Commissioned in 1885, the armed cruiser Italia was the flagship of the Italian Navy. At the time she was the world's largest, fastest and most modern warship. This detailed, well-made toy, based on Italia, would have been an expensive purchase.

 

Commissioned in 1885, the armed cruiser Italia was the flagship of the Italian Navy. At the time she was the world's largest, fastest and most modern warship. This detailed, well-made toy, based on Italia, would have been an expensive purchase.

 

This large toy paddle steamer shows the extreme sizes that some toy boats reached even by the turn of the century. At 1.3 metres (4.3 feet) in length, Honfleur would have been difficult for anyone to handle, let alone a child, and may have been made as an exhibition piece rather than a working toy. Sadly we do not know who made her.

 

19th-century town planning led to a rise in the number of public spaces in cities and towns. These often had decorative ponds and fountains where children could play with an assortment of toy boats. As coastal holidays became popular, toy boats were also essential accessories for a trip to the seaside.

 

Toy companies and souvenir makers were quick to seize on ‘Queen Mary-fever' helping to spread her reputation as a symbol of wonder, opulence and achievement. This rare wooden model kit was one of a series made by the British toy and model maker Bassett-Lowke around the time of Queen Mary's launch.

 

Paya is located in Alicante, Spain where it continues to make vintage reproduction toys in the tradition begun by Raimundo Paya in the early 20th century. As this aircraft carrier moves along the little red aeroplanes circle the boat.