Dolls' Houses Past & Present

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Hobbies of Dereham - Dolls Houses and Wallpapers 1946-1968 by Rebecca Green

In the last two issues of this magazine, I wrote about Hobbies Ltd of Dereham, showing firstly the dolls houses and wallpapers, and then the dolls house furniture and fittings, up to 1945. In this article, I will show the dolls house designs and wallpapers from 1946-1968.


As we have seen in the earlier articles, publication of the Hobbies Handbook and Weeklies continued during World War II, although the Handbook was greatly reduced in size, reflecting the shortage of materials for civilian usage at that time. It was not until the 1950 edition that it began to grow bigger again, and, of particular interest to us, this was the first year that more than one dolls house design was available, and dolls house papers were reintroduced.

18 new dolls house models were introduced in the period up until 1968, as well as some farms, shops and an inn. (I have copies of most of the Hobbies Handbooks for 1946-1968, so any designs I have missed would have been available for only a single year, or published only in a Hobbies Weekly.) The Hobbies design office during at least part of this time was run by Cecil Mackerel and Norman Lambert (Robert Stroulger, pc).

Hobbies also published many new designs for modern furniture, other toys, and some novelties. However, few new decorative fretwork designs appeared, and none of these were really modern in style. The fretwork machines available were basically the same models, with the same decorative features, as those available before the war. Fretwork, which had once been central to Hobbies, came to seem old-fashioned and dwindled in importance. Other sources of income were lost, too - Hobbies had continued to supply manufacturers of defence weapons after the war, but lost significant customers as they became less profitable due to changes in government policy.


A history of Hobbies Ltd, The Hobbies Story, by the late Terry Davy, tells how the firm experienced what many others were going through in the 1960s and 70s – Hobbies was taken over by another company in 1964. This was followed, or accompanied by, dwindling readership of the Hobbies Weekly, which ceased publication at the end of 1965. The new owners introduced merchandise from other companies they were associated with into the Handbook, a move which was not successful, and finally, a meeting of the company at end of 1968 voted for voluntary liquidation.


Hobbies 1967 Annual came with a Gift Supplement


This was not the end of the Hobbies story or the Hobbies firm. One of the employees made redundant in 1968 started his own business making kits for dolls houses and other models, and 10 years later, was assigned the Hobbies name, trademark, patents and copyright. This period will be covered in a future issue of the magazine.

Some Hobbies designs were given further life by another company, with a very similar name. W. Hobby Ltd published (and continues to publish) the Hobby’s Annuals. This company had started life as Swisscross, selling musical movements (for jewellery boxes and other novelty musical boxes) by mail order. Their range expanded to include other hobbies, particularly woodworking, and in 1970, they published the first Hobby’s Annual. Among their range were original dolls house designs, and we will look at these in a future article.

However, perhaps as a result of the liquidation and selling-off of the assets of Hobbies Ltd, some Hobbies’ designs from the 1950s and 60s were sold by Hobby’s in the 1970s - and in fact, they are still available on the Hobby’s website today. I will point these designs out as we come to them - they are the Chalet doll’s house FDW 105, No 254 (renamed by Hobby’s as Rose Lawn doll’s house), No 2944 doll’s shop, and the No 237 Special Large Tudor doll’s house, slightly redesigned by Hobby’s as Tudor Doll’s House.

Dolls Houses 1946-1968

The half-size 186 Special dolls house and the Model Farmhouse No 2486, available in the last years of the war, were the only model houses available in the 1946 Handbook. The 2486 Model Farmhouse was available until 1954, but the 1/24th scale 186 Special was only available until 1947.

The first new post-war dolls house was the No 2666, published on 20 Nov 1946. It appeared in the Handbooks for 1948-1951, and again from 1954-1956. Inside were four rooms around a central staircase; each room had a chimney breast and fireplace. Although dolls house papers were not shown in the Handbook when this design was first published, a kit of parts could be ordered, which included papers for the interior and exterior walls, the roof and the floors.


No 2666 Available 1946-1951, 1954-1956.

Size: 20" wide x 18½" high x 10 3/8" deep


The next new design was the No 237 Special Large Tudor Dolls House, probably the best known of all of Hobbies' dolls house designs, and the first to use Romside dolls house components. It appeared during 1948, and was available right through until 1968. It was one of several dolls houses sold by Hobby’s in the 1970s, in a slightly modified form, and indeed is still available on the Hobby’s website as the Tudor Doll’s House.


No 237 Special Large Tudor Doll's House. Available 1948-1968.

Size: 24" wide x 24" high x 16" deep.


A design for a Dolls Garage, for use with the 237 Special Dolls House, was published on 3rd November 1948.


No 2766 Doll's Garage. Available Nov 1948-1955.

Size: 7½" wide x 10" deep


A simple dolls house design was published just before Christmas 1948, in the Weekly of 1st December. It was intended to be made from a wooden grocer's box, but of course could have been adapted for any available box. It included instructions for stairs, bannisters and fireplaces. It was not republished. 

Simple Doll's House. Published 1 December 1948.

Size: about 12" wide x 19" high x 11" deep.


During 1949, articles were published in the Hobbies Weekly on dolls house surrounds (16th March) and dolls house stairs (27th April). 

Example of walls, fences, hedges and gate for doll's house surrounds. 16 March 1949


Examples of stairs and bannisters. 27 April 1949.



The following month, on 4th May 1949, the design for No 2792 Dolls Bungalow appeared. It was available until 1966. The interior, which was accessed either through opening front and rear walls, or through a lift-up or removable roof, contained four rooms and a hallway. The plan provided for a short, narrow hall between two front rooms (living-room and bedroom or lounge), with a bedroom and larger kitchen at the back, but of course, this could be varied by the maker and child playing with it. See the album Kim's Bungalow for a front and rear-opening example of this model, and Little House's album 'Bungalow - Hobbies' for an example of one with a removable roof.


No 2792 Doll's Bungalow. Available 1949-1966.

Size of base: 24" wide x 18" deep. House 21" w x 14½" d x 13" h.


The next design to appear was the No 244 Special Georgian Dolls House, which appeared in the 1951 Handbook. This indicates that it was published either in the second half of 1949 (after the 1950 Handbook appeared in mid-late 1949) or the first half of 1950. It was still listed in the designs available in the handbook until 1955, although strangely it was not illustrated.  See Rosemary's album Haunted House for an example of this model.


No 244 Special Georgian Doll's House. Available 1951-1955.

Size: 27" wide x 21" deep x 25" high


No 244 Special: Interior construction.

A Modern Dolls House, No 2910, came out in the weekly of 8th August 1951, and remained in the catalogue right through until 1968. Inside are four rooms with a central hall, staircase and landing. See Johnny's album Little Dolls House for an example of this model.


No 2910 Modern Doll's House. Available 1951-1968.

Size: 18½" wide x  11" deep x 16½" high



Late 1951 and early 1952 saw the publication of a Model Galleried Inn, an Old Curiosity Shop, a Village Smithy, a Bow-fronted Shop, a toy Grocer’s Shop, and a doll’s shop. I have not yet seen all these, but show here the ones I have:


Model Galleried Inn, published 31 October 1951. Above, sketch; below, completed model.



Model Shop, "H. F. Radley, Grocer". Published 13 February 1952.

Size: 19" wide.


This doll's shop was designed as a butcher's, with the joints of meat to be cut from waste ¼” wood, shaped, and painted. It was only available for a few years in the Hobbies Handbooks, but in the 1970s, it was included in the Hobby's Annuals, as Shop Plan with 3 labels (for Village Stores, Sweet Shop and Post Office). It is still available on the Hobby's website as Toy Shop.

No 2944 Doll's Shop, "A. Billins, Butcher." Available 2 April 1952 - 1954. 

Size: 15" wide x 10½" deep x 13½" high


In the 1954 Handbook (published in late 1953), a new model farm, No 249 Special, appeared. It looks very much like an updated version of the No 195 Special Model Farm from the 1930s. The Model Farmhouse No 2486, which has been introduced in the 1944 Handbook, was still shown in the 1954 Handbook, but not after that. The new No 249 Special Farm was available right through until 1968.

No 249 Special Model Farm. Available 1954-1968

Size of baseboard: 24" x 18" (not including the detachable ramps)


A new, low-priced doll's house appeared during 1956, as No 254 Special. It was to be made from hardboard. On the ground floor, there was one large room, plus a hall and kitchen, and on the upper floor a large bedroom and a bathroom. There were no stairs, which I find a little surprising - the design used Romside windows and doors, and the Romside metal staircase was certainly available in the Handbook. The cost of the kit to build this house was 39/11 in 1957; the design and instructions alone were 2/6.

This model was available through Hobbies Handbooks / Annuals right through until 1968. It then appeared in Hobby's Annuals in the 1970s, under the new and more attractive name of the Rose Lawn Doll's House. It is still available on the Hobby's website under that name.


No 254 Special Low-Priced Doll's House. Available 1956-1968.

Size: 18" wide x 11½" deep x 20" high 


Another farm appeared in a weekly during 1959, and was then available through the Hobbies Annuals until 1963. It is described as a Toy Farm and a Small Model Farm. It may not have been very popular - the 1963 Handbook introduced another large farm, the Poplar. 


No 3334 Small Model Farm. Available 1959-1963.

Size of Farmhouse alone: 11" wide.


Instructions for making a small model bungalow were published in the Hobbies Weekly of 11 January 1961, but it did not appear in any Annuals.


Doll's Bungalow, published 11 January 1961.

Size of base: 13" wide x 14" deep. Height: about 12½", not including chimney or aerial.



Ready To Assemble (RTA) kits were introduced in the 1960 Hobbies Annual, and the first RTA dolls houses, RTA 6 'Royal' Doll's House and RTA 7 'Celebrity' Doll's House, probably appeared in the 1961 Annual. As I don't yet have the Annual for 1961, I'm not certain, but the way RTA 6 and 7 are presented in the 1962 Annual suggests to me that they were not new.

RTA 6 'Royal Doll's House' is described as "a very superior doll's house, combining elegance and modern styling with strength of construction." It had four rooms with a central hall, stairway and landing. The rooms on the ground floor were intended as a modern lounge with a large picture window, and a kitchen/dining room measuring 10" square. Upstairs were two bedrooms, with a small bathroom at the back of the landing. Access was by opening backs.


RTA 6 Royal Doll's House. Available 1961-1968.

Size: 26" wide x 12" deep x 19" high.



RTA 7 'Celebrity' Doll's House was a modern bungalow design, incorporating gardens, a car port and driveway, a sun trap and a service area. Inside were five main rooms, including a lounge with dining recess. Access was through the lift-off roof.


RTA 7 'Celebrity' Doll's House. Available 1961-1968.

Size of baseboard: 36" x 24".




Next came the No 264 Special 'Continental' Doll's House, also available as RTA 10. This appeared in the 1963 Annual, and was only available until 1966. Two members have bought or seen examples of this model recently - see Louise's album My Hobbies House and Patty Worsdale's album My trip to the market - Hobbies 264 Special.


No 264 Special (RTA 10) Continental Doll's House.

Available 1963-1966

Size: 24" wide x 18" deep x 20" high.



The Poplar Farm, RTA 11, also appeared in the 1963 Annual, and was then available until 1968 (although omitted from the 1967 Annual).


RTA 11 Poplar Farm. Available 1963-1966 and 1968.

Size of baseboard: 24" x 18"



RTA 12 'Lindy' Play House was designed in larger scale to fit Combex plastic dolls house furniture, sold separately by Hobbies in sets for the bedroom, drawing room, dining room, kitchen and garden (the bathroom set was added in the 1965 Annual).


RTA 12 "Lindy' Play House. Available 1963-1968

                   Size: 15" wide (when closed) x 9½" deep x 33" high



 By 1967, however, the Combex furniture was no longer available, and the Lindy is shown furnished with a mixture of Dol-toi, Jenny's Home and German furnishings listed separately in the Annual. 















In complete contrast to these houses of dreams, whether royal, celebrity or continental, the Hobbies Weekly of 11 December 1963 published instructions for a shoe-box doll's house, by S. H. Longbottom.The article suggested a "novel idea" for making rugs - weaving coloured paper! Hardly novel, as instructions and complex diagrams for weaving paper rugs for dolls houses had appeared on the children's pages of newspapers at least 60 years earlier. It was one of our craft activities when I was at school, too - a little after the date of this Weekly! - perhaps it had been forgotten in between times?


Shoe Box Doll's House, Hobbies Weekly, 11 December 1963


The 1964 Hobbies Annual introduced another dream house, RTA 14 (or No 266 Special) Dreamholme Doll's House.This was described as "a doll's house par excellence", "marking a stupendous advance in doll's house designing". The windows and doors were imported from Germany, and sold by Hobbies under the name 'Hobbiholme'.


RTA 14 (266 Special) Dreamholme Doll's House. Available 1964-1968. Size of baseboard: 36" wide x 24" deep. Height to top of chimney: 18"



The Hobbies Annuals from 1964-1968 included dolls houses made by other companies. I will not show here the Carlisle dolls house from Kay of London (available 1965-1968), nor the Elizabethan dolls house by Playcraft (available in 1967), but I will include the Romside Doll's House Kit 'The Gables', which was listed in the 1964 Annual only. I had not realised that Romside made dolls house kits, and as many Hobbies dolls house designs incorporate Romside components, I would have guessed that it was another Hobbies model.


Romside Doll's House Kit 'The Gables', from the 1964 Hobbies Annual. Size of base: 24" wide x 13" deep. Height: 20".


1966 brought two new models, the No 269 Special Twinplay Motel and the RTA 22 Mary Poppins Play House. The Twinplay Motel was designed to appeal to boys and girls. Although large overall, the rooms were only 6½" high.


No 269 Special Twinplay Model Motel. Available 1966-1968.

Overall size: 28½" wide x 18" deep x 26½" high 


RTA 22, the Mary Poppins Play House, was a film tie-in, with the description "as featured in the Walt Disney film. All children will want this authentic reproduction associated with so many charming characters." The back was open; inside were six large rooms.


RTA 22 Mary Poppins Play House. Available 1966-1967.

Size: 19" wide x 11" deep x 25" high


There were two new - or slightly revised - models in 1967. The Junior Playhouse was a smaller version of the Lindy (still available), , while the Doll's Bungalow was a more modern small bungalow, replacing the No 2792 Doll's Bungalow published in 1949. 

The Junior Playhouse was available as a kit of materials for making the model; it was cheaper than the Lindy, as it was not ready to assemble. Like the Lindy, it had two fronts that slid open, but it had only two rooms instead of the Lindy's three.


Junior Playhouse (FDW 103). Available 1967-1968.

Size: 13" wide x 22" high


Like the 1949 model, the Doll's Bungalow had four rooms plus an entrance hall, with the plan providing for a lounge, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom or second bedroom. As I haven't seen a photo or plan of the interior, I do not know how the rooms were laid out. Access was by removing the lift-off roof. Note the yellow plastic shutters with heart-shaped cut-outs, and the yellow-framed 'Easifit' metal windows and doors.


Doll's Bungalow (FDW 3643). Available 1967-68. Size of base: 24" x 18"


The last doll's house design issued by Hobbies Ltd before their liquidation was the Chalet Doll's House, by C. J. E. Mackrell.  It was described as "a popular type of modern home", with large picture windows for a clear view of all rooms, and attic bedrooms for extra play value. The front, back and roof all opened, and the plan provided for a lounge, dining alcove, kitchen, bathroom, two bedrooms, and stairs to two attic rooms.


Chalet Doll's House (FDW 105). Available 1968. Size of base: 24" x 18"



Although this design appeared in only one Hobbies Annual, it was sold by Hobby's from the 1970s, and is still available, with different windows and doors, on the Hobby's website today as the Chalet Dolls House.

Wallpapers 1946-1968

"Doll's house papers play an important part in the tasteful decoration of Hobbies" doll's houses. They can also help us date them - here a No 237 Special (shown in the 1963 Hobbies Annual) is decorated with papers available in the early 1960s.


Although dolls house papers were included when one purchased a dolls house kit from the 1948 and 1949 Hobbies Handbooks, they were not listed for sale separately until the 1950 Handbook. In that first year, only five papers were available, three for the exterior and two for the interior.

Doll's House Paper in the 1950 Hobbies Handbook


Brick Paper

Bright red brick paper was available from 1950-1968.

Natural brick paper was introduced in 1954 and available until 1968.

Until 1966, the same illustration was used for both. In 1967 and 1968, they were illustrated separately; the image used for Natural Brick looks more like the line drawing used first for Red Brick, and then for both, than does the Red Brick image.

1967-68 Brick Papers. Left, Red Brick. Right, Natural Brick.


Tile Roof Paper

From 1950-1953, the colour of the tile roof paper was not specified.

From 1954-1968, both red and green tile papers were available.


Grey Slate Roof Paper


Available 1950-1968


Lino Paper

Available 1950-1953

The lino floor paper, which had been available before the war too, was replaced in 1954 by parquet floor paper in a herringbone pattern.


Parquet Floor Paper - Oak Colour


Available 1954-1968


Interior Fancy Paper in Red and Gold

The only interior paper listed in the 1950 Hobbies Handbook was not illustrated that year, but was shown in the 1951 Handbook, when it was also available in Cream and Gold.

Red and Gold interior paper, available 1950-1953.

Cream and gold available 1951-1953


The same design in green and gold has been found in Hobbies houses dating from the early 1950s. An excellent example is Rosemary's No 244 Special Georgian dolls house, where these papers are used to great effect.


Red and gold, and green and gold, interior wallpapers in a No 244 Special Georgian dolls house. Photos © Rosemary



Cream Embossed Inside Paper

One other wallpaper was added in the 1951 Hobbies Handbook, an embossed cream pattern for interior walls.

Available 1951-1953


The 1954 Hobbies Handbook  introduced a new interior wallpaper design, as well as ceiling paper and fort paper.


Ceiling Paper

Available 1954-1968. It was not illustrated or described until 1967, when the listing states "White Ceiling Paper. A dual purpose paper with smooth side suitable for ceilings and rough side suitable for rough cast." As a separate rough cast paper was available before this, presumably the ceiling paper was white and smooth.


Fort Paper

Available 1954-1968


Inside Papers - Pink, Blue or Green Pastel Colours


Available 1954-1957

This delicate design of netting and foliage is well illustrated in Johnny's Little Dolls House:


Hobbies interior papers in blue and pink pastels © Johnny Clarke


In 1955, two new papers appeared - rough cast paper and flock paper, as well as transparent material that could be used for windows.


Rough Cast Paper

Rough cast paper, richly embossed to give a stucco effect. Available 1955-1966 in this form, and from 1967-68 as a dual purpose paper, rough cast on one side and smooth (for ceiling paper) on the other.


Flock Paper


Available 1955-1968 in green for grass and red for carpets.


Transparent Material


Available 1955-1966


From 1956, all the dolls house papers were numbered. A second interior wallpaper design was introduced in 1956 - for two years, it was available with the pastel netting design shown above. 


Inside Paper - Floral Design

 Floral Design No 151 Blue, No 152 Cream, No 153 Pink.

Available 1956-1966

Photo on right © Louise W showing bathroom of her 1960s Hobbies 'Continental'.


In the 1959 Hobbies Annual, the pastel interior paper with the netting and foliage design has been replaced with another design, also just called 'Inside Papers - Pastel Colours'. This was a diagonal plaid design in blue, green and pink. (It may have been introduced in 1958 - as I don't yet have that Annual, I am not sure.)


Diagonal plaid design. No 155 Blue, No 156 Green, No 157 Pink. Available 1959


Four interior wallpapers were available in the 1960 Hobbies Annual. As well as the floral design (Nos 151-153), there were three new ones.

No 149 Smart design of yellow and black wavy stripes.

Available 1960-1962.

Above right, No 149 as found by Rosemary while removing layers of decoration from a Lines No 10. © Rosemary


No 148 Striking blue and white stripe. Available 1960-1966

No 150 Dainty pink floral and foliage design for bedrooms etc. Available 1960-1962


Embossed stone paper appeared in the 1962 Annual. It was available until 1968.


More new papers were introduced in the 1963 Annual. They included new outside and floor papers, as well as new interior wallpapers.

No 148, the blue and white stripe, and Nos 151-153, the floral papers, were still available. In addition, dolls house walls could be adorned with these strikingly modern papers:

No 155 Gold on Pale Yellow background. Available 1963-1966

Above right, No 155 in Louise W's 'Continental' dolls house. © Louise W 


No 156 Attractive 'dot' pattern on pale blue background. Available 1963.


Three new tile papers appeared in the 1963 Annual, for both inside and outside use. Similar blue and white and black and white papers had been available in the 1920s and 30s, but Hobbies had not sold them after the war until the 1960s.

No 158 Blue and white tile paper for bathroom or kitchen. Available 1963-1967


No 160 Black and white tiles for bathroom or kitchen floors. Available 1963-1968

No 161 Mosaic tile, particularly suitable for outdoor effects. Available 1963-1968


A fourth tile paper was introduced in the 1964 Annual.


No 162 Multi-colour tile, most attractive for entrance halls and outdoor paving. Available 1964-1968


Also in the 1964 Annual, the "attractive 'dot' pattern on pale blue background" was replaced with a "dainty pink paper, ideal for bedrooms". Perhaps the abstract design in (I think) black on blue had not been popular! (Note that this was given the same number, No 150, as an earlier 'dainty pink' floral/foliage design, available 1960-1962, but the patterns are different.)

No 150 Dainty pink foliage design. Available 1964-1966


Four new wallpapers were introduced in the 1967 Annual, and available also in the 1968 Annual.


Country scenes in maroon on white. Available 1967-1968


Pink with small white dot.  Available 1967-1968


Pale grey background with neat white pattern. Available 1967-1968


 Pale blue with white and gold flecks. Available 1967-1968


Doll's house papers available in the final Hobbies Annual from 1968

Many thanks to Robert Stroulger, former joint managing director of Hobbies, for the information he provided on the history of Hobbies, particularly post-1968, and for clarifying the copyright and ownership of Hobbies designs. Thanks to the present director of Hobbies, Andrew Meek, for permission to publish images from the Hobbies catalogues.

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