My 1930s Dolls Hospital, believed to be Triang
by Pat Gair
This is my mystery house, or rather, hospital, which I was given in the mid 1940s and was my cherished childhood possession. My father said it was unique and I must look after it, but never told me where it had come from. I wish now I had realised it actually might be rare and pressed him for more information.
After giving the outsides a coat of paint in the late 60s I passed it on to my two children, but they found their other toys more fun and it eventually went back into the loft and was forgotten.
In 2000 I happened to visit the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood and was excited to see a similarity to the Triang sun house and modern house. A friend put me in touch with Marion Osborne who sent me a pack of interesting information on Triang houses and actually included my house in a book she was writing. It was a complete surprise to hear that there was a world of dolls house enthusiasts out there! She wrote an article about the hospital in the December 2001 issue of Dolls House and Miniature Scene, in which she mentioned that although there was no catalogue description there had been brief mention of a hospital in 'Games and Toys' for March 1939. She quoted:
"This famous firm [Lines/Triang] had a magnificent stand on the third floor of the Empire Hall. The exhibit was honoured by a visit from the Royal Family and Her Majesty Queen Mary, the Duke of Kent and the Duchess of Gloucester all made purchases. One particular number, which attracted attention, was a model of a hospital. This was a large toy in modern design and hospital beds were to be seen on the roof wards."
Marion identified several features which indicate that this is probably made by Lines Bros. (Triang) and thinks my house may well be the one exhibited. She did wonder why, being mentioned in March, it wasn't in the catalogue; someone has recently suggested to me that if my house is the one exhibited, it may have been a prototype - which could account for the pencil marks below the base showing guidelines for the "electrics" - and never actually went into production because of the advent of WWII.
Photo of the house in the 1940s
Made of 3/8" plywood, the house measures approximately 39" x 14" (base) x 23" high. The windows are all flat metal with their original bent celluloid. Most are 6-squared 5" x 4 1/2" and there are two 4-squared 4 1/2" x 4 1/2" fixed separately on top of the lift tower - one serving the roof room and the other the top staircase landing. The 13 doors all measure approx 4 3/4" x 2 3/8", painted green with red beads for knobs. The staircases had plain tan paper for staircarpet. The walls were all painted, and floors papered with "parquet flooring".
The house came with white metal hospital beds complete with yellow satin eiderdowns and bedspreads and two white chests of drawers. Probably other items too - the photo above includes furniture taken out of my existing traditional house (which was then donated to the local primary school). I added the fireplace in the 1950s and did a bit of wallpapering.
The beds have seen better days. They were very brittle and dad couldn't solder them successfully, but one is complete with original bedding.
Photos of the house today
Now 65 years later the house is in need of restoration - even after being stored carefully it looks as if the vandals have been in. How can doors fall off in an empty house? As in many real 1930s houses there are now "signs of settlement", but it's not beyond repair.
The hospital has a lift from the ground floor up to the roof level, operated by a wind-up string.
I wonder if this square on top of the lift shaft lid was for a flagpole?
There is a small room leading off the roof area.
The porch floor is red-brick paper, with a "gravel" approach.
The battery holders
The lights have long gone, but each lamp consisted of a torch bulb in a metal screw-in holder fixed to a flat card (?) disc and attached to the ceiling. The wires ran across the ceiling and then were concealed in a baton down the walls. The batteries were held in two tin holders underneath the base, and wired to two metal strips running along the centre of the length of base.
Marion and I had hoped her article would bring forth other owners of similar hospitals, but there was no response and Marion has recently told me she still hasn't come across anything like it ... so this may well be that 1939 hospital. Can anyone help?