Tim Rowett

Last updated

Tim Rowett
Photo Of Tim Rowett for Wikipedia.jpg
Rowett in 2015
Personal information
Timothy Quiller Rowett

(1942-07-12) 12 July 1942 (age 81)
Surrey, England
Nationality British
Occupation(s)Video presenter, toy collector, writer
Website www.grand-illusions.com
YouTube information
Years active2008–present
Subscribers2.07M+ [1]
Total views580M+ [1]

Last updated: 1 November 2023

Timothy Quiller Rowett (born 12 July 1942) [2] [3] is a British YouTube personality and renowned toy collector, known for presenting videos about toys, optical illusions, novelties and puzzles on the YouTube channel Grand Illusions. Rowett, known affectionately as "Tim the Toyman", [4] is a former children's entertainer, and claims to have collected upwards of 20,000 to 25,000 toys over a 50-year period, [4] [5] many of which are featured in his videos.


In 2014, the Daily Mirror described Rowett as a "huge viral hit" and a "web sensation", [6] while in the following year The Daily Telegraph published a piece naming him as one of "the best YouTubers over 50". [7]


Rowett worked as an entertainer at children's parties from his late 20s until retiring in 2007 when he was 65. [8] [9] In a short BBC documentary, Rowett said that he considered the toys in his suitcases "dead" because they were no longer used, and that he took "great delight" in being able to bring them out and show them to people through his YouTube videos. [4] In the past he has also donated some of his old toys to children's hospitals. [8] He has a degree in Mechanical Engineering. [10] [11]

Grand Illusions

Rowett has presented videos on the YouTube channel Grand Illusions since 2008. In each video, he lightheartedly demonstrates and reacts to at least one toy, puzzle, or optical illusion which is either part of his collection or will be stocked through an online toy store, run as part of the Grand Illusions brand (to which he is a director). There are now several hundred videos on the channel which are around 10 minutes in length each, and have collectively been viewed hundreds of millions of times. [12] The channel surpassed one million subscribers in June 2019 and was awarded a golden YouTube Play Button, which Rowett unboxed in a video. [13]

Grand Illusions was started as an online community for science and games in 1996. It was developed by Hendrik Ball and George Auckland (then BBC producers) who were exploring the role of the media and the World Wide Web during the late 90s. Rowett became involved early on due to his large toy collection, and is a personal friend of Auckland and Ball. Grand Illusions became an online store for toys and novelties in 1998, stocking hard-to-source pieces. Since the success of the Grand Illusions YouTube channel, and the attention it has received on websites like Reddit, the store has commissioned new toys and also stocks unique items that are handmade or produced in small quantities. [5] [14]

The videos for Grand Illusions are filmed in a 17th-century farm house in rural Oxfordshire. Each one is developed by Ball and Auckland (both now retired from the BBC). [14] The Grand Illusions online store is run from Oxfordshire although the items are now sent out by a fulfilment house in Newbury.

Other work

Rowett appeared on the television science programme Take Nobody’s Word For It in 1989 alongside Carol Vorderman, demonstrating optical illusions. [4]

Rowett has been cited and thanked in a number of books as a toy collector and consultant. [15] [16] [17] Rowett has also contributed his own writing and poetry to books in the past, first publishing a piece in the 1999 edition of The Mathemagician and Pied Puzzler : a Collection in Tribute to Martin Gardner, and again in 2001 with a piece in Puzzlers' Tribute: A Feast for the Mind. [18] [19] [20]

Personal life

Rowett lives by himself at his Twickenham home in England, [5] and claims to have not owned a television or computer since the 1970s [4] (however in January 2017 he acquired a model Televisor for his collection). [21] He has been described as an "eccentric" [6] and "quirky" [22] collector and first became interested in toys while attending boarding school as a child, allegedly when a matron showed him a catalogue featuring a variety of toys. [23] Aside from this, he also has an interest in engineering and mechanics. [8]

In a 2014 interview with Wired UK, Rowett reflected on his age, stating "I see myself as an hourglass. A large part of me is 112, a small part is my physical age and the last part is a 12-year-old boy." [5]

Rowett claimed that his home was burgled sometime around the 1980s, but the toy collection was untouched, leaving him feeling "obviously relieved" but "offended they hadn’t valued the toys enough to pinch them". [4]

Toy collection

Among Rowett's first toys as a child included a novelty wheelbarrow and a squeaking panda teddy bear. [24]

Journalists who visited Rowett's home noted that his collection, which spans over 50 years and contains an estimated 25,000 pieces, [5] takes up a large amount of space. It was reported there were over 180 suitcases [4] which are neatly ordered by year, and most of his walls and bookshelves are filled with items, including novelty clocks and display cabinets with optical illusions. [8]

Hendrik Ball, a former BBC producer who works with Rowett to develop the Grand Illusions videos, said that Rowett will carry around toys and equipment with him and give demonstrations "whenever there is a lull". After a meal at a restaurant, he allegedly went outside and inflated a large balloon using a helium cylinder stored in the boot of his car, then lit and attached a sparkler before releasing it into the air. [5]


Rowett was born during World War II to father William Berkeley Rowett, an ordained priest, and mother Elizabeth Chidell, who were married on 9 October 1934. He has four brothers. [25] [26] [2] Rowett has distant relatives in Canada, and his family tree has immediate connections to the country. Through his father, he descends from cryptogamist Miles Joseph Berkeley, politician Rowland Berkeley and painter Emeric Essex Vidal. [27]

In 1968, his elder brother David, who had moved to Canada, died at the age of 27. [28] [25]


2019 11th Shorty Awards Best in WeirdNominated [29]

Related Research Articles

<i>Teletubbies</i> British childrens television series

Teletubbies is a British children's television series created by Anne Wood and Andrew Davenport for the BBC. The programme focuses on four differently coloured characters known as the Teletubbies, named after the television screens on their bellies. Recognised throughout popular culture for the uniquely shaped antenna protruding from the head of each character, the Teletubbies communicate through gibberish and were designed to bear resemblance to toddlers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Collecting</span> Hobby of locating or acquiring items of interest

The hobby of collecting includes seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, and maintaining items that are of interest to an individual collector. Collections differ in a wide variety of respects, most obviously in the nature and scope of the objects contained, but also in purpose, presentation, and so forth. The range of possible subjects for a collection is practically unlimited, and collectors have realised a vast number of these possibilities in practice, although some are much more popular than others.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Unboxing</span> Unpacking of products on video, uploaded to the internet

Unboxing is the process of unpacking consumer products, especially high-tech gadgets, which is recorded on video and shared online. The video typically includes a detailed description and demonstration of the product.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">James May</span> English television presenter and journalist

James Daniel May is an English television presenter and journalist. He is best known as a co-presenter, alongside Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond, of the motoring programme Top Gear from 2003 until 2015 and the television series The Grand Tour for Amazon Prime Video from 2019 to present. He also served as a director of the production company W. Chump & Sons, which has since ceased operating.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Phenakistiscope</span> First widespread animation device that created a fluid illusion of motion

The phenakistiscope was the first widespread animation device that created a fluent illusion of motion. Dubbed Fantascope and Stroboscopische Scheiben by its inventors, it has been known under many other names until the French product name Phénakisticope became common. The phenakistiscope is regarded as one of the first forms of moving media entertainment that paved the way for the future motion picture and film industry. Similar to a GIF animation, it can only show a short continuous loop.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tim Vine</span> English comedian

Timothy Mark Vine is an English comedian, actor, writer, and presenter best known for his one-liners and his role on the sitcom Not Going Out (2006–2014). He has released a number of stand-up comedy specials and has written several joke books.

Jamie Thomas is an American professional skateboarder and skateboard industry entrepreneur. Thomas is the owner and founder of Zero Skateboards and Fallen Footwear, until he announced its closure in January 2017. Thomas' nickname in the skateboard industry is "The Chief".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">YouTube</span> Video-sharing platform owned by Google

YouTube is an American online video sharing and social media platform owned by Google. Accessible worldwide, it was launched on February 14, 2005, by Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim, three former employees of PayPal. Headquartered in San Bruno, California, United States, it is the second most visited website in the world, after Google Search. YouTube has more than 2.5 billion monthly users, who collectively watch more than one billion hours of videos every day. As of May 2019, videos were being uploaded to the platform at a rate of more than 500 hours of content per minute.

Grand Illusion may refer to:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">PewDiePie</span> Swedish YouTuber (born 1989)

Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, is a Swedish YouTuber known for his comedic videos. Kjellberg's popularity on YouTube and extensive media coverage have made him one of the most noted online personalities and content creators. He has been portrayed in the media as a figurehead for YouTube, especially in the genre of gaming.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Brady Haran</span> Australian-British YouTuber and journalist (born 1976)

Brady John Haran is an Australian-British independent filmmaker and video journalist who produces educational videos and documentary films for his YouTube channels, the most notable being Computerphile and Numberphile. Haran is also the co-host of the Hello Internet podcast along with fellow educational YouTuber CGP Grey. On 22 August 2017, Haran launched his second podcast, called The Unmade Podcast, and on 11 November 2018, he launched his third podcast, The Numberphile Podcast, based on his mathematics-centered channel of the same name.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Syndicate (Internet personality)</span> English YouTuber and Twitch streamer (born 1993)

Thomas George Cassell, known online as Syndicate, is an English YouTuber and Twitch streamer. Regarded as one of the earlier known gaming personalities, his videography consists of Let's Play videos on Call of Duty and Minecraft. Born in Manchester, Cassell had passion for a career in the gaming industry, which he started by purchasing gaming equipment using his money from McDonald's. On 3 September 2010, Cassell registered his gaming channel "TheSyndicateProject", where he found success and an online community. His prominence online was recognized by Call of Duty publisher Activision and multi-channel network (MCN) Machinima, where he signed to the network to monetize his content. Cassell's channel achieved substantial growth, passing one million subscribers in June 2012 and one billion views in late 2013. He further expanded his career into livestreaming on Twitch, hosting the same commentary over his gameplays. His Twitch channel became the first to reach one million followers in August 2014.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stuart Ashen</span> British YouTuber and product reviewer (born 1976)

Stuart Clive Ashen, better known online as Ashens, is a British comedian, filmmaker, critic and YouTuber best known for reviewing counterfeit consumer goods. Since 2006, his YouTube videos have centered around satirical examinations and reviews of various, often low-quality products including toys, video games and food. His main channel has over 1.6 million subscribers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Writing's on the Wall (OK Go song)</span> 2014 single by OK Go

"The Writing's on the Wall" is a song by American rock band OK Go. It was released on June 17, 2014, as part of the band's EP Upside Out, and is also the first single from the band's fourth studio album Hungry Ghosts. On the same day, the band released a music video in which the members use props to create optical illusions, reflecting the song's description of a relationship that fails because the couple has different points of view. Like previous OK Go videos, it is structured as a one-shot music video. The many YouTube views of the video caused the song to debut in the top ten of the US Billboard Hot Rock Songs chart, as well as number one on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">TomSka</span> British filmmaker (born 1990)

Thomas James Ridgewell, known online as TomSka, is a British YouTuber, filmmaker, vlogger, and actor. He is known for writing, directing, producing, and starring in his live-action sketch comedy YouTube videos and animated web-series such as asdfmovie, Crash Zoom, and Eddsworld where he both provided the voice and inspired the character of Tom and served as showrunner from 2012 to 2016. As of July 2023, his YouTube channel has over 7.22 million subscribers, and his videos have garnered over 2 billion views.

h3h3Productions YouTube channel

h3h3Productions is a YouTube channel created and hosted by Ethan and Hila Klein, an American-Israeli husband-and-wife duo. Their content consists of reaction videos and sketch comedy in which they satirize internet culture. The H3 Podcast is their podcast channel that has been running since 2017 with the h3h3Productions now defunct.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elsagate</span> Controversy concerning a genre of YouTube videos

Elsagate is a controversy surrounding videos on YouTube and YouTube Kids that were categorized as "child-friendly", but contained themes inappropriate for children. These videos often featured fictional characters from family-oriented media, sometimes via crossovers, used without legal permission. The term itself is a portmanteau of Elsa, a character from Disney's Frozen known for frequently appearing in such videos, and "-gate", a suffix for scandals, with the analogy originating from the Watergate scandal. The controversy also included channels that focused on real-life children, such as Toy Freaks, that raised concern about possible child abuse.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ryan's World</span> Childrens YouTube channel

Ryan's World is a children's YouTube channel for children aged 2–6 featuring Ryan Kaji along with his mother, father, and twin sisters.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Saleh Sokhandan</span>

Saleh Sokhandan is an Iranian designer of optical illusion.

Thomas Malin Rodgers was an Atlanta-based businessman and puzzle collector who is remembered as the originator of the Gathering 4 Gardner (G4G) educational foundation, first conceived in 1992. He co-founded G4G with magician and toy inventor Mark Setteducati and UC Berkeley professor Elwyn Berlekamp. Over the past three decades it hosted 14 biennial conferences for aficionados of the recreational mathematician and Scientific American columnist and writer Martin Gardner. Rodgers also edited 6 volumes of Martin Gardner tribute books, published by AK Peters. Rodgers' personal physical puzzle collection was legendary.


  1. 1 2 "About Grand Illusions". YouTube.
  2. 1 2 "1942 Birth Records September". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  3. "Perpetual Calendar". Youtube. Grand Illusions. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "The man who brings 20,000 toys back to life". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 16 November 2016. (BBC documentary video on page, 00:03:52 runtime by Neil Meads)
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 TUFNELL, NICHOLAS. "Meet Tim, a 71-year-old English eccentric whose toy collection has been charming millions online". Wired UK. Condé Nast UK. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  6. 1 2 POCKLINGTON, REBECCA. "Eccentric pensioner who collects weird and wonderful TOYS becomes web sensation". Mirror Online. MGN Limited. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  7. Alexander, Saffron. "The best YouTubers over 50". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  8. 1 2 3 4 "I am with Tim Rowett, the charming old man from the grand illusions YouTube channel. AMA". Reddit. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  9. Connor, Steve (24–31 December 1987). "The Serious Side of Toys". New Scientist (116): 50.
  10. Grand Illusions (28 January 2016), Eulers Disc (HD reshoot) , retrieved 15 December 2017
  11. Grand Illusions (21 May 2015), Tim the Handyman , retrieved 24 December 2018
  12. "Grand Illusions (About)". YouTube. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  13. "Tim Says "Thanks A Million"". YouTube. Grand Illusions. 15 June 2019. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  14. 1 2 "About Us". Grand Illusions. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  15. Havil, Julian (2007). Nonplussed!: Mathematical Proof of Implausible Ideas . Princeton University Press. p.  95. ISBN   9780691120560.
  16. PETERSON, IVARS. "Tricky Dice Revisited". ScienceNews. Society for Science & the Public. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  17. Downie, Neil A. (2003). Ink sandwiches, electric worms, and 37 other experiments for Saturday science . Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. Preface (xiii). ISBN   9780801874109.
  18. Rodgers, Tom; Berlekamp, Elwyn (1999). The Mathemagician and Pied Puzzler : a Collection in Tribute to Martin Gardner. A K Peters/CRC Press. p.  25. ISBN   9781568810751.
  19. Huang, Kai. "I met Tim from Grand Illusions". YouTube. Weird Side. Retrieved 18 November 2016. At timestamp 00:07:55
  20. Wolfe, David; Rodgers, Tom (2001). Puzzlers' tribute : a Feast for the Mind. A K Peters/CRC Press. p. 206. ISBN   1568811217.
  21. "Tim Finally Gets A Television". Youtube. Grand Illusions.
  22. GOODMAN, WILLIAM (2 January 2013). "British toy collector talks about staplers and an old college prank". CBSNews. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  23. "Tim Rowett". e.g. Conference. Two Bit Media. 10 March 2014. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  24. "Tim's Very First Toy". YouTube. 19 May 2019. Retrieved 19 May 2019.
  25. 1 2 "Descendants of Richard Rewet". angelfire.com. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  26. "Family Card - William and Betty". Thomas & Mary Davidson. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  27. "FamilySearch.org". ident.familysearch.org. Retrieved 8 January 2024.
  28. "David Quiller Rowett". Thomas & Mary Davidson. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  29. "Grand Illusions - The Shorty Awards". shortyawards.com. Retrieved 20 January 2021.