Category Archives: Donors

Junk and Adventure – 20th century playground archive

Notting Hill Adventure Playground, c.1960 (c) Donne Buck/V&A Museum, London

Notting Hill Adventure Playground, c.1960 (c) Donne Buck/V&A Museum, London

In August 2014, the V&A Museum of Childhood acquired the Donne Buck Archive of Play and Playgrounds. This internationally significant collection records the practice, people and politics of adventure play in Britain over six decades.

Over the next few months, I’ll be working on sharing more of this incredible collection online, so for now, here’s an introduction to the riches in store…

Donne Buck has been a playleader and campaigner for children’s right to play since the 1950s. A significant figure in the history of play, in his long career Donne has established and run adventure playgrounds in London, Stevenage and Peterborough. He has been an active campaigner for children’s rights and promoted the importance of play in education and social development, working with central government, local councils and international agencies. His extensive archive documents his personal role alongside the national picture of play in Britain.  Continue reading

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A Photographer’s Childhood

Hello World, 1979. Copyright Victoria & Albert Museum London/John Heywood

Hello World, 1979. Copyright Victoria & Albert Museum London/John Heywood


Over at Collecting Childhood’s new home on the main website of the V&A Museum of Childhood, you can hear photographer John Heywood talking about his childhood, taking pictures, and what he’s learned about children. And, see many more of his wonderful photographs.

Come, listen, look!

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Plum Jam and Slapstick

Lionel Hemsley’s school days

Beach Photo

It is hard work finding evidence for the thoughts and feelings of children in the past.  Letters and diaries are rare and often don’t survive. However, this year I was delighted to meet Lionel Hemsley, who had kept a precious stash of documents from his schooldays during the Second World War. I was even more delighted when he offered to donate them to the Museum!

Lionel Hemsley with school friends. Image (C)V&A Museum, London

Lionel Hemsley with school friends. Image (C)V&A Museum, London

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Mary B.313-1994


Mary Kempson is a woman from west London who donated hundreds of things to the Museum in the 1980s and 90s. Her original gift, a group of dolls, was quickly followed by teddies, baby clothes, board games, birthday cards, school books, holiday souvenirs, and much more. A new installation at the Museum brings her objects together with photographs and interview quotes – putting faces and voices to this collection of things. Continue reading

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Prizes, Punishments and Pupil Teachers

Attendance Medal, Misc. 1169-1991

This medal was won – or earned – by Lionel Lehman in 1903. It is not a School Board medal, but, like Denis Delay’s medal, comes from a religious institution, the Westminster Jews Free School.

Westminster Jews Free School was established early in the nineteenth century, before the government provided any money for education. By the time education was made compulsory and school boards were set up in the 1870s, it was a large, successful establishment. In 1883 the school moved to a brand new building in Hanway Place, a narrow lane at the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street. Continue reading

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An Irish-Cockney Village in the East End

Ellen Delay’s attendance medal, 1900. B.14-1995

This medal was awarded to Ellen Delay, a pupil at St Patrick’s School, Wapping in 1900. It’s a bit different from the medals awarded by the School Board for London I wrote about here. It has no portrait of the Queen, and the metal is a bit lighter. The name of the student is engraved, but so is the year, which suggests they weren’t minted annually. And also, significantly, the name of the school is included. Continue reading

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Child Education Magazine

These rich illustrations by Linda Birch and Monique Partridge come from one of the Museum’s most recent acquisitions. Continue reading

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Gus Wood the Punch Professor

A few weekends ago, Punch and Judy performers from across the country gathered in Covent Garden to celebrate the 350 year anniversary of the first recorded puppet show in Britain to feature Mr Punch. This summer at the V&A Museum of Childhood we are marking the milestone with a display showing the history of this rambunctious and controversial character.

Find out more about Happy Birthday, Mr Punch

But there’s another anniversary to mark. In the Museum’s Upper Galleries, visitors can see a Punch and Judy booth first used 100 years ago. It is tall and narrow, made of faded blue, yellow and white striped fabric, with columns each side of a stage painted to resemble marble.

Gus Wood's Punch and Judy Booth

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