Wrexham County Borough 70 - Childhood toys /Play well / brick built


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February 26th 2022
Published: February 27th 2022
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Think back to your childhood. What sort of toys did you play with? What sort of games did you play? Today was one of those days where we were taken back to childhood games with a vengence. Hopscotch - a bit of pavement and some chalk to mark out the squares and a pebble to throw . Bat and Ball. A ball thrown constantly at a wall much to my parents frustration who got fed up of the thud thud of the ball against the wall . Jigsaws , books to read , Roller skates . Cricket in the summer, Tennis in season and football in the winter . A piece of cardboard doubled up as a sledge in summer and a nearby bank used as a dry ski slope . And then there was Lego.

Did you play with those primary coloured bricks, Instantly a recognisable, well known and successful toy company. Who around the world does not know about or has not played with Lego bricks? Who has not kept them for their children or grandchildren . How could you get fed up the thousands of different models you could construct from those tiny blocks with their iconic studs . Who remembers saving pocket money to buy the small boxes of bricks . Not enough to make a model but if you saved enough you could buy a box every week for about half a crown . Or bigger boxes for 10 shillings . Birthdays and Christmas time we asked for Lego .

They were once produced in a factory down on our Industrial Estate but I remember them more in their new factory on the Ruthin Road in Wrexham. In the 1970's three large iconic bricks weighing in at 300kg once stood outside the factory as a reminder of what was being produced inside . The factory has long gone but the town has been fortunate to be able to stage the travelling exhibition of Lego models - Building Bricks in our small but functional and well equiped museum . The story of Lego goes back many years when a Scandavian carpenter designed them . The name was derived from the Danish for Play Well . I am sure many children of my generation remember the grey base plates we needed to sit the bricks upon . The windows, doors and trees that we could purchase . Lego moved with the times and took on the Star Wars theme - bricks used to build the Millenium Falcon . They never really lost their appeal .

My love affair with the bricks began with that slab of grey studded and ready for bricks to be added. I bought windows, roof tiles , doors . My imagination could run riot . Designed in 1949 by Ole Kirk Christiansen a carpenter who obviously watched a lot of bricklaying the moulds were made to make the different shapes. Some two studded, others four or eight . 1720 different combinations . I could build a house today and a park tomorrow . Described as the toy of the century I was not going to dispute that.

The exhibition was small but there was a description on the wall of the man who built the models . I forgot to read it but there were some snippets I do remember such as I think he was once in IT. He got fed up with his job and left it joining Lego and for reason started to build models which included these masterpieces .

I wish they had not been behind glass as Warrens work was obscured a little . I think his name was Warren Elsmore but forgive me if I got that one wrong . The light glaring off the glass made photographing the detail difficult . He built for fun for Lego and had produced many other displays most probably too large to fit into our small museum . The Coral Reef, the Pyramids the list of his achievements went on and on . Perhaps if we find ourselves in Beverley we could visit a different strand of his work as they too are housing an exhibition of Lego until September.

The first baffled me . I could see it was a skeletal view of a church or a cathedral and was very modern with a large selection of bricks depicting stained glass extremely well . I then spotted the high altar and realised it was Coventry Cathedral with Christ in Majesty . All built of Lego bricks . The stained glass windows were stunning . There would have been a description somewhere but I found myself moving from exhibit to exhibit .

The BT Tower in London an iconic 60's structure probably once the tallest building in London stood alongside the Empire State Building . Each building had a description tagged on telling the story of the building , how many bricks were used in its construction and how long it too to construct . I was amazed at the detail and the ingenuity plus the versitility of this tiny brick . How many children had been given Meccano as a Christmas or birthday present and moved on in adulthood to something mechanical? How many children who played with Lego moved into careers within architecture , building and designing ?. All thanks to little boxes of toys they had as children .

The local university art students had made a contribution by designing and building a replica of their art college in bricks . A few yards down the road was the real Art College but they had made a good attempt at replicating it in Lego .

Boxes of Lego were stacked up bringing back memories of boxes I longed for as a child . All the boxes were large sets that I would have had to save my pocket money up to buy. They would come in at a number of pounds . Christmas and Birthday presents rather than the weekly buy of the small box. Perhaps the small boxes have not survived whilst the larger examples were still in relatively good condition .

A brown and rusty Angel of the North but the star of the show had to be the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct with a canal boat on the basin that lined the top. This took I think 130 man hours to build and only shows two piers of a much longer structure . I believe there were 38500 bricks in its construction . Beneath it was the valley with trees . I remember buying flowers and trees but it seems now you can buy the sea too . The size of and scope of Lego are far beyond what I as a child remember .

The Arc De Triumphe was there . 30 hours to construct . Cleopatras Needle in London . The list of buildings went on and on. What I assumed was the Tyne Bridge . The bricks might have looked unfamiliar but they all worked in exactly the same way as I remembered them .

We walked away with thoughts of our childhood and so thankful that Wrexham had been lucky enough once to have a factory here and perhaps it was that link with the past that gave us the chance to house this exhibition for the next three months . Had there never been a factory on the trading estate or in town this exhibition would surely have gone somewhere else .

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27th February 2022

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27th February 2022

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Is it not odd how our minds work and we are instantly taken back by something we see or hear or even smell to our childhood . I always wanted a railway set but being a girl then it was sort of ignored . Holiday planning going apace . I called up Eurotunnel on Thursday to ask them to cancel the March booking as they were asking for API information . Having been told that they would not honour the booking and give us a credit note I was amazed when the lady who took my call told me she would give me us a credit note . When it arrived it had an expiry date of March 30th 2022 so we thought we had still lost the money . Decided to try it to book in September and it took it so our £272 was saved and we have a second holiday to France booked for the year . So excited but apprehensive too. Two and a half years without travel has been strange . Feel odd going back to it . Hopefully something will sort itself out with Russia. Not sure sanctions will work perhaps we need special services in there doing us a favour . Hope you can get your Scotland trip sorted . The first minister should be lifting all restrictions there shortly

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