Saturday, February 20, 2010

GranJean's Gallery, Unicorn Cottage

As I've mentioned, two of my dolls houses (the Cupboard House and the Lines Country Villa (and the Lines Letchworth which is my sister's) were gifts from my grandmother. She began collecting dolls houses in about 1964. I'm not sure exactly how many dolls houses she had in her collection, but here are some of her others.

I'm sure many of you will recognise these - at the left, there is a Hobbies house, and next to it is a Triang Princess dolls house, which was available from about 1932 to 1957. On the far right is a Triang No 50. The one in the middle looks familiar, but I don't recognise it - can anyone help?

My grandmother kept her dolls houses and dolls in a bedroom at the end of a corridor in her house, Unicorn Cottage. We called it GranJean's gallery (one of my cousins christened it). I don't know if there are any photos of it, but I've just found a clipping of an article about it that was published in the Cobham News in 1972.

In the article, my grandmother said that she was still working on furnishing the Princess dolls house, and wanted to make it homespun with a Welsh flavour. Did she ever do this? I don't remember seeing the inside of this house, so I don't know.

Today, these four houses sit on a high shelf in the Brighton Toy & Model Museum:

UPDATE: Annina has visited the museum and taken much better photos of the Hobbies house and Triang Princess, as well as some other wonderful exhibits! Thank you, Annina :-)

This museum also houses her antique French school, which I remember clearly from GranJean's Gallery:

and also some of her dolls ( I don't think all of these were hers):

I wish I had photos of the dolls house room. The article says that "she has a modern doll's house complete with all electrical mod cons, its plastic glasses contrasting with those of fine Bristol glass in the oldest house." I remember a plastic house with a swimming pool - perhaps it was a Lundby house? Also, according to the Cobham News, there was "a special little doll's house where [children] can touch and play as well as look, and she has peopled it with mouse-characters." I do remember the mice - but I thought they lived in the room across the corridor ...

My grandmother sometimes showed her collections, and I have some photos of her dolls on display.

These photos were taken in 1960 and 1964, before she really started collecting dolls houses, so they show mainly her international and antique dolls.

Also, on a chair in the drawing room, her bears and her doll Bambina - Bambina is a Martha Chase doll, but had a wig added. (My grandmother is standing in the photo on the left; the two women in the photo on the right are my mother's governess and her sister.)


  1. Dear Rebecca,
    you are the first dollhouse collector I know of where the passion runs in the family! So you quite inherited the collector-gen. Such an extraordinary family history, no wonder you are a collector.
    Will you also pass it on to somebody?

  2. So nice to see a few examples from your GranJean's gallery, now both the children and I want to go to Brighton :-) (Perhaps next year, "unfortunately" this year's summer holiday is already ordered)

    Your grandmother was a lovely lady and so nice to have these houses as a memory of her! She must have been a rather early collector? I don't think I have had any collectors of any kind in my family before me and my brother (who collects pop records). In a comment you said you were coveting the Triang Princess house in the museum, so are you pleased the rest of her collection is in the museum or would you preferred having them all to yourself ;-)

    I also read what you wrote about the houses you and your sister got from her. How fantastic to have the full provenance of the Cupboard House and pictures of both the maker and the owners in it!

  3. Really interesting post and what a fabulous grandma to have. The Princess house is quite big isn't it? Wonderful collection and great that it is in the Museum.

  4. what a shame you didn't get to inherit her houses - high on a museum shelf in another country doesn't mean they get seen so easily, and leaves you with plenty of unanswered questions. It sounds like she was one of the pioneer 20th century collectors, and I'm glad you've got some evidence of her collecting and the coverage in the press.

  5. ... and I wish we had known about the museum when we caravanned near Brighton 3 years ago - I would have preferred to visit this than have the abiding memory of losing my then 3 year old daughter for about 8 minutes on the pier which was truly frightening. Consequently I'm not in a hurry to return to Brighton, though the museum might just tempt me back for a short visit!

  6. Hello diepuppenstubensammlerin, I'm sure I'm not the only one who got interested in collecting through a family member - but I can't think of any others either! As I and my sister don't have children, I don't know if there will be anyone to pass the collection onto. Maybe some of my cousins' children will become interested, who knows?

  7. Hi Pubdoll, thanks! It would be great if you can get to Brighton sometime!
    My grandmother was among the early collectors, yes - not as early of course as Vivien Greene, Constance Eileen King and so on - but there were certainly others in the UK, who started International Dolls House News, and wrote books, some of which covered (then) modern houses as well as antiques.
    I was lucky - my grandmother had bought a dolls house each for her 3 granddaughters, and after I visited her with my mum and sister in 1972, she bought me the Cupboard House as well, as I had shown interest in them. But I was not as interested before she died as I am now - I wish I'd asked whether she herself had repainted either of the Lines houses! Also, because I'm in Australia, getting the dolls houses out here was a big job. I do covet the Princess just a bit, as it's such a lovely house and rarer than the Hobbies and Triang 50 :-)

  8. Hi Pandora, thanks! Yes, it's great that the museum provided a home for them!

  9. Hi DollMum, well, like all museums, they don't have much space! And perhaps those houses are not furnished inside - although there is (was, 6 years ago!) a display case with some dolls house furniture in it. I could probably get to see the interiors, as my uncle is involved with the museum - if (when) I get to the UK again!
    Oh dear, losing your daughter on the pier would be dreadful! The museum is tucked away under the station concourse - now your daughter's older, she'd probably enjoy the museum more, if you do get back :-)

  10. Hi Rebecca, I could only repeate what all the others before said allready: a very interesting post and so nice to see your wonderful grandmother on this fotograph. I love her.
    If (when) you go to the UK, please let us know, that we all from Netherlands, Norway, Germany, UK, Spain, Italy, Russia etc. can come together to a European dollhouse-lover meeting. I'm sure everybody would like to get to know you personally (not only because you're kind of famous).
    have a good time!

  11. After seeing all the excitement about the new Brinca Dada house (which I believe you started!) on the blogs I follow, it is nice to see a post about beautiful vintage little houses! How lucky to have a grandmother that loved dollhouses, and how pleased she must have been that you showed an interest also. Great post!

  12. I live in Brighton! And can you believe that i've never been to the museum...!? After reading your post I will go there this weekend and find your grandmother's houses.