House of Marbles
Published: Thursday 21st Sep 2017
Written by: Drew Dann
Coming from a family where both parents worked long hours, being babysat by our grandparents was a common feature of daily life for my brother, sister and I growing up. As a result one of my earliest and fondest memories is of being taught to play marbles by my grandmother, while she looked for ways to keep three board children entertained. She would often ask me if I wanted to play a game of Mibs (referring to the slang term ‘Mib’ for a target marble) and the afternoon would quickly be set aside for some serious competition. We played for keeps.
Needless to say I was soon hooked on the game and quickly acquired an impressive collection of marbles that I stored in a 2 litre ice-cream tub, which were themselves a common site around the house and often filled with anything from toy soldiers and Lego to Pogs – remember those? It wasn’t long before I learned that marbles had been quite a fad for years before I had even heard of them and that at one time, marbles were the undisputed ruler of school playgrounds around the world.
A few years later an older couple from London moved in next door and quickly became good friends of our family. They owned a small antiques shop in London and often dabbled in various artistic pursuits, such as painting and sculpture. As you can imagine, their house was a veritable treasure-trove of wonderful things – including a dazzling jar of marbles from the House of Marbles. This was promptly gifted to me and comprised of a sizable plastic jar that contained marbles of various colours and sizes, an official branded ‘House of Marbles’ drawstring bag and a set of rules detailing how to play. This was all topped off with a bright red lid and to a child who hadn’t yet reached his tenth birthday, it was the most wonderful thing in the world. Not my computer, not my bike, no – this jar of marbles was the best thing that had ever been given to me.
Obviously marbles are justifiably a source of a lot of nostalgia for me and it appears that I am not alone in my appreciation for this most simple of toys. The House of Marbles endures today and continues to represent one of Devon’s most unique visitor attractions. Situated in the town of Bovey Tracey, House of Marbles offers everything from fascinating glass-making demonstrations and marble runs, amazing museums specialising in glass, games and pottery, and shopping at both House of Marbles itself and Teign Valley Glass. All of this is available all year round with no entrance fee and ample free parking. While House of Marbles is obviously best-known for its impressive array of marbles, other charming items on offer include glassware, toys and games, and garden accessories. This makes the venue the perfect attraction for guests of all ages, from budding marble champions to experienced gardening enthusiasts.
Indeed, for the more discerning visitor, there is the option to tour the site's historic trail with its museum of glass, games, marbles, and Bovey Pottery as well as several listed kilns. Many visitors to the House of Marbles also find that they are able to simply while away the afternoon browsing the gift shop, enjoying the glassworks and taking refreshments at a fully licensed restaurant that offers and exciting menu of food and drink throughout the day.
Families and younger guests are equally well catered for through a wonderful array of marble runs, animated animals, fairground mirrors, penny press and even a gravity-defying giant floating marble. Inquisitive minds will quickly discover lots of hidden amusements in almost every nook and cranny around the site, which include hidden doors and an adorable snoring bear. These will provide hours of fun regardless of whether it is a bright sunny day or a dreary afternoon, making House of Marbles a sure hit at any time of the year.
Whether like me you grew up playing games of marbles to pass the time on rainy days, or if you instead have a passion for history or finely crafted glassware, House of Marbles is a unique and charming attraction situated just next to the Dartmoor National Park. For visitors to Devon staying in one of the regions many fantastic holiday cottages, this attraction offers a fantastic opportunity to explore something that will be instantly recognisable to some and a little different to others – but always a lot of fun and a cherished experience.
To enjoy this wonderful museum, you may need a place to stay and we have plenty of cottages to choose from. See our Cottages in South Devon.