Antique dolls’ houses, Leeds

We visited Abbey House Museum in Leeds today. Among their excellent exhibits, including a recreated Victorian streets, there is a collection of dolls and dolls’ houses. Here is one, the late Victorian Lumb House. The family are gathered in the drawing room. IMG_20180118_112458~2.jpg

You can find out more about the museum here http://www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries/Pages/Abbey-House-Museum.aspx

Have you seen any houses in museums you would like to share?

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Which era is which?

Which one is that again? The Jane Austen one?

People often say to me that they get their historical periods mixed up. So I thought I would offer a quick guide to the main 4 that I refer to when designing my dolls.

Georgian (18th – early 19th century)
The Georgian era of British history is broadly defined by the reign of four kings, all called George, between 1714 to 1830. It is sometimes extended to include the reign of William IV, which takes us up to the start of the Victorian period. As the word Georgian covers such a long span of time, it obviously takes in many social, cultural and political changes, and to try and sum it up in one style would be inaccurate. However some themes can be seen threading through the Georgian period. Greek and Roman culture and art were seen as the epitome of civilisation, and fashionable types aspired towards the classical in all areas of life. Architecture was inspired by the “grand tours” undertaken by upper class young men through Europe, who then wished their estates redesigned along the lines of ancient Greece and Rome. Clothing fashions for both men and women changed somewhat through the period, but up to the 1780s the basics remained broadly similar to at the start of the period – tail coats, long waistcoats, breeches and wigs for men; wide, full skirts, tight bodices with “conical” shaped corsets, and big elaborate hairstyles for women. From the 1790s onwards, women’s fashions changed quite drastically in silhouette and simplicity.

Regency (1811-1820)
Regency is a sub-category of Georgian, referring to the period when the Prince of Wales (later George IV) ruled as Regent during his father’s illness. These days it is  often associated with Jane Austen, thanks to the popularity of her novels and screen adaptations of them.  It has similarities to the earlier Georgian period, but is generally simpler and cleaner in style. Classical Greek and Roman was still all the rage, and ladies’ gowns were supposed to make them look like graceful marble statues. Thin, floaty fabrics and high waistlines were en vogue.

Victorian (1837 – 1901)
As the name suggests, this period is defined by the long reign of Queen Victoria. It is by far the most popular choice of period for dolls house settings. Although it was another long period with many changes in culture and society, there are some common features. By the mid-Victorian stage, people wanted their homes to feature rich, dark colours, with as much decoration as possible. Trends in architecture included the Gothic look, part of a generally increasing interest in Medieval history and mythology. Mens’ fashion was greatly influenced by Prince Albert during his lifetime. Women’s fashion saw the arrival of the hour-glass waistline, crinoline (to mimic the effect of many layers of underskirts), and later the bustle.


Edwardian (1901 – 1910/1914)
The Edwardian era is named after King Edward VII, although it is often used to include the years up to the First World War. This is the period in which my own dolls house is set. Technological developments were being made which influenced daily life, and automobiles, telecommunications and electricity were becoming commonplace. It is perhaps the earliest period which we would see as being recognisably like our own. As the pace of life changed, so did the styles of the times. Mens’ tail coats were relegated to formal occsions in favour of a lounge suit which survives to this day. Women’s fashion was tending towards a slimmer silhouette, still in very restrictive corsets but with a lot less volume around the skirts.

Now the definitions given above mainly relate to British history. Other countries divide their history into different eras connected with significant developments at the time, e.g. North Americal Colonial, French Revolutionary, Japanese Meiji period.

Look out for my future posts, where I will explore some other popular time periods for miniaturists.

Review: Newby Hall Dollshouse Exhibition

Having visited this exhibition during the summer of 2016, I just had to go back at the end of the opening season to get a closer look. On that second visit I was lucky enough to have the place almost to myself.

Across two rooms within its own building in the grounds of Newby Hall near Ripon in North Yorkshire, the exhibition combines two collections, those of Jane Fiddick and Caroline Hamilton. Caroline has also published on the subject of dolls’ houses.

The exhibits range from very large mansions to small room boxes, and include both modern and vintage items. They include the curators’ own much loved childhood playthings. I was particularly drawn to some of the larger houses, which I can only aspire to having enough space for. There is also a mini Miss Haversham made by one of my all time favourite doll artists, Jamie Carrington.

A section of the exhibition also showcases some very fine artisan work in miniature, which has to be seen to be believed. Other highlights include a Japanese miniature house and moving miniature automata.

Entrance to the exhibition is included with a garden ticket which also grants access to the wonderful grounds, teddy bear collection, sculpture area and children’s play areas. Entrance to the hall is extra and by guided tour only, but I would recommend it if you have time. There is ample parking and a very good restaurant, which was well sampled by myself and my other half!

More information here (opens in new window)