Obituary: Tributes to Gospel Oak toy 'legend' Kristin Baybars
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
Tributes have poured in for a much loved toy shop owner in Gospel Oak who has died aged 85.
Kristin Baybars, a toy maker for more than fifty years, ran her "magical" shop in Mansfield Road for the last 35.
Her most famous creation was Humpty from Play School which aired on BBC from 1964 to 1988.
Her shop specialised in dolls' houses and miniatures – board games were stacked to the ceiling.
Her daughter Susila Baybars said her mother had been suffering from Alzheimer's for the last few years but her death was still a "shock" she is "trying to come to terms with".
She said: "My mother was a unique and original free spirit. She shunned convention and loved to break the rules.
"She had a big heart and was incredibly generous, always there to help friends, family, and even strangers in need."
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Susila said her mother became withdrawn during the lockdowns with "none of her usual lively conversation".
"When the diagnosis came, everything made sense. She had lost her appetite and become very frail, but her death at only 85 years old was still a shock, which I am still coming to terms with.
"Fortunately I have seen her a lot these past few months, as has her only grand-daughter Daisy, nine, so that is something to hold on to.
"My mother was always known to Daisy as Granny Christmas, because she was born on Christmas Day."
Born in Chalk Farm in 1935, Kristin was the daughter of the writer Ida Graves and the artist Blair Hughes-Stanton
Long time friend David Ward, who started volunteering at the shop 37 years ago, aged 14, said she was a "true one off".
David said: "Many people never realised that she was the person who created the Humpty toy who was a firm favourite of the BBC programme Play School."
Humpty was released as part of the Ostrobogulous toy range.
Kristin approached Heal's to see whether it would stock the toys and not only did the company say yes, it offered her a job and she went on to become main toy buyer.
In the1970s Kristin had a toy shop in Inverness Street then headed north to Gospel Oak. In 1986, 7 Mansfield road came up for sale at auction.
"Kristin scraped together the money to buy the property back and got it," said David
"She then began creating the most magical, secretly famous, toy shop which she always refused to call a 'toyshop' as it was so much more. She liked to call it 'a collection of beautiful things'.
Despite her modesty, she knew what she had created in her shop was very special, and it deserved respect.
"She appreciated talented work and protected it 'as a mother cat protects her kittens'," said David.
"She welcomed everyone on equal terms and was never star struck by the numerous celebrities who visited as she had no idea who most of them were.
"She lived a life with little regard for convention and embraced people into her world if she liked them regardless of their backgrounds.
"She was the hardest working person I have ever met."
Highgate councillor Anna Wright, a frequent visitor, said the shop was "an extraordinary place and Kristin an extraordinary person".
She added: "The infamous sign on the door, 'This in NOT a toyshop', signalled you were stepping over the threshold into an experience that would challenge your senses, tantalise and amuse.
"Appearing like a Genie from the back of Aladdin's cave, on a good day Kristin would beckon you in and make you feel you never wanted to leave. On a bad day she clearly couldn't wait to get rid of you – all part of the lucky dip experience.
"I hope we can honour her memory by always finding time to flick a jumping bean or watch a spinning top."
Gospel Oak councillor Jenny Mulholland said: "She was a local legend and there was no other place like her toy shop.
"No such thing as browsing in there – if you went inside, you’d better already know what you were looking for, and expect to be questioned. An amazing place."
Cllr Marcus Boyland added: "She was a source of magic and wonder for generations of children in Gospel Oak.
"She leaves a massive gap in the fabric of childhood delight, not just Gospel Oak but all of Camden.
"They say when a bell rings a fairy gets its wings.
"Well lots of people will be going by her shop this Christmas and ringing bells in her memory."