Museum of Childhood Closed from 18 March 2020 Menu

A selection of documents and photos from the Hemsley archive is below.

Read the transcript of an oral history interview with Lionel


Hear audio clips of the interview [coming soon]

Biographical note

Lionel Hemsley was born in September 1932, at home in Shirley, near Croydon.

Lionel’s first school was Miss Miles’s small private day school, in a house in a nearby street. The Hemsley family were on holiday when War was declared in September 1939, and the children were sent to boarding school in the Cotswolds. The move away from the family seven was traumatic and Lionel describes hiding pleas for help in pictures sent to his mother. Bullying, hardships of rationing and strict discipline were the ongoing themes of Lionel’s school life.

At the age of twelve, Lionel moved to King’s School, Bruton. He was placed with the boys of Eddington House, a Grammar School formerly based in Herne Bay , Kent , which had been evacuated to Bruton for the duration of the War. When Eddington House returned to Herne  Bay , Hemsley moved too. At Eddington House, he wrote for the school magazine and set up The Hippodrome, a comedy troupe based on a BBC radio show. This archive collection includes programmes and scripts for The Hippodrome performances.

In 1946 Lionel started Senior  School at King’s School Bruton, in Priory House. During this period he continued to perform, and also wrote his second short novel. Lionel studied Art for the School Certificate, and started cycling to local churches to study the architecture. However, since Lionel’s aspirations were in science and Bruton’s provision was very limited, he moved at short notice over Christmas 1948 to Whitgift School in Croydon. He had “the best two terms of [his] school life”, as a day student, joining the Natural History and Bird Watching Societies, before getting a place to study Veterinary Medicine at Bristol  University aged 17.

Lionel graduated in 1954, and went on to practice, study and teach Veterinary Medicine in private practice, universities and government departments. Lionel specialised in pathology, and developed global expertise through posts in USA ,South Africa , New Zealand and Australia . Nowadays, Lionel divides his time between Britain and Australia.

Read a blog post about Lionel

V&A Museum of Childhood
Bethnal Green

The museum is currently closed

Visit us

Exhibition - Jan von Holleben – Picture This!

Jan von Holleben – Picture This!

17 January until 10 May 2020

View the exhibition

Activity - Daily activities (term-time)

daily acitivites

Details of free drop-in activities taking place during term time, including arts and crafts, tours, trails and storytelling.

Find out about activities

V&A Museum of Childhood collections

Discover the national collection of Childhood related objects, from ideas to design, toys to schoolbooks. All Museum of Childhood Objects

V&A Museum of Childhood is closed today


Close this window to explore our website.


More information about the closure