Brighton Toy and Model Museum

Brighton Toy and Model Museum (sometimes referred to as Brighton Toy Museum) is an independent toy museum situated in Brighton, East Sussex (registered charity no. 1001560). Its collection focuses on toys and models produced in the UK and Europe up until the mid-Twentieth Century, and occupies four thousand square feet of floor space within four of the early Victorian arches supporting the forecourt of Brighton railway station. Founded in 1991, the museum holds over ten thousand toys and models, including model train collections, puppets, Corgi, Dinky, Budgie Toys, construction toys and radio-controlled aircraft.[1]

Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Brighton Toy and Model Museum, wheelchair entrance.jpg
Brighton Toy and Model Museum, with Brighton Belle mural
Brighton Toy and Model Museum is located in Brighton
Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Location within Brighton
Location52–55 Trafalgar Street, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 4EB, England
Coordinates50°49′43″N 0°08′27″W / 50.828611°N 0.140833°W / 50.828611; -0.140833Coordinates: 50°49′43″N 0°08′27″W / 50.828611°N 0.140833°W / 50.828611; -0.140833
TypeToy museum, Model museum
AccreditationArts Council England
Collectionspre-1900, 1900–~1960s
Collection size10,000
FounderChristopher Littledale
DirectorChristopher Littledale
Public transit accessBrighton station, beneath the station cab rank. Exit the front of the station (Queens Road), and locate the "tunnel" entrance to Trafalgar Street between the railings outside Marks & Spencers.
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
Moritz Gottschalk dollhouse and dollhouse miniatures, 2016
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

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

Museum lobbyEdit

Entrance to the first arch of the museum, containing the foyer/shop area and the Brighton Visitor Information Point, is free. This area provides free maps and brochures, and has a small "stocking filler" toy shop used by visiting school trips, secondhand books, and a set of "Collector's Market" cabinets containing collectables that are sold on a commission basis.

It also contains the "Glamour of Brighton" exhibition, whose Brighton-related models and displays include the Brighton Pavilion, Magnus Volk's electric and seashore electric railways, the old Brighton locomotive works, and the Brighton Belle Pullman train.

The largest exhibits in the foyer are a quarter-scale coal-fired traction engine, a large motorised Meccano Ferris wheel, and an overhead quarter-scale radio-controlled Spitfire model aircraft.

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

Ticketed main areaEdit

The main area of the museum fills the next three arches and contains a large 1930s 0 gauge model railway layout, 00 gauge model railway town and countryside layouts, and collections of model locomotives, soft toys, puppets and marionettes, construction toys, building construction sets, model ships, radio controlled model aircraft, and farm, circus, zoo and ship toy sets. It also includes displays of diecast models including Matchbox, Dinky Toys, Corgi Toys and Spot-On.

Exhibition displays draw on outside guest collections and on varying selections taken from the Museum's core collection.

Events and temporary exhibitionsEdit

The museum is a venue for the Brighton Science Festival and the Brighton Fringe. Public train running days are typically held twice a year (Spring and Autumn), and the museum's Education section organises school visits with optional puppet shows and talks.

Temporary themed exhibitions usually coincide with an anniversary – 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) the 75th anniversary of the 1937 Coronation Scot streamlined steam bullet-train (November to December).

Non-public areasEdit

Workshop areasEdit

As well as a carpentry workshop that produces the museum's cabinetry and displays, the museum also has a world-class toy repair and restoration workshop, with tinsmithing tools and its own sample library of parts and reference paint finishes.

Reference libraryEdit

The reference library is the centre of most of the historical research that takes place in the museum, and a source of material for the museum's online knowledgebase.


The museum became the first community rail partner to Brighton Station in March 2013.[2]

In 2013, the museum announced a twinning with the Rahmi M. Koç Museum, Istanbul.

Heritage Lottery Funded projectsEdit

"Toys in the Community" oral history project, 2014–16Edit

A 2014 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund supported "Toys in the Community: Valuing memories of dolls, teddy bears and construction toys", a two-year community outreach and oral history project.[3]

Frank Hornby 150th anniversary project, 2012–2013Edit

Poster, Frank Hornby 150th Anniversary celebrations (2013)

A 2012 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund helped the museum to coordinate, publicise and organise celebrations and events during 2013 to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Frank Hornby.[4]

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. [5]

The Brighton Toy and Model IndexEdit

The Brighton Toy and Model Index (ISSN 2399-1798) is an online resource on toys and models made up until around 1960, maintained and updated by the museum. The "Index" runs on the MediaWiki platform, and as of March 2018 has over seven thousand content pages and a similar number of images.[6]


History of the buildingEdit

The arches were built shortly after the 1841 railway station to support the station forecourt, with the space used to store beer barrels for a brewery, with the current museum entrance housing four dray horses and a corn storage silo. The structure is also one of a number of buildings in Brighton that are reputed to be haunted.[7]

The space was acquired and renovated by the trust in 1990.

History of the museumEdit

The museum was founded as a charitable trust in 1990 by Christopher Littledale, the museum's first and current Director, and opened in 1991.[1][8]

In November 1998 the museum was forced to close for three years due to flooding[9] caused by road-resurfacing work on the area in front of the station, which had interfered with a Victorian drainage system.[9]

The museum reopened on 12 October 2001, after Railtrack funded repair works to waterproof the museum, and 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, to purchase computer equipment and create a database of specialist information about toys.

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

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

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

Tony Robinson's visit to the museum on 1 June 2007 achieved extensive BBC News coverage.[10]

The museum also appeared in The Argus[1] on 29 June 2007 and the Brighton and Hove Leader on 5 July 2007, for a fairground exhibit that was displayed between July and October 2007.

The Brighton Belle MuralEdit

The planned return of the Art Deco Brighton Belle all-electric Pullman train was celebrated on 23 September 2010 with a street party and the unveiling of a full-sized mural of a Pullman carriage by the Chairman of the 'Railway Heritage Trust and Museum Patron Sir William McAlpine. Inside the museum, the "Glamour of Brighton" exhibition was opened by the Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Councillor Geoffrey Wells.

The mural depicts the Brighton Belle waiting to leave Brighton Station and extends for the full length of the museum. Laurence Olivier, a regular traveller on the train, is pictured at one of the carriage windows.

25th AnniversaryEdit

The museum celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2016 with a special programme of events and a series of new exhibits, including an improved Meccano display and a new display of Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century dollhouse miniatures.

Opening timesEdit

The museum is usually closed on Mondays for maintenance work and cleaning, and for larger school visits that would be disruptive during normal public days. Its 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

Admission to the shop area and information point is free. Admission to the museum area is ticketed and prices (as of August 2015) 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 advance notice if any member of a party requires wheelchair access. [2]

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:

  • Vic Michel - Chairman
  • Chris Littledale - Director/Founder
  • Neil Bennett - Secretary
  • Hugo Marsh, Milan Simek, Anthony Capo-Bianco, Peter Bryant, Ray Child


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.



  1. ^ a b Brighton Toy and Model Museum Souvenir Guide (2018) ISBN 9780851016276
  2. ^ Catherine Simmons (23 March 2018). "Brighton's first station partnership" (Press release). Sussex Community Rail Partnership. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  3. ^ "A good day for Brighton Toy and Model Museum". News. Heritage Lottery Fund ( 23 June 2014. Archived from the original on 11 July 2014. Retrieved 30 June 2014.
  4. ^ "Hornby 150th anniversary celebrations get under way". BBC News. 23 February 2013.
  5. ^ "Toy story: Heritage project helps mark Frank Hornby's 150th anniversary in 2013". News. Heritage Lottery Fund ( 18 December 2012. Archived from the original on 30 December 2012. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  6. ^ "The Brighton Toy and Model Index". Brighton Toy and Model Museum. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  7. ^ The Argus, Brighton, 5 October 2001
  8. ^ "About Us | Brighton Toy and Model Museum".
  9. ^ a b "Happy ending for toy story (From the Argus)". Archived from the original on 7 July 2012.
  10. ^ BBC TV, 'Actor, author and presenter Tony Robinson has been taken on a trip down memory lane at Brighton's Toy and Model Museum'[permanent dead link]

External linksEdit