Friday, 18 November 2016

The 'Birmingham in Miniature'

Top of the advert for 'Birmingham in Miniature', 1808, Bisset's Directory.

The ‘Birmingham in Miniature’* was one of the most prominent shops in Birmingham in the eighteenth century. It was opened probably in the 1740s by John Moody, and was taken over by the Richards’s family in the late 1770s. It sold (as the advert above states), a vast variety of ‘the manufactures of Birmingham and its vicinity’. These manufactures were 'toys', but, the word toy doesn’t have the same meaning today as it did three hundred years ago. These were not children’s toys, but small articles of adornment and intricate metal ware, and were part of a language of personal display. Unlike jewellery, which was purely for adornment, toys usually had some use, and included items such as buttons, buckles, watch chains, snuff-boxes and perfume bottles.

Full advert, as above.

Only a little can be discovered about what the 'Birmingham in Miniature' or Richards's Toy-Shop sold, as a only few bills and letters can be found. What is known is that it was visited by the elite when touring the town, including Admiral Nelson, HRH Prince William of Gloucester, and the famous collector, William Hamilton. It probably stocked the best variety of Birmingham manufactures. It was not the only toy-shop in Birmingham, the earliest recorded shop can be dated back to 1725, and the most recent (and grandest) was built in 1825. Birmingham toys were also sold in fashionable toy-shops in London, Bath and other English towns, as well as all over Europe. The variety of Birmingham manufactures as would have been sold in the 'Birmingham in Miniature' will be displayed for your perusal on this blog, so I invite you to step inside an eighteenth-century toy-shop. 

Trade card for the same toy-shop in about the 1820s.

NOTES
* Richards's toy-shop was called 'Birmingham in Miniature' in the advert (above), but was usually just called Richards's toy-shop, or when it was run by John Moody, 'Moody's toy-shop'. 

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