Castle celebrates completion of new toy museum

Thirlestane Castle is celebrating the completion of the new School Room Toy Museum within the castle.

The new space will allow more visitors to see the fantastic collection of Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian toys in specially designed displays.

While this is exciting news for Thirlestane Castle Trust, they are disappointed their planned opening ceremony to thank the hard-working volunteers and funders was not able to go ahead in the current situation.

However, they could not let their work go unrecognised. Instead, they have held a simple ribbon-cutting ceremony behind closed doors to mark some positive news at a time of great uncertainty, particularly for the leisure industry. They plan to hold a celebration event later in the year.

The historic toy collection at Thirlestane includes some items that belong to the Maitland family but a substantial part of the large collection is kindly on loan from the Pollock Toy Museum.

Catherine Fawdry from the museum said: ‘I was one of the team who set up the much-loved nursery rooms at Thirlestane Castle in the 1980s. They have now been given a new lease of life in a more intimate setting.

‘Although very different from the nursery rooms the impact of the collection is not diminished and I am sure it will continue to be an interesting and valued part of any visit to Thirlestane.’

A vast amount of work has been undertaken to prepare several thousand unique items for display and the Trust is indebted to the Heritage Volunteers from the Arts Society who have been carrying out this task. Without their painstaking work over the last two years, this project would not have been completed.

Ray Cartwright from The Arts Society said: ‘It has taken 14 volunteers over a year to identify, catalogue, photograph and record the contents of the toy museum. This has been one of the most enjoyable projects that the group has been involved in and bought back memories of the volunteers’ childhood!’

Creating the modern, inviting space and purpose-built displays would also not have been possible without generous funding from several organisations.

Thirlestane Castle thanked The Pilgrim Trust, Museums Galleries Scotland, Fallago Environment Fund and the Cadogan Trust for kindly funding this project. Their funding has also enabled Thirlestane Castle Trust to create a new space for the castle’s muniments collection which is currently in the final stages of completion.

Georgina Nayler, director of The Pilgrim Trust said: ‘The Trustees of the Pilgrim Trust are delighted to have been able to support the School Room Toy Museum at Thirlestane Castle. The museum’s new home will safeguard the collection for the future and make it more accessible and available for visitors to enjoy. The Trustees wish it, and the castle, every success.’

Fallago Environment Fund chairman, Gareth Baird said: ‘We’re delighted that the Fallago Environment Fund has been able to help enrich the visitor experience at one of Scotland’s most important historic houses by providing a grant towards the refurbishment of the family-friendly School Room Toy Museum. It offers a fascinating insight into Thirlestane Castle’s history and we hope it will help to attract even more visitors and Borderers alike to the Castle and surrounding area.’

With ongoing measures to tackle the spread of Coronavirus, it is currently extremely unprecedented and concerning times for museums like Thirlestane Castle.

The Trust is looking forward to sharing this new museum space with the general public once it is appropriate to do so but at the moment it is difficult to predict when that will be. The castle is planning to open over the summer period as soon as possible and is keeping up to date with all government guidelines. As a charitable trust, and like many other similar businesses, the castle relies on income from visitors to stay operational.

Edward Maitland-Carew, family trustee, said: ‘This is an extremely challenging time for everyone who works in the tourism and leisure industries but the health and well-bring of the wider community is of the upmost importance at this time.

‘It is such a pleasure to see these toys on display in this amazing new space and we hope it is not too long before visitors can enjoy this new space. We are so grateful to everyone who has been involved in this project which in time will enable more people to enjoy this collection as much as my family has over the years.’

Thirlestane Castle Trust hopes to open the castle over the summer months at some point so visitors can explore the new museum but when that will be is still unclear at the present time. Follow the castle on social media and check the website for up to date information.

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