History of the Meccano Museum

By Peter Matthews







The string of museums that have been created throughout the years had their beginnings when after collecting a lot of Meccano and Meccano Products my collector friend said  “you have enough stuff to start a museum”  That was all the encouragement that I needed.

I was living in a terraced house in London at the time (1960) and the only space available was the basement coal cellar which was not being used.

Not to be deterred, it was cleaned out and painted and made to look as presentable as possible.

This was the first and the start of a string of Meccano Museums.  




We moved house in 1967 and although the house was bigger there was still no room for a museum in the house.  The only option was to erect a building outside, a permanent brick building was out of the question so a double size garden shed was purchased.  This was equipped with cabinets and electricity.

We were in business again only by this time the collection had increased in size.   






Collecting continued at a fast rate for a further two years, this was before collectors were really interested in the history of Meccano on such a scale as it is now and many items could be purchased very cheaply.

At this time (1969) my company asked me if I would move to Sussex, (in Southern England) this was a stroke of luck because the collection was outgrowing its present building.

We purchased a new house in Hurstpierpoint in Sussex, and yes you guessed it, there was no room for a museum,  as the builder was still around he agreed to build an extension to the rear of the house and add the cost to the bond.

This the third museum now had for the first time a purpose brick building all of its own with a climate conducive to the products in it.  




1972 saw another move but this time it was to far distant places, the company asked me if I would consider a move to South Africa, after some family discussion it was agreed that we should accept the challenge.

The museum was due for another move.

Our destination in South Africa was Johannesburg.  We built a house in the suburb of Glenanda and at the same time had an extension built to house the museum (the fourth), and again it was larger.  By this time I had been approached by the local Meccano Agent, “Regal Trading” and offered the position of Promotions Manager, which of course included the promotion of Meccano.  I took the position and the Managing Director very kindly suggested that he pay for the new cabinets required for the museum as the museum was just an empty space at this point.  The cabinets are still being used in today’s museum.  





After we had been in the new house for a few years and the collection had grown still further we looked around for a larger house in the same area.

At this point you may be thinking what about my wife Anne being moved from place to place.  Well I have been extremely fortunately in as much as Anne encouraged me to continue.

A split level house was found where several areas could be combined into one large area.  In fact two garages, a large family room and a maid quarters

were converted to the museum area.  We moved in 1976.

This area also had a study off of it which is used as a den for building and housing my Meccano collection and the literature.  




1986 It was at this point that a local theme park started called “Gold Reef City” on an old mining town theme.

Together with a fellow Meccanoman I approached the developers and after much discussion my partner and I decided to go for it and build a special building to house the museum, this was to be an enormous air conditioned building.

At this we acquired the agency for Meccano Spares.


Its floor space was 500 sq m, fully carpeted and equipped with aluminium and glass cases.  This was an extremely popular exhibition.  It had three railway layouts all “Hornby”.  Hornby ‘O’ gauge, Hornby Dublo three rail, and Hornby Dublo two rail.

There was also an almost complete collection of Matchbox diecasts, Steam engines, Bayko, Britains soldiers and farm series, Dolls and dollhouses, a wonderful collection of Dinky toys (1500), some Lionel trains and a shop for gifts and second hand toys.  But like all good thinks it came to an end.

I will not go into the reasons here but it wasn’t because we weren’t making money. 

In 1989 it was decided to sell the entire contents at Christies in London, and it amounted to three and a half tons being shipped out.  




After this extremely traumatic experience in 1990 Anne and I decide to start a small business in 1/12th scale Dollhouse supplies and Miniatures.

We still continued with the Meccano Spares agency.


What to do now?  Since the closing of “Gold Reef City” I have been collecting just as before and have been very fortunate to have been able to get together quite a large collection again.

The result of this collection you can see in the accompanying photographs.


The seventh museum has been set up in exactly the same place that it left in 1986.  The fifth museum did not have a railway layout but this time there are two, A  Hornby Dublo 2 & 3 rail, an ‘O’ Gauge clockwork and electric so that any item that was made by Hornby can be run in the museum.


The seventh museum will most certainly be the last.


Why do I keep setting up Meccano Museums wherever I go ?

It can only be the love of Meccano Products and the desire to see them displayed in suitable surroundings.  I have never been a box collector, by this I mean that I try and display everything I have collected, and not have cupboards full of products that I cannot get the pleasure of looking at.  

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