Toy Theatre

Toy Theatres

A magical room on the top floor of Pickford’s House is home to a selection of toy and model theatres from The Frank Bradley Collection. 
About the collection

The toy theatre originates from around 1800, when print sellers marketed prints of famous actors and actresses of the day. Their trade soon expanded to allow theatre enthusiasts and children to build miniatures model theatres and stage plays in their own homes.

The Frank Bradley Collection is one of the largest toy theatre collections in the country. We are currently working on plans for more of it to be on display.

What can I see?

Enchanting scenes from ‘Sleeping Beauty’, ‘Treasure Island’, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ and ‘Aladdin’ are amongst the 24 exquisite theatres on display in the gallery. Each one has been meticulously constructed by Frank Bradley who donated his collection to Derby Museums in the late 1970s.

What can I do?

Children can play in the free-standing puppet theatre and let their imaginations run free.

What can I learn?

When making a theatre, the printed sheets could be purchased at ‘a penny plain, twopence coloured’. At home the sheets were painted, pasted onto cardboard, cut out and made up into theatres. Figures were moved on stage by wire slides as the play was acted out, sometimes using miniature lighting effects, flares and explosions.