Brighton Toy and Model Museum

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Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Entrance to Brighton Toy and Model Museum.jpg
Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Established 1991
Location 52-55 Trafalgar Street, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 4EB, England
Coordinates 50°49′43″N 0°08′27″W / 50.828611°N 0.140833°W / 50.828611; -0.140833
Type Toy museum, Model museum
Director Christopher Littledale
Public transit access Brighton station
Brighton Toy and Model Museum's layout, its main display areas and their ID numbers
The museum and its internal layout, with around seventy display areas rendered in Lego
Museum entrance space, collector's market, shop and second-hand bookshop, and entrance to the ticketed area (left)
Inside the museum's ticketed area
A composite multi-focus image of the museum's period 0-gauge layout
Another area of the 0-gauge layout

Brighton Toy and Model Museum (sometimes referred to as Brighton Toy Museum) is a toy museum situated in Brighton, East Sussex. Its collection of toys and models extends across four thousand square feet of floor space, through four of the early Victorian arches beneath the forecourt of Brighton railway station. Founded in 1991, it has over ten thousand toys and models, including priceless model train collections, radio-controlled aircraft, and many antique toys.

Its display area includes two large operational model railway layouts (in 0- and 00-gauge), and displays of period pieces from a range of manufacturers including Bing, Bassett-Lowke, Georges Carette, Dinky, Hornby Trains, Märklin, Meccano, Pelham Puppets and Steiff. It also includes individually engineered pieces such as the working quarter-scale traction engine and the Spitfire fighter planes in the lobby, and a range of other working models throughout the museum.

Entrance to the first arch of the museum, containing the foyer/shop area and the Brighton visitor information point, is free. The museum is a registered charity (no. 1001560). In 2013, the museum announced that it was now twinned with the Rahmi M. Koç Museum, Istambul.

Contents and exhibits[edit]

Foyer, shop and Brighton Visitor Information Point[edit]

The museum's first arch contains a Brighton Visitor Information Point with free maps and brochures, a "stocking filler" toy shop mainly used by visiting school trips, and a set of cabinets of collectable toys and models that are sold on commission for museum customers.

It also contains the "Glamour of Brighton" exhibition, which includes Brighton Belle models and collectables and a set of other Brighton-related models and displays, including a model of the Brighton Pavilion and models of cars from Magnus Volk's electric and seashore electric railways.

Other items in the foyer include a quarter-scale coal-fired traction engine, a large motorised Meccano Ferris wheel, and an overhead quarter-scale Spitfire radio-controlled model aeroplane.

The first arch also contains offices and maintenance and restoration workshops that are not open to the public.

Ticketed area[edit]

The main area of the museum fills the next three arches and contains a large central 1930s 0 gauge model railway layout with contemporary trackside accessories, a 00 gauge model railway layout, representing the Sussex countryside, that extends through two arch sections, and various collections of model locomotives, Steiff soft toys, a Punch and Judy theatre, puppets, Meccano and other construction toys, building construction sets, model ships, radio controlled model aircraft (including a large helicopter), and farm, circus and ship toy sets. It also includes display collections of model cars including Dinky Toys and Corgi Toys, and marionettes.

Exhibition displays draw on outside guest collections and on varying selections taken from the Museum's core collection of over ten thousand items.

Events and temporary exhibitions[edit]

The museum has an Education Officer who can organise puppet shows and talks for visiting school groups. It also holds "train running" events where some of the rarer model trains are run, and takes part in national initiatives such as "Museums at Night". The main museum space can also be booked as a venue for suitable events.

The museum also puts on temporary themed exhibitions, which usually coincide with an anniversary. The Museum's 2012 exhibitions addressed the centenary of the launch and sinking of RMS Titanic (April to August), the centenary of the Leeds Model Company (September to October) and the 75th anniversary of the 1937 Coronation Scot streamlined steam bullet-train (November to December).

Heritage Lottery Funded projects[edit]

"Toys in the Community" oral history project, 2014-16[edit]

A 2014 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund is currently supporting "Toys in the Community: Valuing memories of dolls, teddy bears and construction toys", a two-year community outreach and oral history project. [1]

Frank Hornby 150th anniversary project, 2012-2013[edit]

Poster, Frank Hornby 150th Anniversary celebrations (2013)
Frank Hornby 150th Anniversary logo

A 2012 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund helped the museum to coordinate and publicise celebrations and events during 2013 to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Frank Hornby.

The grant funded an expansion of the Museum's online coverage of Meccano, Hornby trains and Dinky Toys, a public wifi access point, and the installation and ongoing development of a touchscreen information system to allow members of the public to retrieve information on exhibits from around the museum. [2]

The museum also marked the 150th anniversary of Hornby's birth with "Frank Hornby Week" (11–19 May 2013), a week of events themed around the life and works of the inventor/toymaker.

History of the museum[edit]

The museum was founded as a charitable trust, the Sussex Toy And Model Museum in 1990 by Christopher Littledale, the museum's first and current Director. The museum's website states that: "One of the principal objectives of the charitable trust is to ensure that the collections remain together and live on in perpetuity for the benefit of future generations."[1] The museum began to experience leaks in May 1998 and by November of the same year it was forced to close due to flooding. [2] The flooding was caused by Railtrack contractors who interfered with a Victorian drainage system in the process of re-surfacing the railway station forecourt and taxi area.[3] At the time of its closure the museum was the only toy museum in England.

The museum was closed for three years while negotiations with Railtrack and Railtrack's property management division, Espacia, took place. Railtrack ultimately agreed to spend £130,000 on repair works to waterproof the museum and a further undisclosed sum as compensation to the museum's trustees, and the museum reopened on 12 October 2001.

In November 2004 HRH Duke of Gloucester visited the museum and unveiled a commemorative plaque.

In November 2005 the museum was awarded £1,594.70 of grant money from the Surrey, East Sussex and West Sussex Museum Development Service's SEWS Museum Development Fund. The money was used to purchase computer equipment and create a database of specialist information about toys.

Claire Eden was curator of the museum between September 2005 and December 2006, replacing Andrew Woodfield.

The museum launched a "Make History Fun" campaign in October 2005. Comedian and archaeologist Tony Robinson was the campaign's patron.

Local band Peggy Sue and the Pirates staged a short performance at the museum as part of the T Mobile phone network's The Great Escape Festival.

Part of the display space in the museum's fourth arch

Comedian and archaeologist Tony Robinson's visit to the museum on 1 June 2007 achieved extensive BBC News coverage.[3]

The museum also appeared in The Argus[4] on 29 June 2007 and the Brighton and Hove Leader on 5 July 2007, concerning a fairground exhibit that was displayed between July and October 2007.

History of the building[edit]

"The Arches" were built in 1845 to support the station forecourt, with the space initially used to store beer barrels for a brewery. The lower archway, where the museum entrance is situated, once housed four dray horses and a corn storage silo. During World War II, the arches provided an area headquarters for the British Army. The structure is also one of a number of buildings in Brighton that are reputed to be haunted.[4]

It was acquired by the trust in 1990 and after a year of refurbishments, the museum opened in 1991.

Since then the museum and its buildings have been renovated and maintained, the exhibitions have been preserved and do still change from time to time, introducing new things to look at or renovating the displays such as the 00 gauge railway which now has a local theme including the Long Man of Wilmington and Hastings Funicular Railway.

The Brighton Belle Mural[edit]

Terry Smith, artist of the Brighton Belle Mural, putting the finishing touches to one of the four arch panels

On 23 September 2010, the Brighton Toy and Model Museum hosted a street party to celebrate a new milestone in its renaissance programme. The planned return of the iconic Art Deco Brighton Belle all-electric Pullman train was celebrated in style with the unveiling of a spectacular mural depicting a full-sized Pullman Car by the Chairman of the 'Railway Heritage Trust and Museum Patron Sir William McAlpine. Inside the Museum, the new "Glamour of Brighton" exhibition was opened by the Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Councillor Geoffrey Wells.

The mural - now a Brighton feature - depicts the Brighton Belle waiting to leave Brighton Station and is painted within the inset arches leading to the museum entrance, extending for the full length of the museum. Laurence Olivier, the leading actor of his day and a regular traveller on the train, is pictured at one of the carriage windows.

Online activity[edit]

As well as using Flickr, Twitter and Facebook, the Museum keeps a blog for updated information on new and forthcoming exhibitions and acquisitions,[5] and hosts a Wiki for holding additional background information on displays and some individual exhibits.


The museum was featured in episode 2 of the Sky Atlantic series "Urban Secrets" (2012), in which Alan Cumming presented an unconventional view of Brighton.

Opening hours[edit]

The period admission board, showing prices before November 2012

The museum's standard opening times are:

Tuesday to Friday: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Saturday: 11:00am – 5:00pm

(last admission at 4:00pm)

Sunday and Monday Closed

The museum is also usually open on Bank Holiday Mondays, and on Mondays during school holidays.

Admission to the shop area and information point is free. Admission to the museum area is ticketed and prices (from November 2012) are:

Adult £6.50
Senior (60+) £5.50
Disabled + one carer (free) £5.50
Student (under 20) £4.00
Child (ages 4 to 15) £4.00
Family (two adults + three children) £14.00
Schools and Groups (10+) P.O.A.

The building has been adapted for wheelchair users but the museum requests advanced notice if any member of a party requires wheelchair access. [5]

School visits can be organised through the Education Officer. Advance notice is also requested for other group visits to avoid scheduling conflicts.


Brighton Toy And Model Museum is an independent, non-profit organisation and a registered charity. The museum's Trustees are:

  • Alan Pett - Chairman
  • Chris Littledale - Director/Founder
  • Kenneth Mathews - Secretary
  • Hugo Marsh, Milan Simek, Anthony Capo-Bianco



External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°49′43″N 0°08′27″W / 50.82861°N 0.14083°W / 50.82861; -0.14083