Dolls' Houses Past & Present

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

World War 1 Miniature Hospital Set and other treasures by Jan Jones

I had the chance to buy this set when the original owner was moving to a smaller unit! She was born on 11th December 1913 (11/12/13) and had had these pieces since a small child. A fiercely independent lady, she has recently celebrated her 102th birthday, so these pieces are close to 100 years old. All her life she has loved miniatures and her father (or grandfather) built her an enormous dollshouse which she treasured for over 40 years. When she and her husband migrated to Tasmania (a £10 Pom as we Australians called the English government-sponsored migrants of the 1950’s) she had to leave her treasured house behind. She was not sure what happened to her very large dollshouse but she thought it went to someone connected to Harrods. It was filled with many treasures that she had made and collected over the years. Recalling her memories of her large house still made her eyes dance!

The metal bed, screens and table may have been home made, but she thought they had been bought for her just after World War I. Given that her 5th birthday would have been just one month after the end of World War I, it is easy to imagine it as a birthday present for a little girl who loved dolls houses. The bed is just over 6 inches long for the mattress but the bending of the wire for the legs and head make it a little long for 1/12th scale. The red fabric has been hand stitched onto the hinged screens and the glass top to the side table has been roughly cut (or that could be a replacement top). The beaded plant is one of two that came with the set, whilst the glass candle stick would have been useful on the bedside table.

 

Amongst the treasures that the lady added to the hospital bed set was a souvenir book from Queen Mary’s Dollshouse, published in April 1924. It was compiled from the larger work called The Book of the Queen’s Dolls’ House. At that time, it cost Sixpence for admission to the Dollshouse! In describing the setting for the Dolls’ House within Windsor Castle, it is mentioned that around the walls a shelf held miniature houses in the same style and to the same scale as the Dolls’ House proper. Now I have visited Queen Mary’s Dollshouse on 3 different occasions and I have no recollection of these other houses. Are they still there and I was totally distracted by the magnificence of the huge dollshouse, or have they been moved? If they are no longer there, where are they?

 

Paper umbrellas and beaded plants in hand made pots.

There were other tiny treasures added to the pile as we chatted, including a number of old Japanese paper umbrellas in remarkably good condition (similar to the cocktail umbrellas of today), and little ‘charms’ – described on Ebay as "Vintage Japanese Kobe Kobi Charms, celluloid, or bakelite, pop out eyes cracker prizes", which have expanded the small collection of these charms that once belonged to my mother. 

 

Japanese vintage Kobe Kobi charms, some were my mother’s, and some came with this collection.

 

Old mud figures.

 

 Antique treen, pottery etc ...

 

collected through the life of the old house!

 

Probably the most remarkable of the treasures, was the box it was all kept in, and which I was given to carry the miniatures. It is a very solid brown cardboard box labelled: W.A. TURNER SOLE MAKER NOTED STOWMARKET SAUSAGES Made from Prime Selected Pigs, Fed on Suffolk Farms. “The Garden Factory” STOWMARKET Tel. 84 Established half a Century”. Blue hand writing identifies the contents as “D.H. house/contents”.

Now wouldn’t that look good in a miniature butcher’s shop, or on the platform of the local railway station…..

IF only these treasures could tell their story over the years!

 

Jan Jones, Tasmania, Australia

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