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Items of interest | Parker collection | Birmingham City Council

Items of interest

This clip features a collection of rare and interesting children’s games and activities from the Parker Collection, including the “Loco” and “Lotto” board games produced by the Chad Valley Games Company. Cherie Gladstone discusses “Urania’s Mirror or A View of the Heavens”, a series of beautifully drawn star charts published in London by Samuel Lee, which were designed to help young stargazers recognise constellations. Take a look inside “Brunel’s Tunnel Under the Thames”, a three-dimensional representation from approximately 1845, and meet “Saucy Sybil” and “My Lady Betty” - Victorian Dressing Dolls created by Raphael Tuck and Sons in approximately 1885.


This is the Chad Valley board game, it's called Loco. So you've got a brightly coloured games board like this and you've got significant cities on the way, which gives you a sort of vague idea of geography, I couldn't say its absolutely smack on with where things are because well there's no, there's no Birmingham, Stafford, we've got Rugby, but there not in the right place at all. So, basically you just throw a dice or twirl a tea totem and you have your little train, little cast iron metal train and you put it at the beginning and you either start at Euston, St Pancras or Kings Cross and they've actually got the designs of the train sheds designed as they are I think at those train stations or as they were at the time and you move it along and the first person to get to the other end, which is Edinburgh, wins. So it's a nice straight forward simple game and you can persuade yourself that you educating them at the same time. I don't expect it kept it's games players that interested for that long really.

And then we come onto a series of dressing dolls, we've got two of them they're called 'Our Darlings,' they're Victorian. One of them is called Saucy Sybil and the other one is called My Lady Betty, because Saucy Sybil has rather sharper taste in dress, I think, than My Lady Betty who goes for a more sort of fluffy style, I'd say, lots of decoration, lots of frills. I think maybe Saucy Sybil is supposed to be a little more grown up as well, judging by the footwear and the garments that she wears. And of course when you look at the container that they were in, there's a lot of very interesting information here. So first of all you've got the product information, so this dates from about 1885 roughly, this is a guess it could be 1895, because you have to track it down by using the advertising sometimes. You've got the fact that they were doing a prize competition and this was 1895, so it has to be after that. We've had dressing dolls for a long time, and I remember some when I was little and I think they still do them, don't they? And they certainly represent some kind of idealised view of what children might be wearing at the time. This one here, is more useful than the other one actually, because for a start off, on the back of Saucy Sybil it gives you a number, so you knew they were at least 22 different sorts. It says how to educate our daughters, the question solved by Raphael Tuck and Sons' New Patent Dressing Dolls; artistic, entertaining, educating. It's difficult to see how you would be educating, so they've got different series they've got "Our Pets" dressing series which she belongs to, My Lady Betty, and then there's "Fairy Tale" dressing series, so there were probably quite a lot of different marketing models basically, they probably put them out over quite a long period of time and they were successful because they had publishers to her majesty the Queen so they have been recognised for their position in the industry.

So this is Brunel's tunnel under the Thames and you've got a picture, if you look through the top hole, you've got a picture of the scene on the river Thames with the boats, the passengers, the brightly dressed people, and if you wiggle that bit there you can be a bit seasick! And if you look underneath that's a picture of the tunnel, how it was, possibly, in his imagination I'm not quite sure whether all these people actually use the tunnel, but he saw it as a place where elegant people could promenade, underneath the River Thames. So this dates from 1845.

So here we've got Lotto which is a local manufacture Chad Valley, they went out of business in the 1950s, this one dates from 1950 and really you can tell by looking at the design of the box lid and the colours that they've used and it's just like Bingo really, it's called Lotto or Housey Housey or Bingo, and there's a picture of a House on the top, which is probably a reference to it being called Housey Housey.

This is for much older children and this Urania's Mirror and it's a series of star charts and it said it was published in London by Samuel Lee 18 The Strand, so by now the idea of marketing and putting your company name on the front, on the label, so that people come back and buy more off you is alive and kicking. It's a lovely game, there's a card for each constellation in the sky and they're beautifully drawn and the idea is you hold this up to a light source and then you can see all of the stars and it's supposed to enable young stargazers to identify constellations. I gather that there is some kind of app which does the same thing.