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Explore the House of Marbles at Bovey Tracey

If you are driving past Bovey Tracey, call in at the House of Marbles & enjoy seeing glass-blowers at work & a fine collection of antique glass marbles.
The House of Marbles is a great place to visit, especially if you’re worried about “losing your marbles”! Here sanity reigns for sure, with a wonderful collection of antique marbles. I hasten to clarify, the attraction is all about glass marbles with coloured centres, not huge slabs of kitchen worktops! I was really surprised by how comprehensive this free attraction is and how long we spent enjoying this fascinating collection with teenage kids in tow.

Most of us remember playing with glass marbles as kids, or perhaps collecting them. The large ones were particularly prized and I always remember buying them in strange red mesh bags with a red plastic fastener which pushed down to secure the bag closed – you’ll know exactly what I mean when you see the display of marbles on sale here. They haven’t changed in generations!

History of the House of Marbles

Set in the old red brick buildings of the Old Pottery, the opened in 1973. The complex is located on Pottery Road, just a marble’s throw from the A38 and the castle-like Trago Mills shopping centre. The attraction is easy to recognise as it still has its shapely pottery kilns which are now listed buildings.

The House of Marbles began as a maker and supplier of glass marbles and games to be sold at local craft fairs. It has since expanded into a wonderful museum of collectible marbles and games with some fun machines to try out and a glass museum and workshop onsite. Wandering through the various rooms and displays there is plenty to see and admire.

Watch a glass-making demonstration

The House of Marbles is still an operating business and from the visitors’ gallery you can watch the skilled craftsmen blowing, moulding, cutting and shaping the molten glass which is made into all sorts of decorative items under the name . You can even leave your handprint in a tray of sand and have it cast in glass as a gift item.

The 4000-year history of glass is explained in the Glass Museum and the Pottery Museum shows the history of Bovey Tracey Pottery which was once made on this historic site.

Marble runs and exhibits

Next comes the Marble Museum which includes a historic collection of thousands of marbles. Information boards explain how marbles were made and how different types of marbles were developed.

The best part for me was the display of fun marble runs where you can press a button to drop a marble and watch it run along a series of rails and see-saws, causing other marbles to be released or triggering other actions. They provided great amusement and captured everyone’s interest. Altogether there are four of them to try, all handmade by Alex Schmid. “Snookie” is possibly the largest marble run in the world.

After wandering as you please around all the exhibits you eventually reach the gift shop which is like a wonderful period toy and gift shop. After seeing and appreciating the many different types of marbles, most people want to take a few samples home as a very affordable souvenir of this wonderful place. However, if you want to splash out on a Lundberg Marble containing a gorgeous Monet Water Garden inside, it will set you back an incredible £800!

There are also beautiful items of Teign Glass which is made on the premises and the factory seconds are at bargain prices. Then it’s off to for some excellent refreshments or book ahead for the three-course lunch before heading out to explore the delightful village of Bovey Tracey.

Have you visited the House of Marbles? Would you agree that it is one of the most unique free attractions in Devon? Let us know your opinion in the comments box below.

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

Find Gillian on Google+, and Twitter.

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