Between 1850 and 1950 the development of ships underwent a massive change as steel and steam replaced wood and sail. This ignited the imaginations of children and toy makers and was met by an equivalent ‘Golden Age’ in the development of toy boats.
The toy boats that were made in response mimicked real life, yet were rarely accurate copies of real vessels. Instead toy-makers took elements from different boats, simplified and exaggerated them, and then combined them to create toys that would express the excitement and adventure children craved.
Today toy boats are quite rare. Playing with them on ponds or lakes meant that many rusted away or were accidentally lost. Those that have survived usually bear dents and scratches from years of play.
Borrowing extensively from the collection of the Musée national de la Marine in Paris and some of Britain’s foremost collectors, ‘Toy Boats’ showcases over 100 colourful and imaginative toys which recall the grand liners, submarines and battleships that defined and defended the nation.
Featuring all types of miniature boats, ranging from ocean liners to paddle steamers, this exhibition is perfect for any kids fascinated with boats and sealife.
Special Exhibitions Gallery (Gallery 6), Level G, National Maritime Museum
Free, open daily 10.00–17.00