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Page last updated at 12:46 GMT, Friday, 28 May 2010 13:46 UK
Hamleys toy shop's Cornish roots
Hamleys has been the home of toys for 250 years now

Hamleys of London is one of Britain's most famous and best loved shops in history.

This year it celebrates its 250th Anniversary.

One of the worlds most famous toy shops started off as a small shop in the 16th century in a small borough of London.

But, few people know its founder was Cornishman William Hamley who grew up in Bodmin.


William Hamley left Cornwall for London in 1760 to open his first toy shop in the High Holborn area. The little store was named Noah's Ark.

Unfortunately the original shop located at 231 High Holborn was destroyed by a fire in 1901. The shop was resurrected in a larger premises slightly further down the road at number 86.

The new shop opened in 1921 but was forced to close in 1931 as the world faced bleak economic times.

However, the shop was bought by Walter Lines from a family of famous toy makers, and re-opened the same year.

Staff at the shop believe Hamleys, or Noah's Ark as it was known then, was the first toy shop in London in the 1700's.

Back then toys were very different to the ones we have today. During 1760, companies printed Snakes & Ladders and playing cards onto wooden bricks which created the first range of affordable toys available to all who visited the city shop.

From its origins in High Holborn the brand has spread out across London to Oxford street ,Ludgate Bridge, Croydon and even further afield to Scotland, Ireland and even Jordan, Dubai and India.

As part of the celebrations, the shop has an exhibit of vintage toys

The flagship Hamleys shop known worldwide today opened on Regent Street in 1981. The toys it stocks have changed from tin soldiers and rag dolls to action figures, remote control helicopters and even a garden sized castle.

Reflecting on what William Hamley would think of his empire today, the shops entertainment manager, Mark Campbell said:

"He probably wouldn't have expected to go as far and wide, but maybe that was his vision, we sell happiness and joy, and it should be a worldwide thing, I think he'd be very proud indeed."

Today celebrities will book private viewings in the shop in the daytimes or after hours so they can browse through Hamleys' legacy.

The history of Hamleys
11 Feb 10 |  History



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