Dolls' Houses Past & Present

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

Request for Help from Marion Osborne

Would you like to contribute to Marion Osborne’s next book? As her book on Triang furniture is completed (see the For Sale Books and Mags page for how to buy it), Marion is starting on her next book, about G & J Lines.

As you can read in Wendy Stephen's article G. & J. Lines and Lines Bros. (Triang) in the very first issue of our online magazine, brothers George and Joseph Lines started G & J Lines in the 1870s, and the company continued until the end of 1931. Lines Bros Triang was formed by three of Joseph's sons, Walter, Arthur and George, in 1919, and the two companies merged after Joseph's death.

Marion has already covered dolls houses made by Lines Bros Tri-ang in The Book of Tri-ang Dolls' Houses 1919 to 1971. Now, she would like photos of dolls houses made by G & J Lines.


G & J Lines 3 storey dolls house © Cynthia Noakes


Our Lines, G & J category, in the Photo Gallery, shows photos of some G & J Lines houses, and our Database of Tri-ang & Lines Houses includes G & J Lines houses as well as Lines Bros Triang houses.


G & J Lines No 13 © ilenalana                 G & J Lines "Kit's Coty" © Rosemary


Models such as the “Kits Coty” house, with their balusters and balconies, decorative moulded corbels and cornices, gold paint detailing and green paper window blinds, encapsulate the typical “Lines’ dolls house" for many of us. However, G & J Lines made other types of dolls house too.


G & J Lines (No 12?) dolls house ca 1900 © Valerie Towers

Many of us looked at this house of Valerie’s and said “Silber and Fleming!” Marion, however, has a G & J Lines catalogue showing a house with exactly the same features. (I have also seen it in a catalogue from the London department store Oppenheimer’s & Co.)


G & J Lines dolls house No 12, left, from Lines' catalogues of 1898 and 1902/3; right, from an 1899 catalogue from Oppenheimer's & Co London department store.


It is a type of dolls house known as a box back – a dolls house where the body is just a box shape, while the front of the house may have a flat or triangular pediment rising above the box, and bay windows, etc, or the front may just be flat and the same size as the box.


Queen Victoria’s dolls house. Photo by York & Son, London.  


The dolls house that Queen Victoria played with as a girl in the 1820s and '30s is a box back, maker unknown.  

G & J Lines made box back designs until at least 1910. Their 1909-10 catalogue shows four of varying sizes, from No 00 at just 14 ½ inches high by 9 ½ inches wide, to another No 12, 43 inches high x 33 inches wide, with 6 rooms on 3 floors, and a staircase or a lift. The same design was available with a gable roof, in which a water tank could be hidden, to supply a two-tap bath.  


Dolls house No 00, above, and No 4, below, from G & J Lines 1909/10 catalogue. Courtesy Marion Osborne



Dolls house No 9, above, and No 12, below, from G & J Lines 1909/10 catalogue. Courtesy Marion Osborne 



Other companies also made or sold box back houses, including the Star Manufacturing Company (Swan trademark), as featured in this issue; the Silber & Fleming department store, C E Turnbull & Co, Wisbey, etc.


Star Manufacturing Co "Swan" brand dolls house in their 1912 and 1916 catalogues. No 4270 style, C size (7 sizes were available). Courtesy Marion Osborne.  


Star Manufacturing Co "Swan" brand dolls house in their 1912 catalogue. No 4274 style, C size (2 sizes were available). Courtesy Marion Osborne.  


Dolls house by C. E. Turnbull & Co, from an 1895 ad. Courtesy Marion Osborne


Dolls house made by James Wisbey & Co, from a 1916 ad. Courtesy Marion Osborne


In many cases, it’s hard to say who made a particular box back dolls house, as we don’t have many catalogues for the makers we know about, and there are probably others we don’t yet know of.

The designation “Silber & Fleming type” has arisen as dolls houses are pictured in some of their catalogues, and those models, when found, have been identified as "Silber & Fleming".  However, not all the dolls houses which Silber & Fleming sold were box backs, as these catalogue images show.


Dolls houses from Silber & Fleming catalogues of 1872 and 1889, as shown in International Dolls House News, Vol 15 No 4, Winter 1986, p 13, courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum.


Silber & Fleming did not make the dolls houses they sold, and so far, we do not know who did. Silber & Fleming were importers, and may have imported dolls houses from Germany. Alternatively, or additionally, they may have bought dolls houses from local makers in England, perhaps even including some of the makers whose names we know from their own catalogues.


I have recently created a photo category in our Photo Gallery for Box Backs (Unknown). We also have categories for Turnbull, C E and for Silber & Fleming.


Other makers also produced dolls houses looking very like the typical G & J Lines model. Alfred Davies, for example, advertised this house in 1914; compare it with G & J Lines No 17 Country Villa:



Ad for Alfred Davies & Co, High-Class Wood Toys, in The Toy and Fancy Goods Trader, October 1914. Courtesy Marion Osborne.


G & J Lines No 17 'Country Villa', ca 1906-1910. Photo © Rebecca Green


Marion would like to put the early years of G & J Lines' dolls houses in context, by including in her book photos and information on box backs from other makers. She plans to organise them by their features, putting all those with a metal balcony together, and so on.

She would be very grateful for photographs of any dolls houses you have that you know are, or think may be, made by G & J Lines, as well as any that could be called “box back” or “Silber and Fleming type”, whoever made them. Please email photos to Marion Osborne at

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