gallery walls. The humble marble has been a popular children’s toy for thousands of years, with small round clay balls, which are more than 4,000 years old, found in Egyptian tombs. Greek and Roman children also played with marbles and they remain a popular children’s toy to this day.

While you are visiting the museum you can walk upstairs to see a new display of local children’s toys dating from the early 1900s to the 1950s. The toys on display include a charming dolls pram complete with a china headed doll that belonged to a young girl who grew up in New Street, just a short distance from the museum.

Also on display is a small peg doll, dressed as a bride; she dates from the early 1900s and is actually made from a wooden peg used to hang washing on the line! Another example of an Edwardian home-made toy is a wooden ‘jumping jack’ sailor who moves his arms and legs when you pull his string.

The Jumping Jack toy at the St Neots Museum

The Jumping Jack toy at the St Neots Museum - Credit: ST NEOTS MUSEUM

Other toys on display include a selection of lead soldiers . Toy soldiers, like marbles, also have a very long history dating back to prehistoric times; tin soldiers were first mass produced in the early 1700s as the demand for children’s toys grew.

By the Victorian period toy soldiers were being made of lead as they were easy to produce and there was only a limited understanding that lead was a poisonous substance that could cause serious illness and even death.

Certainly the harm that lead poisoning could do to young children was not fully realised until the 1970s, and the use of lead in petrol has only been banned since 1999.

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A tin doll's tea set is another example of the cheap and cheerful children’s toys produced for a mass market in the early 20th Century and a recent addition to our collection is a 1950s Meccano set given to the museum by a man who grew up in Russell Street.

To limit numbers visiting Marble Mania please book a ticket on our website at:  www.stneotsmuseum.org.uk.

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