Old 17th century street toys discovered in staircase on display at Daventry Museum's childhood memories exhibition

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Old street toys discovered in a staircase form part of an exhibition at Daventry Museum.

The Harborough Hoard of 17th century toys was discovered in 1988 following structural alterations to Market Harborough Parish Church.

The stairwell was unblocked after about 230 years and a large quantity of pottery fragments and wooden artefacts were found.

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On examination by staff at Harborough Museum it became clear that the contents of the stairwell comprised a large quantity of home-made street toys, predominantly whipping tops and tipcats, along with sufficient datable items to confirm that the hoard of toys belonged to the late Tudor and Stuart era (1570-1630).

Some of the toys in the collection.Some of the toys in the collection.
Some of the toys in the collection.

The Harborough Hoard is made up of 117 tipcats, 89 tops, 13 sap whistles, six knucklebones and seven balls. There are also five whip handles, two possible teetotums and eight wooden cylinders, possibly used as toys. In all, this hoard constitutes the largest single collection of post-medieval street toys yet found within the UK and a remarkable insight into the contents of an early 17th century school student’s pocket.

Most of the toys were hand-made, using either shoots and branches of hedgerow trees or offcuts from a carpenter’s workshop. The woods most widely used are willow, ash, hazel and fruitwoods.

Daventry Museum staff would like to thank Leicestershire County Council Museum Service for arranging the loan.

The museum is open Monday to Tuesday from 9.30am to 1.30pm and every first Saturday of the month from 10am to 4pm (next open February 5). Telephone (01327) 301246.

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