Dolls' Houses Past & Present

A website and ezine about dolls' houses: antique, vintage and modern. Plus furniture and accessories.

Modelcraft Ltd Designs for Dolls Houses and Dolls House Furniture by Rebecca Green

Modelcraft is better known for their cardboard Micromodels, and for their plans and kits for model boats, aircraft and railway lineside buildings. However, they also issued several designs for dolls houses and dolls house furniture.

 

L, Modelcraft Magazine and List, September 1948; R, Modelcraft Magazine, March 1949.

A Modelcraft Lineside Kit in 4mm scale (00 gauge). Photo © Rebecca Green

 

According to the World of Micromodels website, Modelcraft was formed just before World War II, in about 1938, by a Mr H. S. Coleman. It was based in London, at 77 Grosvenor Road, SW1, on the north bank of the River Thames, west of Vauxhall Bridge.  

 

The Modelcraft factory, built in the early 19th century. (From the Modelcraft Magazine, Vol 3, No 13, April 1950.)

 

From an article about the building which housed the Modelcraft factory (published in Modelcraft Magazine, Vol 3 No 13, April 1950), we learn that:

“Modelcraft did not set out in life as a serious business venture. Modelmaking happened to be a hobby of some of those engaged in sheet metal working and sign business. Perhaps because “messing about in boats” and an interest in ships fostered by the nearby river was also among our hobbies, we ventured into the market of ship kits just before World War II. This activity and the electric sign business had to cease on the outbreak of war and we were largely switched to war production. Nevertheless, although we were drastically cut down in our output of kits we found there was an increasing market for the plans that went with them. These plans enabled men and women on gunsites, on firewatching duties, on the mess decks of warships during prolonged cruises and in isolated ports to fill in hours of enforced idleness with satisfying activity. From our plans they could make models which were correct, authentic in every detail and which could be displayed with real pride. Railways, aircraft, road vehicles and a host of other subjects were added to the range.”

 

This suggests that more than one person was involved in setting up Modelcraft. H. S. Coleman, identified by the British Library as Herbert Stennett Coleman, was in the “sign business”, with a company called Sign Construction Co Ltd based in London from the early 1920s (for some of the time at least, at the 77 Grosvenor Road address). (He patented a couple of inventions relating to signs – for a flash sign advertising switch apparatus, and for improvements to monogrammtic signs.)

A key person in Modelcraft from 1940 was their main designer of the card micromodels, Geoffrey Heighway, who left in 1947 to set up his own business, Micromodels Ltd. It was that company which, in 1951, issued a series of card models of famous buildings. Modelcraft did publish a number of articles and a book on architectural model making in paper, card or other materials, in scales ranging from 7mm (xxx) to 50’ to 1”. The larger of these could be used as small dolls houses, and the smaller ones could work as dolls house dolls houses, so I will show a couple in this article.

 

An ad for Modelcraft which appeared in the Hobbies Handbook, 1947

 

The Modelcraft factory was bombed in 1940, but resumed production of both their war contracts and the model plans. Dolls house designs were first introduced after the war, in 1946. Three more appear in the January 1949 Modelcraft List. The last Modelcraft List was issued in 1955, and some time after that, Modelcraft was bought by the ERG model company. H. S. Coleman died in 1959.  

 

A Modelcraft ad which appeared in the Hobbies Handbook, 1955

Modelcraft Dolls Houses

The Modelcraft Lists, in introducing the dolls houses, say:

“In these designs we are making a complete breakaway from the terrible Victorian Villas which have been the accepted pattern for Dolls’ Houses for far too long. Each of our designs will reproduce a house which is true to period and a thing of beauty. It can be constructed either as a model home with all the details and refinements carefully executed or, more ruggedly, as a Dolls’ House. Parents will respond to these plans, for not only will they make most practical toys but, being true period designs, they will have a definite educational value. The plans include furniture designs and suggestions, together with surrounding garden layouts. The scale is approximately ½ inch to 1 foot, and a series of building and brick papers to the same scale has been prepared.”

The first dolls house was the Modern Bungalow, which appears in a supplementary price list from June 1946. The price shown, 8 shillings, remained the same for this plan and the others in the series until 1955.

 

Modelcraft June 1946 - Supplementary List. Photo © ebay seller micro-modeller.

 

In later Modelcraft Lists, this design has the catalogue number GA 101.

 

Plan GA101, Modern Bungalow

Available June 1946 – 1955

Scale  ½” to 1 foot

Dimensions 21” w x 27” d x 7½” h

The description reads:

"Our plans are of a typical modern bungalow – severe in lines but very pleasing in appearance and simple to construct. The rooms comprise a lounge, two bedrooms, hall, kitchen and bathroom. Also there is a roof garden and a garage with a rolling shutter door. Designs for furniture are provided and a number of these are miniature replicas of modern tubular steel designs which can be most easily fashioned from cycle spokes. The height is 7 ½ in.; the floor area approximately 27 in. by 21. in. If cramped for space, this area can be reduced by omitting the garage. Our plans provide a garden layout as well as the bungalow, covering an area of 39 in. by 34 in.

Price, set of plans, 4 sheets 20 in. by 30 in., and instructions – 8/-."

 

A Modelcraft ad from December 1946. Photo  © Ian Jopson

 

Ian Jopson has an ad (above) from December 1946, which lists four dolls houses. Thus, the Tudor House, William and Mary House, and Georgian House plans must have been published between June and December 1946. 

GA102 A Tudor House

Available by December 1946 – 1955

Scale  ½” to 1 foot

Dimensions 26” w x 14” d x 16½” h

“Beauty and comfort seem to combine in a Tudor home. The timber framing, the panelling of bricks or lath and plaster – no mass production here and no standardisation, the natural curves of the hewn timbers precluded this. Instead, these curves were cunningly incorporated in the design to add to the strength and beauty of the structure. Our plan provides a lounge, a dining room and a kitchen, with large entrance hall and staircase, three bedrooms, a bathroom and a balcony accessible from the two main bedrooms. Height is 16½ in. and floor area 26 in. by 14 in. and our plans incorporate a garden layout giving a total area of 32 in. by 20 in.

Price, set of plans, 4 sheets 20 in. by 30 in., and instructions – 8/-"

 

GA103 William and Mary House

Available by December 1946 – 1955

Scale  ½” to 1 foot

Dimensions 25” w x 13” d x 18” h

“There is a welcome dignity and lack of ostentation about a William and Mary design. The particular features are the high and dominant roof with its white ridgeboards; the tiled walls of the upper floor and the overhang of the upper floor capping the ground floor walls with a graceful curve or flute. Our plans provide for a main or living room, a library and kitchen, with a hall leading through an archway to the staircase. There are three bedrooms and a bathroom. In the roof are four dormer windows which normally would have lighted two small bedrooms. These are not provided for, access being impracticable in the small area available in this model. The height is 18 in. and the floor area 25 in. by 13 in. Our plans incorporate a garden layout to an area of 20 in. by 30 in.

Price, set of plans, 4 sheets 20 in. by 30 in., and instructions – 8/-"

 

GA 104 A Georgian House

Available by December 1946 – 1955

Scale  ½” to 1 foot

Dimensions 25” w x 16” d x 16” h

“The Georgian period is often considered the finest in English domestic architecture. Beautiful proportions and simplicity suggest gracious living; severity was softened by the use of fine restrained ornamentation, mostly derived from the Greek classic period. Our plan is for a house with lounge, dining room, kitchen, and the large hall and sweeping staircase (which was a feature of the Georgian period) with four bedrooms and a bathroom. The walls are made to hinge for easy access. The area is 25 in. by 16 in. and the height is 16 in. A garden design in keeping with the period is supplied as are also suggestions for furnishing and interior decoration. Set of plans 8/-.”

 

Neither Ian Jopson nor I have seen any of the plans for these four dolls houses, so I don’t know the details of construction, or whether the designer was named.

While the first four dolls house designs were in 1/24th scale, the next three were in 1/16th scale, and incorporated Romside metal dolls house components. These designs appear in the Modelcraft List published in January 1949, and are introduced thus:

“Here is something new in the way of Dolls’ house plans which will give as much pleasure to the doting parent as to the lucky child for whom he builds it. There are three plans, BG106 builds the bungalow and GB107 turns the bungalow into a two-storey house. (Please note that the latter is an auxiliary plan and can only be used in conjunction with GB106.)

 

GB106 Bungalow Plan

Available 1949-1955

Scale ¾” to 1’

Floor size 28” w x 19” d
 
A Modelcraft photo (5 3/8" x 3½”) of a constructed model of GB 106, the Bungalow Doll's House, perhaps produced as a giveaway for publicity?

 

Ian Jopson has a copy of this plan and its instructions, and has shared photos of it. There does not appear to a designer’s name on it.  

 

Above: A sheet of the plans for Modelcraft GB106, the Bungalow Doll's House. Parts are drawn ⅓ actual size. Below: detail of the name of the plan. Photos  © Ian Jopson

 

 

Construction starts with the base, from which the fixed sections of the walls are built up:

 

Detail of construction of Modelcraft GB106 Bungalow Doll's House. Photo © Ian Jopson

 

GB107, Conversion Plan (converts the Bungalow into a two-storey house)

Available 1949-1955

Scale ¾” to 1’

Floor size 28” w x 19” d

 

GB108, Cottage Plan

Available 1949-1955

Scale ¾” to 1’

18½” w x 14½” d

“GB108 is a simple type of plan of a Doll’s Cottage and is an ideal subject for those who are new to the fascinating pastime, or are restricted by lack of space. The designs are clear and modern yet not hard to construct. All rooms are accessible by sliding panels – a real improvement on the old hinged walls, which always gave trouble, and all the little refinements which are always looked for in a Doll’s House.”  

 

The necessary Romside fittings were sold in parcels for each design, and could also be purchased separately from Modelcraft. 

 

Modelcraft Building Papers

As well as many designs in 4mm (00) scale, Modelcraft designed and produced building papers in ½ inch (1/24th ) scale for dolls’ houses and No 1 Gauge model railways.

 

A Modelcraft Lineside Kit including building papers in 4mm scale (00 gauge). Photo © Rebecca Green

 

The sheets of paper were 15” x 10” and cost 5d each. The designs available, from 1947-1955, were:

No 51 Brick, Red

No 52, Brick, Brown

No 53 Brick, Yellow

No 54 Tile, Slate / Grey

No 55 Tile, Red / Terracotta

No 56 Tile, Brown / Dun

Tudor Wallpapers, which could be “used as supplied, or backed with any desired diluted water colour wash giving an almost endless range of colour combinations”, were available in:

No 57 Green Key

No 58 Red Key

No 59 Black Key

 

Additionally, from 1950-1955, the Modelcraft List offered assorted ‘colourful patterned wallpapers”, in a variety of designs, also for 5d per sheet. They were printer’s surpluses, so stocks were not guaranteed, and the designs were not listed in the catalogue.

Modelcraft Furniture Designs

Period Furniture designs were issued during 1948. All the plans were in ½ inch to one foot (or 1/24th) scale, and they were drawn isometrically, which a dictionary tells me means that “a three-dimensional object is represented by a drawing having the horizontal edges of the object drawn usually at a 30° angle and all verticals projected perpendicularly from a horizontal base, all lines being drawn to scale”.  Modelcraft explained that “not only is a good picture of each piece given, but actual working measurements can be taken”. Each set of designs is contained on one large sheet 20” by 30”.

Ian Jopson has three of these designs, and was kind enough to send me copies when I contacted him some years ago. I can thus show the Elizabethan, Queen Anne and Georgian designs. It seems to me that one would need to be a skilled modelmaker and woodworker to create furniture from these drawings, especially at this scale, and I wonder how many sets or pieces of furniture were made from them.

These sheets do show the name of the artist who drew them for Modelcraft, Wendy Vaughan. I think it is likely that this Wendy Vaughan was born in London in 1927, the granddaughter of a furniture manufacturer. She and her mother were living in Streatham Hill, in London, in the late 1940s and early 1950s. After a brief marriage to a man called Linney, Wendy Vaughan married Reginald Rideout, and spent most of the rest of her life in Canada. Her 2006 obituary states that she was a former interior designer, model, and freelance journalist.

Tudor Rose design from Modelcraft Plan GB101

The first set of furniture designs was GB101, Elizabethan Style Furniture from 1558-1600, issued in the first quarter of 1948.

Above, Elizabethan bedstead, and below, Elizabethan chest, from Modelcraft Plan GB101.

 

Above, Elizabethan Court Cupboard; below, Elizabethan Cupboard, from Modelcraft Plan GB101

Above, Elizabethan table; below, Elizabethan arm chair, from Modelcraft Plan GB101

Above and below, Elizabethan Sideboard, from Modelcraft Plan GB101

 

Above, Elizabethan Settle; below, Henry VIII chair, from Modelcraft Plan GB101

Above, Elizabethan stool; below, Elizabethan cartouche and details of staircase decoration, from Modelcraft Plan GB101

 

The next set, GB102 Queen Anne style furniture from 1702-1714, appeared in the second quarter of 1948.

 

Above and below, Queen Anne bedstead, from Modelcraft Plan GB 102. "The canopy is surmouted with plumes & feathers - hangings are of heavy brocade."

 

Above, Queen Anne Talboy, from Modelcraft Plan GB102. "Walnut talboy with early cabriole legs and canted corners & made in two sections."

 

Above, Queen Anne dressing table; below, Queen Anne walnut bureau cabinet "consists of chest of drawers & cabinet above the sloping top of the bureau section", from Modelcraft Plan GB102.

 

 

Above, Queen Anne bureau, from Modelcraft Plan GB102. 

 

Above, Queen Anne card table, from Modelcraft Plan GB102.

 

Left, Queen Anne walnut settee "with urn shaped splats in the back & cabriole legs terminating with claw & ball feet". Right, Queen Anne walnut arm-chair with solid vase shape splat back - curved arms continuous with the supports - cabriole legs with hoof feet - stuffed seat with embroidered canvas cover." From Modelcraft Plan GB102.

 

Above, Queen Anne settee measurements; below, Queen Anne arm chair measurements. From Modelcraft Plan GB102.

 

Above, detail of legs and carved knee with scallop shell; below, details of claw & ball, club and paw feet. From Modelcraft Plan GB102.

 

Above, Queen Anne walnut chair "with cabriole legs & claw & ball feet. Note the rounded back & urn shaped splat, also the omission of the lower stretchers". Below, Queen Anne walnut upholstered stool.  From Modelcraft Plan GB102.

 

 

Above left, Queen Anne clock "in case decorated with marquetry & with a square face";  above right, Queen Anne walnut mirror "decorated with gilt carving & gesso". From Modelcraft Plan GB102.

 

Queen Anne writing desk, from Modelcraft Plan GB102.

 

The third set, GB103 Georgian style furniture, from 1760-1820, “a rich period in furniture design”, appeared in the third quarter of 1948.  

 

Georgian style frieze & strip ornaments, from Modelcraft Plan GB103.

 

Above and below, Georgian style Chippendale bedstead, from Modelcraft Plan GB103.

 

Above, Georgian style Hepplewhite chest of drawers; below, Georgian bureau bookcase, from Modelcraft Plan GB103. 

 

 

Above, Georgian style pedestal desk. 

 

Above, Georgian Adam style side table, from Modelcraft Plan GB103. 

 

 Above, Georgian Sheraton style side table, from Modelcraft Plan GB103.

 

 

Above, Georgian style sofa table, from Modelcraft Plan GB103.

 

 Georgian style Hepplewhite chair, from Modelcraft Plan GB103.

 

Above, Georgian style Chippendale chair, from Modelcraft Plan GB103.

 

 Above left, Georgian style Chippendale arm chair; above right, Georgian style candlestand. Below, Georgian style Chippendale arm chair measurements. From Modelcraft Plan GB103.

 

 

Above, Georgian style stool; below, Georgian style fireplace, from Modelcraft Plan GB103.

 

 

Above left, Georgian style long case clock; above right, Georgian style wall mirror, from Modelcraft Plan GB103.

 

Above, Georgian style ironwork balustrade; below, detail of Georgian style ornament design, from Modelcraft Plan GB103.

 

The final two sets are included in the January 1949 Modelcraft List – GB104 Modern, and GB105 American (18th Century). Neither Ian nor I have seen these designs, and I don’t know whether the modern furniture plans are the same ones which were included in the Modern Bungalow plans, or whether they were new.

Model Cardboard Houses

As I mentioned above, in addition to the Modelcraft books by Edward Beal on architectural scale model making, Modelcraft Magazine published occasional articles about making model houses from cardboard and paper.

 

"Home Lea" model cottage by Edward Beal, as shown in Modelcraft Magazine, March 1949 (Vol 2 No 9). The scale is not stated, but the chimney pots are made of used cartridges.

 

'Building a Model Cottage' by John H. Ahern, in the May 1947 issue of Modelcraft Magazine (Vol 1, No 2), gives plans to make this 4mm scale cottage from cardboard and building papers. The walls of the house are formed from one piece of cardboard, which is cut, folded and glued.

 

Model cottage by John H Ahern, as shown in  Modelcraft Magazine May 1947 (Vol 1, No 2).

 

The plan as printed in the magazine has been scaled down from 4mm scale, so would be even more suitable as a dolls house dolls house - the front of the house is one inch wide!

 

If anyone has any of these Modelcraft dolls house or dolls house furniture designs, or recognises a house or furniture as having been made from them, we would love to know!

 

Many thanks to Ian Jopson for sharing his Modelcraft resources. 

Copyright: We have been unable to determine who currently holds the copyright to Modelcraft Ltd dolls house plans and dolls house furniture designs. We would be grateful for any information on this.

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