The Dolly Varden Dolls House circa 1936-1940
by Celia Thomas of KT Miniatures
Here is a very unusual and increasingly rare dolls house from the 1930s that simply does not come along very often. It was made in the 1930s by Dinky Toys (Meccano) in the UK.
It is constructed from reinforced leather board which basically feels like stiff cardboard and in a 1936 advert for this house, it was said to be “as strong as a wood structure”. The house measures 18 ¾” long x 10 ¼” deep x 18 ¾” high, therefore 1/24th scale. The base on which it stands measures 39 ½” long x 29 ½” wide.
The house fitted together by slotting sections and is certainly quite strong once erected. I guess it was practical since it could be collapsed and put away easily at the end of the day. It stood on a base which again was described in the advert as “to open out to show a lovely garden with Tennis Lawn, Carriage Drive and Rockery, providing an exquisite setting for play with Dinky Toys and Hornby Trees, Hedging etc.”
The 1936 advert goes on to describe this house “the exterior is designed to represent a half timbered dwelling, while the interior decorations, which are printed in nine colours, are in an attractive modern style. “ There were four rooms – kitchen, dining room, bathroom and bedroom. Indeed, the decoration is superbly attractive and so very 1930s in style. The house you see in these photos was sold quite a while back now but had been well looked after by its elderly owner. It was literally heart wrenching for her to see this go but informed me that there was no-one to pass it onto and just wanted it to go to a good home.
You may be surprised to know that it was a very excitable gentleman who purchased this in the end, an ardent Dinky Toy Collector who had been waiting a very long time to own one of these houses.
A causative factor to its rarity was probably due to its fragility, regardless of what the advertising speak said. There are only so many times you can fix ripped insertion tabs before it falls apart and so many of these houses were simply thrown away when damaged beyond repair. Another factor to contribute to its rarity is that this Dolly Varden Dolls House was only manufactured from 1936 to 1940, so not actually very long and it seems that World War 2 obviously put a stop to any further manufacturing of this item. Would you believe that because of the rarity of these Dinky Dolly Varden Houses, prices for one in good condition (as this one was) can start at well over £600 and I have even known one to fetch nearly £1,000.00 at an auction!
Dinky Toys brought out a whole range of 1/24th metal furniture to accompany this dolls house however sadly, many of the pieces have suffered hugely from metal fatigue within time. So like the house, any of these pieces found to be in good condition nowadays will be worth a lot of money. If you are a fan of the 1930s then you will love the detail on these pieces as they are so delightfully 1930s, with most of the doors and drawers fully opening – as you can see in these photos.
So there you are......... I hope you have enjoyed stepping back in time just for a fleeting moment to see a very different kind of dolls house from a long gone era.
Dinky Toys bedroom and marking on wardrobe base (Photos: Rebecca Green)
©Celia Thomas – KT Miniatures 2011
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