Collector James is fast becoming a Lego legend
CARE to revisit a childhood fantasy? How about the one in which you had so much Lego that you could build anything and your creations would fill every shelf?
James Haley doesn’t have to revisit that fantasy because he lives it every day.
He runs Bricks ‘n’ Pieces, a new arrival at the Studley Grange craft village in Wroughton.
The business plan is simple: charge £1 for children and £1.50 for adults to explore one of the biggest collections of Lego in private hands, and in the process add to the sum of human happiness.
Dad-of-three James, 38, has had a succession of highly responsible jobs over the years, from psychiatric nurse to school grounds keeper, but has never lost his delight in the universally-loved plastic bricks.
He’s one of those instantly likeable people who never got the memo about adulthood entailing binning our sense of wonder.
“It’s the rekindling of a fascination I’ve had since I was a child,” he said. “That’s the draw for me.
“It’s nice when people come in and say, ‘I remember this Lego set!’”
Bricks ‘n’ Pieces has a two-tier Lego display that’s like something from one of those old Christmas ads for Woolworth’s.
Lego aircraft crowd a Lego airport; Lego football fans watch Lego players on a Lego pitch; a Lego castle looks ready to withstand a siege; a Lego train rides a Lego track around the room and an entire Lego street of shops does brisk business with Lego customers. Peer through the windows of those shops and you’ll see Lego shelves, Lego stock and Lego cash registers.
There is Lego memorabilia and a shelf of books about Lego, including a catalogue of every set ever made.
James grew up in Cirencester, and got his first set as an infant.
“My first Lego memory is of playing with a police station around the legs of the sofa on the floor, but my mum informs me my first Lego set was actually a fire station.”
There was Lego for every Christmas and birthday, and Lego bought with pocket money in the days when small models could be had for about £1.50. Becoming a wage-earner opened new vistas.
The collection continued to grow – James reckons the number of individual bricks is well into six figures – but the idea of putting it on display didn’t come until much later, during a trip to the Isle of Wight with his wife, Marie.
“In a little village called Godshill there are two elderly brothers who opened up the bottom of their house as a museum for the display of Matchbox cars and vintage things like that.
“They looked very nice and that’s what got me thinking – if they could do that, why couldn’t I do it with my private collection of Lego?”
Future plans include expanding the current two-tier layout to three, installing a dimmer system to show off the lights of the train and perhaps securing more space to allow children to make models of their own.
James is also considering a sourcing service to deal with the bane of Lego fans’ lives – missing bricks.
“Feedback from mums and dads is that the good old Hoover or the dog or losing parts outside in the garden is a problem. They haven’t got the time to source them, and that’s something I’d like to offer here.”
l Bricks ‘n’ Pieces is open on Sundays from 10am to 4pm, Monday to Thursday from 10am to 5pm and on Fridays from 10am to 2pm. It is closed on Saturdays. Group discounts are available.
The Studley Grange website is studleygrange.co.uk