Sudbury Hall and the Museum of Childhood

Rear of Sudbury Hall 2

Last Sunday we headed off to visit the stately home of Sudbury Hall in the neighbouring county of Derbyshire. Along with us was our elder daughter, Nicola. Sudbury is located close to Ashbourne on the southern edge of the Peak District National Park. We had quite a clear run (meaning no traffic hold-ups) and it took us about an hour and twenty minutes to get there.

We last visited Sudbury in 2003, so we thought it was about time we had a revisit. But this time it wasn’t the Hall itself we wanted to see – although we did have a quick look round – but the adjacent Museum of Childhood, which has been revamped in recent years. To be honest, we couldn’t really remember how the museum was laid out in 2003 so I can’t make comparisons, but it’s an interesting place, with exhibits (mostly toys) dating from the 18th century, but focusing mostly on Victorian times, complete with a Victorian schoolroom.

Sudbury Hall was built by George Vernon in the latter half of the 17th century. It is a redbrick building, now owned by the National Trust. Outside, formal gardens lead down to a lovely lake. These are a few pictures we took of the Hall, outside and in:

We took far too may photos inside the Museum of Childhood to show here. The exhibits were all inside glass cases, too, and the thick glass with the lights over each display made some of the photos very poor, due to the glare. The toys were all very interesting, and took the three of us down ‘Memory Lane’ for a while: with Nick and I it was the toys from the ’50s and 60s while Nicola reminisced over those from the ’70s and 80s. Many of the Victorian toys were just amusing and some of them very clever, if not particularly suitable for children. There were also gollywogs amongst the soft toys and many dolls. Gollywogs have been a controversial issue for some years now, and I’m not even sure whether they were banned. But I well remember them during my 1950s childhood.

Here’s a jumbled up collection of some of the toys:

Parts of the museum focuses on the lives of some of the poorest Victorian children, and the gruelling jobs they were forced to do to contribute to the family’s meagre earnings. These are a few of the snippets of information about three of the jobs that Victorian children would have done – chimney sweep, pit boy and household maid.

The reconstructed Victorian schoolroom was complete with desks that resembled the ones Nick and I remember from the 1950s and the handwriting on the blackboard is very similar to the style I was taught (with the teacher hovering over us all, ready to rap the knuckles of anyone who didn’t get the letters perfect!)

Lastly, this poster, which must show somewhere in the US, since Rachel Carson was an American author, took me back to my days of ‘playing out’ with my friends. We weren’t city dwellers, or so poor that I had no shoes, but the idea of groups of us running round and getting into mischief is just the same. I’ve climbed over lots of walls in my time, as well as up many trees. What fun it was! A Child's World

All in all, a lovely day out – and the weather smiled on us, too.