Monday, February 16, 2009

Lines No 17 Country Villa ca 1906

This is the house my grandmother named 'Redfern', for the place where we lived when I was a baby. She didn't know the maker or the age of the house, and neither did I, until I started reading books about dolls houses, and thought G & J Lines houses looked very similar. When Marion Osborne put a request in a dolls house magazine article in about 2002 for readers' photos of their Lines houses, I sent her photos of mine. She very kindly wrote a long and informative letter, enclosing photocopies of articles etc about this house. She identified it as a No. 17 'Country Villa'.

My grandmother bought this before we visited her at Christmas 1972, though I don't know how long before. Nor did I think to ask her if she had done any redecorating. The brick paper on the sides and back is original, as is the tile paper on the roof. The front has been repainted, though the gold paint on the gable timbers and balustrades seems to be original - it looks like there's more underneath the white paint, on the decoration on the window pediments. There probably should be brick quoining on the sides, as the catalogue illustration shows.

This is the kitchen as my grandmother furnished it. The fireplace is original; the wallpaper, according to Marion Osborne, is not. I rather like it, and haven't attempted to remove it. You can see that the inside of the opening front has a different wallpaper, which Marion Osborne thought is probably original.

I was concerned that the dolls did not have a stove - although they have a fireplace in the kitchen, it is not really big enough to cook on. Lines' houses often had large kitchen ranges - I bought these dolls a tinplate kitchen stove. I also removed some of the furniture - the light wooden pieces, which are modern (1970s) replicas, and the dark wooden sideboard, pre WWII Elgin, which has gone to another house which has a matching dining table. I also found a butler, and now have a cook to add as well, of a similar period to the other dolls in the house, replacing the rather modern person in regional costume. (The milk glass pieces, which my grandmother had obtained, were packed away at the time that this photo was taken.)

In the bedroom, the nursery maid seems to have fallen over in front of the chest of drawers- she is supposed to be caring for the two babies, one in a cradle and one in a highchair. My grandmother bought one of the beds - I found a matching one on ebay. I have seen identical beds in an 1860s dolls house, so perhaps they date from that era. The wallpaper again is not original, being a different colourway of the paper in the kitchen, and in the schoolroom below.

In the schoolroom, the governess is reading to one small boy, while another practices on the piano. I have added more furniture to this room, but don't have a good photo of it. Among their books are a history of England, an ABC, a dictionary, and a songbook; they also have a globe.

The windows of this house would originally have had lace curtains. I have bought some antique lace to make curtains, but have not hung them yet. I also plan to make mattresses and blankets for the beds, as their bedding is rather makeshift.

I'm also hoping to find out more about the original owners. I recently noticed that there is writing on the roof - faint pencil writing, hard to see on the rather darkened paper. It reads 'Miss Lulu and Miss Millie? Minnie? Agar', which I presume are the names of the two little girls who first played with this house. I've searched the UK birth indexes, and the newly released 1911 census of England, and have found some possibilities. Agar seems to be mainly a Yorkshire name, and I'm looking for a family with daughters named (probably) Louisa and (possibly) Millicent, Mabel, Maria, Marianne, Wilhelmina, or any other name for which Millie or Minnie was a pet name. Great fun for a passionate family historian - mine or my dolls' houses', the fun is in the chase!

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