Wednesday 6 May 2015

Recent Additions from Miniatura

I went to the Miniatura in Birmingham back in late March, it was good to get there again as I missed both shows last year. It's nice to meet with some of the miniaturists and crafts people at the shows and to pick up a few tips.

As always I had a great time looking at the huge variety of miniatures on sale, and it is satisfying to meet the people who made them and to look at the objects before buying. I bought more leather bound books from Ellie de Lacy (, my book cases are taking FOREVER to fill!! ;) I also bought a very handsome portable globe in a case from Truly Scrumptious (, which would have been a must for any wealthy gentleman in the 18th century. 

These have now been settled down in the Library. Just look at those empty shelves!!

I have been thinking about replacing the serpentine tables in the Drawing Room for sometime, They were miniature white wood kits that weren't finished very well by me. They looked ok, and are still being used in the house, but I have finally been able to replace them in the Drawing Room.

John Hodgson's gilt pier tables were perfect! ( 

I needed a pair, which was a bit costly, but I wanted to be sure that the tables matched, and this meant buying them together rather than waiting and only buying one at a time. That match the  Adam-esque style I have aimed for in this room, and the gilt finish picks up on other gilt details in this room.

And here is the room with all the other furniture back in position. I am thinking of making a rug for this room from a pattern I have found in a book, but know it will be a HUGE amount of work!! I already have the canvas and silk thread needed but it will take a very long time, if I ever get it started,  before that there are curtains to make!! Needle and thread! I can already feel a cold sweat starting at the mention of those words!! ;)

I bought a few other things, which are in the Swan Inn, and I will do a post about them soon, I need to get some good pictures of them first!

Tuesday 5 May 2015

Lego Corner Café; My Own Version

My version of Lego's Corner Cafe, with adaptations .

For several years now I have been collecting the LEGO modular street series, but I missed a few of the first sets when they were launched, and they have since been discontinued. The first set in the series was the Corner Café, which I well remember admiring several times in the LEGO shop, but was never able to afford. 

The cafe sign took some working out, fixing it to the building securely wasn't easy!

The original Corner Café sets now sell on ebay for huge sums of money, I have seen an unboxed one selling for over £2500.00!! and built sets sell for about £500. This is clearly crazy as the bricks are worth nothing like that sort of money, and I though I could probably buy all the bricks to build it directly from LEGO Pick a Brick, at a much lower cost. Fortunately, I do happen to have a few LEGO bricks already, so this wasn't really necessary. 

How the Cafe looks next to some official Lego sets in the series

Recently I discovered that it is possible to download copies of all LEGO sets launched since 2002 from their LEGO website. This is FREE!! 

My memories of the Café set were dimmed by the passing of time and the quality of more recent sets, I have to say that I was slightly disappointed when I saw the Café set in print. For example, there was absolutely no interior detail apart from a staircase. the cafe had seats and tables outside, but none inside, no counter, and no coffee machine! the hotel (above the café) lacked rooms, beds or reception! 

This clearly would not do! I was also disappointed with the first floor. It just didn't look good to me. Fortunately, having the building instructions for the original meant that I could keep all the elements of the building I liked, alter the bits I didn't and make improvements inside. 

The cafe interior, not included in the original set. I kept some of the  colours used in the original model  as a  tribute (yes, the lamps are from my spare 2015 Valantine's set)

Now, I have probably got a good couple of hundred thousand Lego bricks, but even with this huge stash to choose from there were certain bricks I didn't have, or certain colours that were not available. I could buy some of the extra bricks I needed from Lego's Pick a Brick service online, and much of the roof was done this way, albeit in a different colour. However, I thought it would be fun to use as many of my own bricks as possible before buying any more bricks from Lego.

The counter with tasty treats and coffee machine (the dark red bricks look great for this!)

The result is what you see posted here, some parts of the building are identical to the original, some are a different colour, but are built in the same way as the original, and some are completely different. 

I chose Italian colours for the awning and seating,  as I didn't have enough yellow bow bricks , which were used in the original set

I had a great deal of fun building this set, sometimes it took forever to find all the bricks I needed, and puzzle how to build in alternative ways whilst keeping the spirit of the original.

the small hotel reception, complete with room keys and 'corporate' carpet. the hotel also has rooms upstairs, lacking in the original set!!

I even created a hotel lobby with reception desk in the limited space available by pushing the stair case back into the rear of the building, instead of started just inside the doorway. It comes complete with groovy 'corporate' carpet!

Sunday 29 March 2015


Hello! I know I have been neglecting my blog for far too long, but when I checked it today after several months absence I was amazed to see that my last post was back in August last year! Time just flies past!! Anyway, I promise to spend more time on here this year. I went to Miniatura today in Birmingham, and it got me back into the miniaturist mood again!! I haven't been entirely idle; Plans are afoot for a new project, and I still have the 24th scale house to do. There are also a few new purchases to be placed in various houses here.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Catching Up

This is a post to try and catch up with the bits and pieces I have purchased, or been given as gifts over the summer. I haven't been to many dolls house fairs this year, and will miss the Autumn Miniatura in September too sadly. I did get to the Dolls' House Fair at Kensington back in May. I bought the telescope in the picture above, which is for the library in the Georgian house. I can't remember the name of the artist who made it though!

The little book below the telescope was a surprise gift from Ellie De Lacy! I had asked her at a previous show if she had any other books on architecture in her miniature collection, besides Colin Campbell's, and suggested Serlio's book on architecture would be a good one to do. And here it is in its miniature form! I was thrilled! the book is full of tiny architectural studies, a must-have book for any Georgian gentleman. See for more of her fabulous miniature books, all handmade, with hand stitching and leather binding on many of them.

I finally sorted out some lighting for the servants' hall to match those in the kitchen. the battery operated lamp looks just the same, but without any of the fiddly wiring I thought I would have to do, however, it doesn't give out all that much light compared to the electrical lamps, something to bare in mind if you are planning to use battery powered lamps in any of your projects.

Some other views of the new lamp and a comparison with those in the kitchen.

In July David and I went to Hampton Court Palace, where we met up with Fi and her family, on holiday from Australia, we had a lovely day, Hampton Court Palace is an amazing place to visit, full of history, with beautiful state rooms and even actors dressed as former kings, queens and courtiers performing in the palace!

Fi gave me some loaves of bread she had made herself, she made the chopping board too, complete with knife marks and bread crumbs! She also gave us the pot of daisies she had bought at a miniatures fair in Australia.

Thanks once again Fi! Hope you enjoyed the rest of your holiday in Europe.

David Iriarte continues to produce some fantastic miniatures and it was nice to be able to buy a little something from him The Chinese style vases on the wall brackets fit in well with other items in the landing of the Georgian house. I think I might look into buying some new paintings or frames to go where the current ones are now, and maybe replace the half-moon tables at some point too. But all in good time.

I have always wanted a fan to go on the dressing table in the main bedroom of my Georgian house, but was never very impressed with any I had seen at miniature fairs or online before, I wanted one that would open and close, and still be in scale. A very tall order I know!

But not impossible!! I was so excited by this fan made by Truly Scrumptious, who do a fantastic range of miniatures from all periods, and all with great attention to detail.

As you can see the fan does indeed open and close, it is extremely fragile, especially for my big clumsy hands, so it does get opened up very much, but I like to think it can be done if needed, and still looks good when folded up, and sits very well on the dressing table. I am also planning to purchase one of their new range of desk top globes, they had sold out at the Kensington show when I went!

Also wanted to say congratulations to John of Merriman Park, and Giac of English Manor dollhouse for the recent articles on their amazing dolls houses that have featured recently in dolls' house magazines here in the UK. 

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Look for the Sign!

I haven't done much in the miniature line for a while, so there isn't much progress to show you, but one thing that has been done is the sign on the pub.

If you go back through some old posts you will see that I painted the swan (or swans as there is one on each side) a while ago, but that was as far as it got for a while. I recently framed the sign and hung it in position. 

At first I thought it might be a bit low down, but 

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Period Style Guide: Charles II, his Mistresses and Other Pleasures

Charles II presented with a pineapple, supposedly the first grown in England  in 1675, outside Ham House.
It can be said that Charles II lived a life in pursuit of pleasure. He was known as the Merry Monarch and he enjoyed the high life. He is most famous perhaps for his large number of mistresses and illegitimate children. From his mid-teens until his death, there were plenty of women in his life, but the king was not as debauched as some of his enemies would have liked you to believe. 

Yes, Charles was married (though not when some of his illegitimate children were born), but he wasn't the first king to have mistresses, and he treated his wife well in comparison to some of his ancestors! But the king didn't have lots of mistresses all at once, they were spread out across his life, and, perhaps with one or two exceptions, he pretty much stuck with one mistress at a time. He also accepted parentage of many of his illegitimate children. 

Some of Charles' mistresses were richly rewarded for their services with pensions and other incomes awarded to them, along with homes and expensive gifts. They were also in some cases given noble titles, as were some of their children fathered by the king.

Below is a roughly chronological list of the most well known of Charles' mistresses, and some of the children fathered by Charles.

Lucy Walter

Charles met Lucy Walter in 1648, whilst he was still living in exile. I suppose she was more of a lover than a mistress. In 1649 Lucy gave birth to a son, Charles' first acknowledged illegitimate child. The child was named James. 

The relationship was not to last long. As Lucy fell rapidly into a life of dissipation, she was alleged to have aborted 2 further children, and was also charged with murdering a maid, although the charges were later dropped. Charles distanced himself from Lucy, but made attempts to 'rescue' his son, practically kidnapping him, but his attempts were unsuccessful and it wasn't until 1658 when Lucy was dying of syphilis in Paris that she agreed to hand over care of her son to his grandmother, Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I and mother of Charles II.

Duke of Monmouth

As an illegitimate child, James could not be heir to the throne. He was given the title of Duke of Monmouth. You will hear more of the Duke of Monmouth in later posts when we look at the reign of Charles' younger brother,  James II.

Elizabeth Killigrew

Married to Francis Boyle, son of Lord Cork; a wealthy Irish landowner, Elizabeth Killigrew followed the exiled queen Henrietta Maria to Europe and became the queen's Maid of Honour, as part of the court she would have met Charles often. 
Elizabeth and charles had a daughter, Charlotte Jemima Henrietta Maria Fitzroy in 1650. I can't ind any pictures of Elizabeth, but I did find this sweet portrait of her daughter Charlotte.

Charlotte married twice, and it was through her second marriage, to William Paston, that she eventually became lady Yarmouth.

Catherine Pegge

Another affair conducted whilst in exile from England was that of Catherine Pegge. Her father was a Royalist supporter, and after he was captured by the Parliamentarians, he was forced into exile with his family. 

Their liaison resulted in the birth of two children, a daughter Catherine Fitzcharles in 1657 who died and Charles Fitzcharles in 1658. Charles Fitzcharles was given the nickname Don Carlo, because of his  Spanish looks. Charles became the 1st Earl of Plymouth.

Charles, First Earl of Plymouth

Winifred Wells

Winifred Wells was a courtier, the Maid of Honour to Charles' wife Catherine of Braganza. Samuel Pepys makes reference to Winifred as the King's mistress in his diaries. Pepys also wrote in his diary that Winifred had 'dropped a child' (given birth) during a ball held at court in December 1662. 
From what I can make out, this is one child that Charles does not acknowledge as his own.

Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is said to have met Charles whilst he was still in exile. She was married to Roger Palmer, a Catholic Royalist, who became a politician in 1660, and who was said to be a gloomy, depressed figure in the presence of his wife. It was in 1660 also that Barbara became Charles' mistress. Roger's father had warned his son that Barbara would make Roger one of the most miserable men in the world, when he discovered their plans to marry. In part he was probably right. Made 1st Earl of Castlemaine in recognition of his services to the King in 1661, he separated from his wife in 1662, though they never divorced.

Roger Palmer
Barbara gave birth to a girl in 1661, and claimed Charles as the father. Her daughter was named Anne, who later became the Countess of Sussex. A son was born the following year, Charles was later to become Lord Limerick, the Earl of Southampton - later the Duke of Southampton, and 2nd Duke of Cleveland. 

Barbara was generally known in court as Lady Castlemaine. in the early years she had a great deal of influence on the King within his court. She was known to have a quick temper, which the king gave in to. Naturally, Queen Catherine (of Braganza) was not happy about Lady Castlemaine's power and she and the Queen were known to dislike one another. 

When Barbara was appointed Lady of the Bedchamber, Queen Catherine opposed it, but, unlike those of Lady Castlemaine, her tantrums and threats were ignored. The Queen had the backing of Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon; the King's Chief Advisor. Clarendon, related by marriage to Lady Castlemaine, felt embarrassed by her role as mistress and her constant presence at court. He bitterly resented her, and tried what he could to remove her. His plans eventually backfired, and it was he that was dismissed in 1667. In the end Queen Catherine found that good grace, tact and restraint had a better effect on the King, and their marriage settled down amicably

For reasons that remain unclear, Lady Castlemaine converted to Catholicism in 1663. This was an unusual decision in a country still hostile to the religion. Perhaps she wished to appease her estranged husband, or maybe she felt it would curry favour with King Charles; However his response to the news was that he was interested in ladies' bodies, not in their souls. 

By the end of the 1660s Charles affections for Lady Castlemaine were on the wane. He had fallen for the 'witty, pretty Nelly'; a young actress called Nell Gwynn, probably the most well known of Charles' mistresses. Barbara had taken several other lovers, including John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough. In 1670 Charles made Barbara First Duchess of Cleveland, Countess of Southampton and Baroness Nonsuch (it was Barbara who had Henry VIII's Nonsuch palace demolished and sold off the pieces). Generous perhaps, but seen by most historians as a form of Golden Handshake. Perhaps to appease her fiery temper as she was cast from Charles' affections. 

Barbara's fate was sealed when the 1672/3 Test Act was passed, banning Roman Catholics from holding office, she lost her position as Lady of the Bedchamber and was advised by the King to live quietly and to cause no scandal. 

Barbara, Lady Castlemaine with her son Charles Fitzroy

Of her six children, Charles acknowledge five as his own.
Anne Fitzroy (Leonard), Countess of Sussex
Charles Fitzroy, 2nd Duke of Cleveland
Henry Fitzroy, 1st Duke of Grafton
Charlotte Fitzroy (Lee), Countess of Lichfield
George Fitzroy, 1st Duke of Northumberland
Barbara Fitzroy. (probably the daughter of John Churchill)

Anne Fitzroy as a child
Charlotte Fitzroy as a child...
And as an adult

Nell Gwynn

The famous diarist, Samuel Pepys took an interest in most of the King's mistresses, and recorded details about them within his diaries. He described Eleanor Gwynn as 'Pretty, witty Nell. 
Nell is perhaps the most famous of Charles' mistresses, the 'rags to riches' story has popular appeal. Not much is known about Nell's origins, She is described as being born either in London, Oxford or Hereford, of Welsh decent. Her mother ran a bawdy house, otherwise known as a brothel, though Nell is recorded as claiming never to have been a prostitute there, only serving visitors with strong drink.
It was through a friend of her mother's that Nell obtained a job selling oranges to audiences within the theatre on Drury Lane, the King's Playhouse. Young attractive girls were used to sell the oranges and other fruits and confectionary to the gentlemen and ladies in the theatre, some would certainly be no stranger to prostitution, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they sold favours as well as oranges within the theatre itself. 

Nell's looks, her quick wit and clear voice attracted the attentions of Thomas Killigrew, the theatre's owner. She soon found herself on the stage itself as an actress. Her first recorded appearance on the stage was in 1665, playing Cydaria in a drama by John Dryden titled The Indian Emperour. 
Nell was not taken by the part, she didn't like the serious parts and hated serious plays, Samuel Pepys, who saw a later performance of the play with Nell in the same part thought she was badly miscast. 
Her famous wit meant she was more comfortable playing roles in the new Restoration Comedies of the day and it was in these roles that she grew to be a successful actress. 

Nell Gwynn stuffing sausages. Yes, this was as suggestive at the time as it might be considered now!!
In 1667, George Villiers, second Duke of Buckingham, attempted to introduce the King to Nell, but the plan failed, perhaps because Nell had sought a fee of £500 a year to be kept by the King. Buckingham set the Charles up with another actress instead, Moll Davis (I'll tell a you a little about Moll Davis next!).

The king's affair with Moll Davis didn't last long, and by 1668 Nell Gwynn was well known to be the King's latest mistress. In April 1668 the King and his brother the Duke of York attended a play called She wou'd if She Cou'd, the King saw little of the play, instead he flirted with Nell, who was in the next box (probably not by chance!). Charles is said t have invited Nell out to supper after the play, but after the supper, the King found that he and his brother had no money. It was Nell Gwynn who ended up paying the bill, and is said to have exclaimed in good humour, "Od's fish! but this is the poorest company I ever was in!"

In 1670 Nell gave birth to a son, another on the growing list of Charles' illegitimate children. Charles Beauclerk (the K is silent) and to another son in 1671, James Beauclerk. Nell was moved into a house on Pall Mall, but was unhappy to be merely the lessee, not the owner of the property, and demanded the house be signed over to her. She did eventually get her own way in 1676. 

It seems that Nell was also determined to have her children raised as gentlemen. Sadly, James died in 1681 whilst being educated in Paris. Her elder son Charles was granted the Earldom of Burford in 1676 (at the same time his younger brother was given the title Lord Beauclerk). Quite how he came to be granted this title is subject to speculation, some say that on a visit to his son by the King, Nell called out something along the lines of,  "Come here you little bastard and say hello to your father!" The King is said to have protested at the way Nell called her son, to which she replied. "but Your Majesty has given me no other name by which to call him!" The other story is that Nell took her son and held him outside a window, threatening to drop the child unless he was granted a peerage, to which the King responded by saying "God save the Earl of Burford!".  in 1684 Charles granted his son the title of Duke of St Albans. 

Charles, Earl of Burford, Duke of St Albans
On his deathbed in 1685 Charles asked his brother james to "Let not poor Nelly starve." As James II, he obeyed his late brother's request and paid off Nell's debts, granting her a pension of £1500 a year. 

Moll Davis

Moll Davis was a singer and actress, introduced to Charles II by George Villiers, second Duke of Buckingham, who had also introduced him to Nell Gwynn, and for a time, both were rivals for the King's affection. For a while Moll was the one who succeeded. She received gifts from the King, such as a fine coach, and a ring costing £600 (a vast sum of money at the time), and she was accused of flaunting these gifts. gaining a reputation for vulgarity and impertinence. In 1668 the Kind is said by Samuel Pepys to have furnished a house 'most richly' which he declared 'a most infinate shame' Pepys wife had called Moll 'the most impertinent slut in the world!'

In 1669 Moll gave birth to a daughter, fathered by Charles II. She became Lady Mary Tudor (not to be confused with Henry VIII's daughter and Bloody Queen!!) 

Lady Mary Tudor
It is said that Moll fell out of favour with Charles II partly due to some dirty tricks played by Nell Gwynn and her friend Aphra Behn. One evening, when Moll was due to sup with the King, Nell and Aphra are said to have laced some sweetmeats destined for Moll with julap, a laxative. Her evening with the King did not go well! 

By 1670 Moll had been bought off with a pension of £1000 a year, and Nell Gwynn and replaced her as the King's mistress. Moll took to high stakes card games and later in 1686 married the French born composer Jacques Paisible (anglicised to James) who worked in London and who worked in the court of James II.

Louise de Kéroualle

Louise de Kéroualle came from a noble French family. She was part of the household of Henrietta Anne Stuart, the Duchess of Orléans, Sister of Charles II and Louis XIV of France's sister-in-law. In 1670 Louise accompanied Charles' sister on a visit to Dover, partly to persuade Charles to sign the secret treaty of Dover with Louis XIV, where Charles could secure men and financial backing for a war with the Dutch, in exchange for declaring himself a Catholic. 

The Duchess died suddenly in June 1670, and Louise was left unprovided for, until Charles II appointed her as a lady-in-waiting for his wife Queen Catherine.

Louise was another mistress for Charles, and another rival for Nell Gwynn. Nell unkindly referred to Louise as Squintabella, and mocked her when, during the height of the Popish Plot ( a period of high anti-Catholicism), an angry mob attacked Nell's coach in the mistaken belief that it was Louise inside, pulled down the coach window and cried out, "Good people, pray be civil! I am the Protestant whore!"

At the same time as receiving gifts and attention from Charles, Louise was also being sent expensive gifts from King Louis XIV, not least among them a pair of earrings worth at the time over £18,000!
Was Louise a spy for the French King, expected to report on Charles? There is a possibility that this was the case. She received support from the French Ambassador Colbert de Croissy on the understanding that she should serve Louis, her native king. However, if Charles ever suspected any intrigue, he didn't show it. He found a domestic stability in Louise, and showed great affection for her. He nick-named her Fubbs or Fubbsy, a term used at the time to describe a chubby, rounded figure. 

Almost inevitably, Louise gave birth to a son by Charles, in 1672. He was created The Duke of Richmond in 1675. Louise herself received the titles Baroness Petersfield, Countess of Fareham and Duchess of Portsmouth in 1673. She was also another of Charles' mistresses that he mentioned on his death bed, instructing his brother James to "do well by Portsmouth". However, the pensions and revenues she received were lost during the Glorious Revolution of 1688 (more about that some other time!).

Some of the others and the one that got away!

Hortense Mancini 
There are several other women who have gone down in history as mistresses to King Charles II. Hortense Mancini had won the king's affection in 1675, but her promiscuity and possible lesbianism meant that she wasn't in favour with the king for long. She did receive a pension from Charles and remained in the various English courts until her death in 1699.

Other women named as mistresses include Jane Roberts, a clergyman's daughter; Elizabeth, Countess of Kildare; Mary Killigrew, Countess of Falmouth and Mrs Knight, a famous singer. 

Francis Stewart, Duchess of Richmond
There was one woman known to have refused all of Charles II's romantic advances, the face of Britannia herself; Frances Stewart, Duchess of Richmond.

An illustration of a coin dating from the reign of Charles II with Britannia  on one side.
Wearing a helmet and holding a trident, Francis modeled as Britannia, and her engraving appeared on British coins right up into the 20th century, where until recently a version of the original appeared on the back of the 50 pence piece.

Charles' Other Pleasures

Women were not the only pleasure in Charles' life. As we have seen the King was keen on the theatre and music. He was also a sponsor of the arts, architecture and sciences. 

Charles' brother James, Duke of York, playing tennis
Some sporting gentlemen during the reign of Charles II
Charles was also a keen sportsman. He was particularly fond of tennis and played very well. He could also been spotted plunging into the freezing water of the Thames, his courtiers looking on as he enjoyed his swim. He also enjoyed boating and fishing. Queen Caroline also took an interest in fishing and King and Queen would sometimes rise early and fish together at Hampton Court Palace. In winter he took to skating on the frozen ice, at the time it was referred to as 'sliding'.

An illustration engraving of the Frost Fair 1683-4
A souvenir ticket issued to the King and his family printed at the Frost Fair on the ice! 

Charles enjoyed a walk too, he was known to have a fast pace, and enjoyed taking his dogs along with him. Charles' favourite breed of spaniel were eventually to be graced with his name. 

Some children with King Charles Spaniels
Charles II as a baby with his own spaniel, the breed would eventually take his name.
As a Royal, his love of horses started at an early age. He was an experienced rider and rode very well. He liked horse racing too, particularly in his later years. Horse racing became in integral part of the British social and sporting scene during Charles' reign. He was particularly fond of racing at Newmarket, and would stay at Audley End with the Earl of Suffolk, before buying Audley End for himself in 1669 for £50,000.

Charles II on horseback
The King also loved birds, he collected rare birds and had aviaries built especially for them. Birdcage Walk, near Buckingham Palace, is named after the King's aviary.

Charles was known to take a great interest in Horticulture too. He was particularly keen on trees, and had thousands of them planted at Greenwich and at Hampton Court Palace.  

The private closet at Ham House set out for  tea.

Tea drinking paraphernalia from around the time of Charles II
Whilst Charles II favoured Champagne to drink. his Queen had more sober tastes, preferring tea, and she was responsible for making tea drinking popular in England. It was Green China tea that was drank at this time, black Indian tea (our national beverage!) came along later. Coffee and chocolate were also popular, and there were hundreds of coffee houses in London during the reign of Charles II (and not a Starbucks or Costa in sight!!)
Inside a 17th century Coffee House
A plaque in modern day London commemorating the site of the first coffee house in London