About The Toy Works, and what we offer
Hand-crafted wooden toys and so much more
The Toy Works is located in the former bake house behind The Old Village Bakery in Melmerby, 9 miles east of Penrith. Melmerby is located at the bottom of the famous Hartside Pass on the A686, the road was listed by the AA as one of the best 10 drives in the world. The road twists and climbs between Melmerby and the famous Hartside Cafe to an altitude of 1900 ft above sea level. On a clear day you can see across the Solway Firth to Dumfries and Galloway over 60 miles away to the north west. To the west you can see the Lake District Fells.
To see just a sample of the fantastic toys we offer, visit our store page, where you’ll find everything from wooden trucks and toy castles to wooden trains and rocking horses. You’ll be spoilt for choice. You can visit our Toy Shop at Melmerby, Watch the Toy Works Express run round the ceiling and view into the workshop area to see what projects we are working on.
Below are a few pictures of the shop.
How to find us
The Toy Works Express
The Toy Works Express is a loop of G Scale railway track running round the top of the shop displays. Percy the Tank Engine and two of the Troublesome Trucks are guest visitors for the 2019 Christmas Season. The train runs round for around 3 minutes after putting 20 pence in the meter below the workshop viewing window. All monies are donated to the local air ambulance.
History of The Toy Works
The Toy Works was established in 1985 by the current owner Paul Commander. He is a time served carpenter and joiner originally from Westcliff-on Sea, Essex. In 1985 being fed up with his lifestyle in the building and shop-fitting trade, he moved with his family from their native Essex, to the often wild, wet and very windy Cumbrian village of Shap, some 900 ft above sea level, on the eastern edge of the Lake District. This was an area he had been visiting for some 20 years on holidays and now decided that this was going to be the ideal location to set up his toy making business.
His first workshop was just 500 sq ft and was attached to the house. This was a new kind of rural workshop set up by English Estates which gave the occupier the opportunity to live and work from the same location. Paul ran his business there and sold his toys to local craft and gift shops together with attending craft fairs around the country.
By 1992 the business had outgrown the workshop and after many months of searching for a suitable new workshop with living accommodation he relocated the business to Whittington near Kirkby Lonsdale. The new workshop was housed in a recently converted stone barn which was now large enough to have an onsite shop as well as a workshop and storage area. In the spring of 2001 the Foot and Mouth outbreak devastated farming in the area and Paul lost 70% of his business
turnover when the government told people to stay away from the countryside so as not to spread the disease further. This meant that due to his rural location he had very few visitors for months and was therefore forced to relocate his business again.
Once again, after many weeks of hunting around for suitable premises he moved to the picturesque Cumbrian village of Askham, 6 miles south of Penrith. He spent the next 9 months converting a seventeenth century stone barn into the new business premises and re-opened for trade in September 2002.
In 2010 it became clear that there was insufficient footfall of visitors at the Askham location to sustain any further growth for the business and for the fourth time Paul relocated his business to its current location.
Paul has now been making and selling wooden toys for nearly 4 decades and his experience and knowledge of the traditional toy market is vast. Through many years of researching traditional toys it has given him a broad knowledge of the market and the background history of toys.
He also runs a rocking horse and dolls house restoration service from his business workshop. He will also undertake one off commissions like building a toy farm or doll’s house modeled on your own premises.
If you have a restoration job or are perhaps considering having a bespoke commission piece making, you can contact Paul through the various options available to you on the contact page.