A COUPLE’S huge collection of salt and pepper pots has gone on display after an off-hand purchase grew into a lifelong hobby.

Gillian and Stuart Skyte first started collecting in 1998, when they took separate trips to London and each randomly bought each other a salt and pepper shaker set as a small gift.

The husband and wife, who live in Summertown in Oxford, have amassed about 110 pairs in the 22 years since.

Their wide-ranging collection, which include tiny red cars, toy soldiers and toasters, are now on display at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Devon.

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Mrs Skyte, a retired civil servant, said: "I think we are all collectors at heart. They are convenient to collect as they don't take up much space.

"We look for something that's really colourful or interesting or quirky, or if we are abroad, something that's typical of that country.

"We can find them anywhere from a cheap supermarket to an antique shop."

Her favourite pairs are the two that first started the collection, more than two decades ago.

She bought her husband a plain set in grey porcelain, purchased at the Chelsea Craft Fair, while Mr Skyte bought her a set of tiny pink and white china elephants.

Mrs Skyte said: “My husband was working in London at the time, commuting from Oxford, and happened in his lunch hour to go and buy me this present.

"I bought the cheapest thing I could find at the craft fair, which happened to be a salt and pepper pot.

"It all mushroomed from there and relatives started to give us them for Christmas."

Her other favourite set is a pair of plastic penguins, which can be wound up like a toy to shuffle along, carrying their load of seasonings along the table.

The exhibition at the museum in Exeter started just before Christmas.

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Part of the museum is a room of collections, with part of it reserved for people local to the area, who can contact the museum to pitch their ideas for display in a large glass cabinet.

The couple have a connection to the area as they have a holiday flat in Devon, where they spent Christmas and New Year.

Mrs Skyte said other people seemed to be enjoying their colourful collection when they visited, particularly children.

As well as serving as decorative items, the pots do also fulfil their practical use and Mrs Skyte said they had to be careful not to spill salt and pepper everywhere when they were arranging the display.

The collection is grouped into themes, including Europe, animals and Christmas.

The shakers used to live on shelves in the pair's dining room, but after moving house they had to put some of them away until they can find space.

Mrs Skyte said they will have to 'draw the line' before the collection gets too large, but that they were still keeping their eyes open for any new additions.

She added: "We are not out every day looking for them, but it's happy chance if we are somewhere and see something interesting."

The exhibition is on display until Monday, March 23.