Grandmother's Dolls House Furniture
by Jim Stringer
I was born in the January of 1943, so it would not take an Einstein to work out that I am now in my 71st year. As a child, my older sister and, dare I admit it, I, spent many happy hours playing with her dolls house which was beautifully made by my Father from scraps of wood that he came across at work. This was made at the beginning of the war (1939-45) when my sister would have been around 7 or 8. From what my sister tells me, Dad went up to Hamley's and took the measurements from a similar dolls house, and then made drawings from them (he was a draughtsman). He then gathered items of plywood from office furniture which had been badly damaged through enemy action, this being at 55 Broadway, The London Transport headquarters where he was then working.
(Apologies for the poor definition - this is a scan of a photo from a couple of years ago.)
It was a superb house and Dad, being an electrical engineer, even fitted it up with electric lights which ran off an Ever Ready torch battery. My sister still has this dolls house which has since been played with by her own daughter when she was a little girl.
Over the years most of the furnishing and fittings have been disposed of but somehow I came to retain a few items of furniture which you see illustrated below. These originally belonged to our Grandmother, who brought them with her when she came to this country as a young girl from her native Belgium before the First World War, so in terms of age, they can truly be described as ‘antique’.
Through the good offices of Dolls Houses Past & Present* I was able to establish that the white and gold painted furniture was produced in the Paul Leonhardt workshops in Erzgebirge, Saxony, Germany, and by all accounts are now highly collectable.
I have two partial sets, one of bedroom furniture, including a small bedside cabinet, a marble-topped side table, a three-mirror dressing table and also a chest of drawers:
The second set is of three ‘dining’ chairs, one of which is a ‘carver’. The seat and back coverings are in floral patterned silk.
The other items of furniture, so I understand, could also be of German origin, though the hall stand in oak looks typically English.
The two wooden chairs (below) would not look out of place behind a kitchen table.
Also at home in the Kitchen would be the plate rack, and implement holder, with what looks to be two brackets for a roller towel.
Another heirloom which was passed down to me when I was of an age to appreciate it is a Noah’s Ark. As I understand it, this item was purchased in about 1920 direct from the Lord Robert’s Workshop in Fulham, West London, which was very near to where my Great Aunt lived. When visiting my Aunt as a small boy, I would be allowed to play with the Ark, and derived considerable pleasure from doing so. Eventually it was given to me to take home, and my own children, and their children too enjoyed playing with the representation of the pairs of animals which came with it.
However, over the years, through being well played with, some of the animals have suffered injury, and five have even escaped, leaving just one of the pair to soldier on alone.
Those going AWOL are a horse, an elephant, a pig, a goose, and a green crouching animal seen just in front of the sheep. I was quite surprised to find that a similar Noah’s Ark was sold at Auction for well over £200.
All these items are what may be described as ‘play-worn’ and have been enjoyed as playthings for my Grandmother, Great Aunt, my sister, and of course, myself. But we feel the time has now come for them to find a new home where they can continue to provide enjoyment to yet another generation of children – or, dare I say it – Adults.
* With thanks to Swantje Köhler and Fabienne Vangenechten for their assistance in identifying this furniture. RG