He made a name for himself on one of the biggest stages of British TV - Coronation Street - but away from the limelight actor Peter Baldwin was a man whose lifelong passion was toy theatres.
Peter, who died aged 82 in 2015, will be best remembered for playing the role of Derek Wilton for more than 20 years in the world’s longest running soap opera. He wooed his screen wife Mavis Riley (Thelma Barlow) for many years and eventually the pair married.
But there was one passion Mavis could never compete with – Peter’s love for juvenalia, primarily toy theatres.
He adored them, he collected them and at one time was even part-owner of Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop in London’s Covent Garden which sold them.
Now it’s hoped today’s juvenalia fans – and new collectors - will help his passion live on because on April 5 the Peter Baldwin Toy Theatre Collection will go under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers in Derbyshire.
According to his family, Peter’s life changed forever when, at the age of 12, he was taken to see Peter Pan and his parents gave him a Pollock’s toy theatre.
Jim Spencer, valuer at Hansons Auctioneers, said: “From that moment he became a passionate collector of juvenile drama and began to act. After leaving Chichester High School and finishing National Service, he began his training at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
“He went into the acting profession touring in repertory theatre and working with the Bristol Old Vic theatre company where he toured the world in Zefferelli’s production of Romeo and Juliet. What followed was a varied career in theatre, radio and television, both in the UK and abroad.
“In 1976 he joined the cast of Coronation Street as Derek Wilton. Sadly, his character was killed off in 1997 - much to the dismay of many fans. Among his personal effects is a letter from highly regarded journalist Libby Purves lamenting the loss. She wrote, ‘My heart is broken, my daughter’s heart is broken… we both feel that expiring to Gilbert & Sullivan and having a funeral tribute paid by the awful Norris (a character in the TV soap) was too cruel a fate for one of the best characters in The Street’.
However, Peter, who was born in Chidham, near Chichester, Sussex, in 1933, continued to work in theatre and TV until his death – and his love of toy theatres never waned.
According to his family, it led him to work in Pollock’s Toy Theatre museum in Scala Street, London, and then as manager of Pollocks Toyshop in Covent Garden, which he invested in with his brother in 1986. Though no longer connected to the family, the shop still flourishes.
Throughout his life he collected juvenile drama avidly, buying at auctions and from dealers and other collectors. He was particularly interested in performance.
Mr Spencer said: “This is one of the best-known collections of Juvenile Drama in existence and includes European, American and British items.
“Mr Baldwin toured Britain and the continent using his collection, reviving a lost art and bringing to life long-lost plays. The Corsican Brothers and the Miller and his Men were his favourites.
“In 1988, his collection was exhibited at the National Theatre in London and, later, at the Museum of Childhood in Lancashire. In fact, some of his toy theatres are going to London’s Victoria and Albert Museum but numerous toy theatres and proscenium arches of wooden construction will be sold at Hansons.
“His passion for juvenile drama and performance, and the little known continental juvenile drama, led to his publication of Toy Theatres of the World, Zwemmer 1992. Theatre historian George Speaight wrote the forward.
“Peter was an acknowledged global expert on juvenile drama and was president of the British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild. This collection is quite extraordinary and will generate interest around the world.”
The Peter Baldwin Toy Theatre Collection will be sold at Hansons Auctioneers, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire, on April 5 at noon. Viewing from 9am that day and also on April 3-4, 10am-4pm; March 18, 2-4pm; March 20, noon-4pm; March 21, 11am-7pm; March 22, 11am-6.30pm.
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