My 1940's House
by Wendy Stephen
My main interest for awhile now has been with Antique Dolls Houses and Miniatures, however this can be extremely costly. Just of late I have developed a particular interest in Dolls Houses showing different living styles from different eras. My partner has a fascination with World War II and having watched numerous documentaries on this topic it has influenced my latest project: a 1940's Dolls House set in wartime.
My mother and stepfather were both evacuees in the war, my mother resided in Battersea, London (near the power station) and my stepfather in Stepney, London. They have told me of their experiences and recounted the fears and uncertainty they felt when they had to leave on the train to travel to a countryside location, they didn't know where their new temporary home would be. They left on the train at the age of 7 years old waving goodbye to their mothers. They had their gas masks and suitcases, they didn't know if they would ever see their parents or homes again. They were taken to respective village halls where local residents would come and choose a child they would like to home. Many of these carers were elderly and of a different generation to the children's parents, so inevitably often had different ideas about how children should be cared for and disciplined.
Many family pets were taken to the local vets to be put to sleep. Most pets in this period of time were fed with family scraps but with food rationing in force very harsh decisions had to made. Also they were terrified of the noises, the bombs, bangs and suchlike, many animals became unwell.
It was very hard for evacuee children to readjust when they did eventually return home. Many left their homes when they were of an impressionable age, things often would never be the same again. Home no longer felt like the home it was previously.
I can not begin to imagine what an impact an experience of that nature must have on a child. I think it resulted in a very strong and independent generation. Every year both my parents go on a weekend break where other people who were also evacuees attend. They can converse to others who have also been through the same traumatic situation.
I managed to win a 1940's Dolls House on ebay. When I went to pick it up the lady explained the history of the house to me. As a young child living in Canada, her parents decided to return to England at the start of the war to live with her grandparents in a Public House in Romford. Her great aunt and husband lived in Ongar not too far away, sadly their house got bombed in the war so had to move into the Public house also.
During the long blackout evenings the lady's grandfather and great uncle built this Dolls House. (Rebecca has informed me that it built from the Handicrafts W364 plan, which was published in 1935.) The lady's aunt kept the house until she passed away then the house got passed on to the lady I bought it from. When the lady's aunt died, she took some of the stones from her driveway where she had lived for years and stuck them onto a piece of card which she then put on the balcony floor of the house in respect of her aunt.
The house had been made out of wooden crates, the back had been renewed at some point. The only piece of furniture remaining was a wooden chair, which I have placed in the hall.
The lady had decorated the house, the exterior I particularly liked, she had done it very well. I decided to add two partition walls so I could have a bathroom and a hallway, these are removable - I didn't want to permanently glue them in and damage the structure of the house. I then wallpapered the inside and added flooring. To make the house more interesting I added false doors to give the impression that there are further rooms.
The dolls are all handmade and came fully clothed, the children both have their evacuee labels attached to their clothing.
I still have a few more things to do to the house - I need some small ornaments etc to go in the living room cabinet, I will add a few more pieces as I find them. I had intended to add skirting and picture rail but I was tight on space to fit everything in and it would have drawn the rooms in further.
I used a wardrobe and dressing table I had in the main bedroom, while I looked for some in 1940's style:
Here is the bedroom with the wardrobe I found to replace the temporary one:
The furniture and accessories are mostly new items. Some are old - there is a metal Crescent cooker in the kitchen:
and an old vintage kitchen cupboard with pull out shelf, set in the bay window:
and an old wardrobe in the boy's bedroom, and a few other old items.
I have also made some changes in the kitchen. As you can see in these photos, I have found some older style dressers:
I have sent the photos from this article to the lady from whom I bought the Dolls House, her comments were very positive - she said she thought the house was fantastic and very detailed. I told her that I was going to keep the house the same as she had decorated it on the outside as it was part of the house's history now, that she was part of.
I have just added some flowering shrubs and made curtains:
The story of the people in the house is that the two children, Tommy and Susan Smith have been evacuated but luckily their grandparents live in Derbyshire so they have gone to live with them. Their mum is living in the family home in Battersea, working in an ammunition factory and dad is fighting in the trenches on the frontline.
It is a happy ending once the war has ended they are all reunited and go to live on a farm in Derbyshire near nan & grandad.