The History of Toy Forts and Castles

German Gottschalk fort c 1913

Author: Allen Hickling


The classic toy for boys used to be a set of lead soldiers, usually manufactured by the toy company, Britains. Less known, but just as essential, was the toy fort which provided a venue in which fierce playroom battles could be fought.

Allen Hickling has been collecting and researching toy forts and castles for the past 30 years and has just written the first reference book ever published on the subject; Toy Forts & Castles: European-Made Toys of the 19th & 20th Centuries.

The books 340 pages cover the history of the manufacture of European toy forts and castles, and provides essential information about manufacturers, specifications and materials, set in a rich historical context. The book contains an astonishing 800 photographs, providing an invaluable visual resource for toy collectors, museum curators, archivists, antique dealers, and architectural history buffs.  




In the 19th Century there was an explosion of interest in the natural sciences and collecting botanical specimens became an obsession with scientists as well as the more fashionable and well-to-do sectors of society. 

Most science at the time was considered unseemly for women; in the poem The Unsex’d Females (1798), the Reverend Richard Polwhele warned that, “in scrutinizing the sexual parts of the flower, [women] were indulging in acts of wanton titillation”. Therefore asexual seaweed was a safe way for women to indulge in specimen collecting under the guise of craftwork.

Some women became so skilled and knowledgeable in the field that their work was regularly written up in scientific journals, typically though, male scientists published women’s work under their own name, only occasionally crediting the women. 

Today the collections these women made have found their way into herbaria across the world. They are greatly valued by modern day scientists who can learn a lot about our changing environment by having high quality early specimens to refer to. 



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