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Leeds: Festive season through the years, M&S style

Three-year-old Ella Walmsley playing with some of the vintage toys that are on exhibition at the Marks & Spencer toy archive. PIC: Ross Parry

Three-year-old Ella Walmsley playing with some of the vintage toys that are on exhibition at the Marks & Spencer toy archive. PIC: Ross Parry

Computer games, iPads and Percy Pig may be topping children’s Christmas lists but this exhibition shows traditional favourites are never out of date.

Marks & Spencer, which began life as a Leeds market stall, unveiled the collection showcasing popular children’s gifts dating all the way back to the early 1900s, when they ran their Penny Bazaars.

In the early days of the Penny Bazaars, children’s Christmas gifts were sold at one penny each, with items such as paper games sets, miniature dolls and yo-yos proving popular.

In the 1920s, it was children’s books, such as Punch and Judy and Jack and the Beanstalk, that were top of lists to Santa.

Teddy bears, tea sets and cash registers, which were popular gifts for children throughout the 30s, 40s and 50s, will make another appearance this year but this time with a modern twist – featuring credit cards, conveyor belts and groceries. Last year, Margaret Walton, 67, was flooded with festive memories when she discovered her 1950s Marks and Spencer till when clearing out her loft.

The till, which was bought as a Christmas present for Margaret by her father in 1952, cost 27 shillings and a six pence.

She said: “The till reminds me of what Christmas used to be about.

“We didn’t used to get lots of different presents like children do now.

“That till was the present for me and it really was my pride and joy.

“I used to set up shop in my bedroom and play with the till.”

HOPES FOR EXHIBITION

The collection, which can be found on display at the Marks in Time exhibition, at the Michael Marks building on the University of Leeds campus, digs deep into children’s favourites of years gone by.

Katharine Carter, Archivist at the M&S Company Archive, which stores over 70,000 historical items, said: “The evolution of children’s Christmas gifts mirrors 
the changes in recent 
social history and it’s amazing to see the contrast between now and the early 1900s.

“We hope that these nostalgic Christmas gifts from the last century jog some happy memories 
for people this festive season.”

 

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