Monday, February 16, 2009

Victorian Cupboard House "Hartsridge" ca 1900

This is the other house my grandmother bought for me, after our visit to her in 1972/73. From the outside, it looks just like a cupboard -

Inside, it is a dolls' house with four rooms and a staircase in the middle. The top (viewer's) left is the drawing room, then the landing, and the bedroom on the right. Downstairs is the dining room on the left, the hall and staircase, and the kitchen on the right.

This house, amazingly, has a full provenance. My grandmother bought it from Miss Nancy Bettesworth, who bought it from Mrs Bernard Fox, who bought it from Mrs Searle, who bought it from Miss Avice Hoare, sister of the original owners, Eleanor and Penelope Hoare. Miss Bettesworth wrote to Miss Hoare about the dolls house, and received a great deal of information from her.

The cupboard is mid-Victorian, perhaps ca 1860s. Avice Hoare wrote, on Nov 8th, 1969:

"It was converted into a doll's house by my Father, who married in 1895 + lived at Hartsridge, Godstone, for my sisters Eleanor + Penelope, born in 1897 + 98 - I can't say when it was converted but I should think it was begun fairly soon. .... my father would no doubt have collected from home or bought an old cupboard to convert."

Eleanor, Penelope and Avice Hoare's father was Henry Gerard 'Philip' Hoare, a banker. Miniatures of Philip and of his wife Margaret hang in the dining room of the house:

and photos of the two little girls hang in the drawing room - here's one of them:

You can hardly see them for the frills!

The house has original floor and wall coverings, and the fireplaces are original too. One is in the drawing room:

Avice Hoare wrote: "I should think the carpets ... were home-made from our Grandfather's waistcoats". On the wall above the window is the other photograph of the two little girls - taken outside their house, Hartsridge in Godstone, Surrey, in England.
There is no original furniture, apart from the fireplaces - "I am afraid that unlimited playing rather disposed of the furniture."

My grandmother began furnishing this house with Victorian or Edwardian pieces appropriate to its age. Some of the pieces were rather large in scale, so I haven't kept all of them in the house - instead, I've furnished it as a family house, with dolls house furniture from my own and my mother's childhood.
In the drawing room, the lounge suite was made from matchboxes by my mother ca 1930s; the doll with her back to the camera was bought for me and my sister by my father (in France, I believe) in 1966, as was the bookcase and wooden books. I haven't identified the maker of the bookcase (and the grandfather clock, rocking chair & kitchen table, also in this house), but when I bought Zillner & Cooper's 'Antique and Collectible Dollhouses', I recognised our dolls on page 263 - they were made by Erna Meyer. I've bought a lot Erna Meyer dolls since, and several inhabit, or visit, this house, which is owned by the elderly lady in black in this room.

Here's an earlier photo, when more of the family were visiting, and before I had framed and hung the Hartsridge photo:

On the landing, some boys are playing with toy trucks. The rug and the curtain both came with the house, though I don't know whether they are original, or made by Mrs Fox. I have just added the exquisite embroideries, believed to be early or mid-19th century, which I bought on UK ebay - the stitches are so tiny, I don't know how the embroiderer managed without going blind. The tiny photographs by the doorway are original, I believe - I think they may have come from a tiny concertina postcard charm. They show images of Hampton Court Palace, Richmond, etc, which no doubt the Hoare children knew.

Next door, in the bedroom, two little girls are playing with dolls. The one with her back to the camera is the second doll saved from our childhood - she suffered a terrible accident to her face (I have no memory of it, but it looks as if someone bit it off), so prefers to keep it private. (She also has no hair, a frequent problem with vintage Erna Meyer dolls.) The curtain is original - when I first received this house, I planned to replace it, as it's torn, but I'm so glad I never got round to it. My grandmother bought the beautiful brass beds - they even have springs! The lovely washstand is a new acquisition, from

Below the bedroom is the kitchen, where two dolls are preparing food. The flooring is original; the clock, stuck on the wall, and the little check curtain were in the house when my grandmother bought it. She put the kitchen range in - it should really have a wooden surround, and is missing its little tap for the hot water. (Strange that the dolls have not felt the need to buy a newer stove to replace it or provide an alternative for cooking.)
The green Pit-a-Pat dresser was my mother's, and then ours - I'm sure we had the second door somewhere. The light blue Twigg dresser and sink (which you can't really see - it's under the window) - were ours.

The photo of the hall shows the magificent flight of stairs, made by Philip Hoare (his daughter Avice explained "Hunt was the estate carpenter + a fine cabinet maker who worked with my grandparents + no doubt taught my father + his brothers - they were all carpenters"). The carpets here are original, too.

Finally, in the dining room, several men are having drinks. The fireplace was also made by Philip Hoare, and the carpet is original - perhaps another of Grandfather's waistcoats. Someone tried to wash the little runner, and the embroidery thread ran. On each side of the fireplace are the portraits of Philip and Margaret Hoare. As it's summer, the fire is not lit, and a vase of peacock feathers stands in front of the grate. The feathers are real - tiny feathers shed by peacocks at a caravan park I stayed at in Elliott, in the Northern Territory!

This house is pictured in Jean Latham's beautiful book 'Dolls' Houses - a personal choice' (1969), which my grandmother sent me when she bought the house. The picture below (on page 68 in the book; there are more on pages 78-79) shows the bedroom and kitchen as furnished by Mrs Bernard Fox, who owned it at the time. You can see the same clock in the kitchen, and curtains in bedroom and kitchen.

In her letter to Miss Bettesworth, Avice Hoare mentioned that "when I come to think of it, there are quite a number of doll's houses in the family, so I have made you a "pedigree" of them." One was, in 1969, shown on "Garden Open" days at South Park Farm, Bletchingley. I am hoping to trace the whereabouts of the other dolls' houses made by this family - I'd love to see how they compare with the one I now own - and it's another chance to use my family history research skills.


  1. I think yo'll find that the kitchen table is Twigg as well...

  2. Yes, thankyou - & sorry - there are two, the Twigg one (with pale blue legs) is visible, and the one behind is obscured by it and all the food! The chair the doll is sitting on is in the same natural light wood, too, by the same unknown maker.

  3. How wonderful to have the history of the house! Lovely!

  4. This is wonderful!