Patsy Doll head c1950. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Patsy's Plastic Surgery

Have you ever given your doll a haircut and realised too late the hair won’t grow back? Or wrestled over a teddy with a sibling and felt poor Teddy’s limbs rip from its body? Or attempted to rescue a toy from the chomping jaws of the family pet? Have no fear the Sydney Doll Hospital is there to repair your treasured childhood playthings!

The Chapman family has run the Doll Hospital since 1913. The century-old endeavour started by accident: Harold Chapman imported a shipment of celluloid dolls from Japan but by the time they arrived at his general store the rubber holding the dolls together had perished. The enterprising Harold found a way to fix the dolls and the Sydney Doll Hospital was born.

Harold Jnr moved the shop to Her Majesty’s Arcade – where Sydney Tower now stands – in the 1930s as the demand for doll repairs increased. During the Second World War new toys were difficult to find. The shop was busier than ever repairing items that could no longer be easily replaced. Seventy surgeons worked in six operating theatres to fix children’s prized toys.

Chief Surgeon Geoff Chapman is the third generation to run the hospital, now located in Bexley North. The ‘doctors’ on staff each specialise in treating different toys, from antique dolls to teddies and prams. To date the Sydney Doll Hospital has treated two million cases of broken dolls, toys and stuffed animals.


We often have customers that say, 'I can remember when I was little, you didn't get a new doll. You would just get the old doll a new dress for Christmas'. Now the kids get a new doll every time they go to the supermarket.

           - Geoff Chapman, 2014  



We took our Patsy doll to the hospital for a checkup and some cosmetic surgery before putting her on display in our Toys Through Time exhibition. Watch the video and see the surgeons work their magic on Patsy, and visit the exhibition to see her in the flesh.

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