Working for an enterprise with such enthralling history behind it, I every so often find myself speculating how those heroes of the past felt…. Whenever I explore the history of Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop, I see it as a vivid theatrical work divided into dramatic acts.
Raphael Pinheiro Gonçalves March 2020
The History of Benjamin Pollock in Six Acts continued
Act 3. The Daughters’ struggle
The year of 1937 was tragic for the business as so it was for the family. Pollock died in August leaving lots of heirs along lots of complications related to the future of the shop. His daughters Louise and Selina were the ones who ended up keeping the old art of cut-out, paste and cardboard theatre alive. Miniature toy theatres were created by the ladies, who worked in partnership with various artists. Some actors were among the shop’s patrons along with adults and children, but the business was not profitable enough to support the Pollock daughters.
Those were very tough days. The lithograph stones were extremely heavy and they could not manage printing from them. The sheets were slowly going out of print. In August 1944 they sold the company to Alan Keen, an Irish bookseller who believed in an ostentatious toy theatre revitalization. The stock was transferred to a safe place and a month later a flying bomb blew in the windows of the small shop. The place became uninhabitable, so the old ladies had to leave their home. The new owners of Benjamin Pollock Limited considered converting that shop into a museum, but it never happened.
Act 4. From a brief success to a quick failure
The stock which Keen took over consisted of approximately 1,200 copper and zinc engraved plates; 60 lithograph stone blocks and a lithographic printing press; over 170,000 ‘penny plain’ sheets of scenery and characters and 13,000 of theatrical portraits; and 15,000 playbooks. Keen took over the stock in flawless shape but did not manage to pack it properly. A vast number of plates were irreversibly ruined.
Alan Keen and the actor Ralph Richardson started a remarkable production of miniature ‘Regency Theatres’ for the showroom located at 1, John Adam Street in the Adelphi Building.