Friday, 10 February 2012

Great Dolls' Houses of the World Number One: Queen Mary's Dolls' House

 Queen Mary was a well known collector of antiques and loved miniature objets. It was Princess Marie Louise, granddaughter of Queen Victoria, and friend of Queen Mary's who first thought of producing a dolls' house for Queen Mary, in 1921. Princess Marie Louise had many friends in the art world and approached the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens with her idea. Together they set up dinner parties to raise support and funds for the project. With Queen Mary's blessing , it was decided that a house would be built for the British Empire Exhibition, held at Wembly Park in 1924. The exhibition was set up to show off the best in science, arts and manufacturing within the Empire. It was thought that the dolls' house project would be a great way to promote British artists, craftsmen and designers, and more that 1500 people would eventually be involved in completing the project. That number included many famous artists, writers and manufacturers of the period.

The house was displayed in the Palace of Arts at the Exhibition, with money raised going to support Queen Mary's various charities.

The dolls' house is unusual because the exterior of the building is raised entirely to reveal the interior within. The rooms are displayed on all four sides of the house and has many connecting corridors and staircases to link the rooms together, just like a real house! 

The house is finished in a classical style, and is in one twelfth scale. The roof is covered in real slates and real marble was used in the interiors too. On one side of the house there is a pull out drawer revealing a miniature garage, on the other side another drawer is pulled out to reveal a tiny garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll.

The garden comes complete with miniature tools. There are little birds nesting in the trees and a tiny snail crosses the garden path.

The garage has perfect copies of the motors of the day,  there's also a Rudge motor bike and side-car and a bicycle.There are even petrol pumps and tiny cans of oil.

The Grand Entrance Hall and Staircase are finished in real marble. The painting on the landing walls is by William Nicholson. It depicts Adam and Eve being cast from the Garden of Eden.

The Hall ceiling, just visible here, depicts the Zodiac. The long case clock, along with many other clocks in the house was made by Cartier!!

The Library furniture, panelling, columns and bookshelves are all made from Italian walnut. Each of the books on the library shelves was written by a well known author of the time, including WS Maugham, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, CFA Voysey, JM Barrie, Hilaire Belloc, Arnold Bennett, Joseph Conrad, Thomas Hardy, AA Milne,  Aldous Huxley, MR James, Hugh Walpole and Vita Sackville West along with many others. There are also miniature stamp albums, sheet music and newspapers. The two cabinets at the front of the room contain tiny drawings and paintings of over 700 artists!!

The Dining Room has a table and chairs made of walnut. The table can extend from 5 inches to twenty inches. The screen, which hides the servants entrance into the dining room, was made by Cartier.The linen table cloth was made in Belfast and is an exact copy of a table cloth used in Buckingham Palace. Much of the silverware was made by Garrard and Co. A fine dinner service was also donated by Doulton.

The Kitchen has an amazing wood block floor, made from over 2500 tiny pieces of wood. The kitchen is equipped with a large range, with a separate hot plate and pastry oven on each side of it. There are plenty of copper kettles and pans along with many other utensils. There is also a calender on the wall by WH Smith!

The kitchen and pantry are filled with a wide variety of grocery and provisions, all in perfect packaging. Tiny jars of Tiptree Jam and Frank Cooper's Marmalade, boxes of Cadbury's chocolates, tins of Fry's Cocoa, McVitie's biscuits, Colman's Mustard and packets of Rowntree's toffees and sweets available to tempt the miniature inhabitants!

The whole house was plumbed with running water. The taps designed to turn the water on and off just like their full sized counterparts. The house was also fully wired for electricity. 

Like any other English Country House, Queen Mary's dolls' house comes with a well stocked wine cellar. Each tiny bottle of wine contains a small sample of what is on the bottle's label, there are also bottles of beer, champagne and spirits.

There is also a strong room for storing all the fine silver and plate safely, this house is more unusual in that it also stores miniature copies of the Crown Jewels!

The King's Bedroom is on the first floor, It is the central room in a suite, which also includes a dressing room and bathroom. The bedroom is dominated by the state bed, with beautiful silk damask, and a finely embroidered royal coat of arms, donated by the Royal School of Needlework. The wall panels are decorated with delicate Chinese style birds and flowers. On the ceiling there is a trompe l'oeil panel of columns and trellis work  The flowers and trellis they are growing on are arranged to form the first musical lines of the National Anthem!  There are two beautifully finished Queen Anne chairs in this room too, which I absolutely love!

The King's Bathroom is finished in beautiful green and white marble. This room has tiny tooth brushes, bars of soap and a flushing lavatory!

The Queen's Bedroom, is also part of a suite of three rooms. This room is finished in grey damask. this is one of my favourite rooms in the house; maybe it's because there is a mirrored ceiling! ;)  The dressing table has trompe l'oeil painting of silk drapes, and a beautiful toilet set in silver. I have read that the bed curtains were carved in wood, and then silk damask glued over the carved wood to keep it in its place. This room also has a lovely writing desk, with all that was needed, and another clock by Cartier on the mantelpiece.

The Saloon is the largest room in the house. Under the silk canopy sit two thrones. There are portraits of both King George V and Queen Mary on either side of the fine marble chimney piece. The ceiling was painted by Charles Sims it depicts 'The Children of Rumour with her Hundred Tongues' (a warning against gossip!) The sofas and chairs are upholstered in fine Aubusson style tapestry. There is also a piano designed by Lutyens and made by Broadwood and Sons Ltd.

This is the Queen's Sitting Room, on the second floor. It is furnished and decorated in a Chinese style. the walls are painted by Edmund Dulac, with water lilies and golden clouds. The glass cabinets are copies of those used by Queen Mary and are filled with miniature carvings in jade and amber alongside small ceramic ware pieces. The chairs are carved and painted to simulate bamboo.

The second floor also houses a day nursery, night nursery, Princesses bedroom and servants rooms. The day nursery above is filled with toys and games and miniature children's furniture. The walls are decorated by Edmund Dulac with suitable fairytale scenes.

The house includes bedrooms and a bathroom for servants, tucked away in mezzanine floors, the furniture used in these rooms was simple and modern for the time, produced by Waring and Gillow, who made furniture in full size too.

This copper kettle is made from an old One Penny coin, you can still see King George V's head on the base.

This is a Ewbank carpet sweeper, the house also has electric vacuum cleaners!

This is a knife polisher. Phoenix Models Developments produce a white metal kit similar to this.

A 'Besco' mop
a miniature chess set

a beautifully detailed globe
Bring round the Royce James!
A royal carriage, for babies!

A charming train set from the Day Nursery, stopping at Windsor station.
There is a great website which allows you virtual tours of some of the rooms in the house, and close ups of some items featured in the house, including the items pictured above!


  1. Hi Andy, Great post and very complete. I learned a few things I didn't know! I was able to visit Windsor Castle and the dollhouse back when I was in college. I also have in my collection, an antique souvenir book from the Queen's Dolls' house and a more recent book from my travels there. It is truly amazing and one of the finest examples of craftsmanship in miniature. In my youth, I used to check out a book from the library about the dollhouse.

    1. Hi Troy, glad you enjoyed this post, it is an amazing piece of work, so many crafts people got involved!! It is nice that you have actually seen it. It's funny I had a facination with miniatures from an early age, mostly lived out in Lego and things cut from magazines it has to be said, I remember my sisters had a dolls house, mock Tudor with roses on the door and the foulest paper patterned carpet you will hope never to see! I used to like the way the doors and windows opened!

      I am hoping to see QM's house soon for my birthday.

  2. Una casa de muñecas realmente maravillosa!! Aunque nunca una muñeca ha pisado esta casa!! Un abrazo enorme!!

    1. ¡Ah! Pedrete, estoy seguro de que habría tenido una de sus muñecas finas en la casa había sido de alrededor que hace tantos años! Pero tienes razón que es necesario que algunas muñecas para llevar algo de vida a las habitaciones preciosas!

      Ah! Pedrete, I am certain that they would have had one of your fine dolls in the house had you been around all those years ago!! But you are right it does need a few dolls to bring some life into those lovely rooms!

  3. Thank you for this Wonderful visit to the Queen's House, er I mean DOLLHOUSE! I have never seen it in person, but I have gazed at pictures in books... I will go check out that web-site! This is the sort of House that makes me sigh and say... maybe I should have tried for REAL Marble floor tiles in my Cupboard House.... I ALREADY think I should have READABLE Books in ALL my shelves... Silly me! Only Queens get PERFECTION! But the rest of us can TRY... and Sigh... and DREAM...

    1. Hello Day Dreamer!

      I think we can all look at something and wish we were as good, as perfect. It's easy to feel dispondent, when I look at Mulvany and Rogers, QM's dolls' House, the Thorpe Rooms, teh perfect furniture by the likes of John Hodgson, Mark Gooch and Geoffrey Wonnacott, I look at what I have done and think, why have I bothered?! But, in truth, we should all be proud of what we have acheived. I know much more about woodwork and miniature making than I did a few years ago. yes I have made some big mistakes, but I've learnt from them, and maybe one day people might look at something I have made and think, 'wow! I would love to be able to do something like that'

      I love what you do, that you try and make things yourself. It would be nice to have a bookcase filled with readable books, and we can all afford a few of those, but who's to know really? You'll have a lot more fun making your own!

      Wow! lol! that was wordy! It is still fun to dream!! ;)

    2. Yes, that should be Thorne Rooms!!

  4. Hello Andy!
    Great post about a fantastic "Dolls House". It has been my privilage to stand before "Queen Mary's Dollshouse" on four occasions, each time in a private tour so it was up close and personal. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and photos of this stunning creation. I wish every miniaturist could see, in person, this wonderful house.
    Warm regards from Ray

    1. Hi Ray, well your rooms sets and houses are as good as anything at Windsor!! How lucky to have a private tour, not just once but FOUR TIMES!! wow! ;)

      pleased that you enjoyed this post!

  5. Qué entrada más bonita y más instructiva. Gracias por la explicación y las fotos. Me ha gustado mucho. Besos

    1. Gracias Sionchi!

      Se trata de una impresionante entrada estoy de acuerdo;)

      Me alegro de que haya disfrutado leyendo esto!

      Andy x

  6. Wow! What a post!!

    There is so much to this beautiful piece that one does not know where to begin! So many stunning elements and tiny details.It is truly breathtaking, I really don't know which room i admire most.

    I am very much taken with the garden, the trees are lovely and I love the idea of the snail. The bedrooms are beautiful, the nursery, and of course my special interest, the cellar.......;)

    A wonderful post Andy, no doubt very time consuming. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    ML Fi xxxx

    1. Hi Fi!

      pleased this post was so popular! I thought everyone would think, 'meh! seen it, been there, done that!' The Queen's bedroom is my favourite room ( I wonder why!?), followed by the library I think. There are a couple of rooms I couldn't show you, and a sweet little games cupboard with golf clubs, croquet set etc.

      Now it's probably for the best that the wine cellar remains sealed off from you!! ;)

    2. PS. is that gum tree all chopped up now? I'll send David over to help. He won't be any good, but will look nice draped against the log pile!! ;)

    3. He,he, you do make me laugh so!

      Visions of David draped over our log pile is priceless!! I think that is all he would be good for given that shoulder pain.

      Dont get me started on the tree, it took two two men and a very determined woman to two days to split and stack. We had a machine to do the splitting, ( the boys were operating that ) it was called a timber wolf, my new nick name is little wolf. I stacked every last piece and the pile is 2 logs deep nearly 2 meters high and 8 long. It took me 8 hours but it's done!!! needless to say I'm quite tired!

      Oh and you've got me thinking now re- cellar, perhaps I will put one in when I add on my basement....... ; )

      Fi xxxx

    4. I'm not surprised you're so tired! good work! Your wolf sounds like a great bit of kit!

      If you have a cellar, you'll have to keep it FILLED!! ;)

  7. You've done it again Andy - an excellent post. I've seen the House for real but you don't get too much time to study the detail. The two books available are excellent and well worth having. I'd like to have seen more of the garden too, Fi.

    Thanks again Andy for taking the time to post this.

    1. Hi Irene, I'm planning a visit to see the house on my birthday, only a few (life-shortening) weeks away!! I had heard you don't get much time to see anything, I have agood book I picked up a few years ago, so will flick through it before I go.

      Are there any nice miniature shops in Windsor? You'd think so, but it's not a big town is it? Mind you there is Lego land!!!! Hmmmmm!

      Glad you've enjoyed this post. You have your own great Dolls House yourself, love what you've done so far! ;)

      Andy xx

  8. ANDY! I missed your posts while on vacation and what a treat to come home to this one! I have long-admired this house from a book when I was a kid (along with another about Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle). Hope to see it for real someday...Thanks!

  9. JOHN!! we've all missed you, with only your Renaissance incarnation for company! (not that he isn't fab!) I think I first heard about QM's house on TV, years ago when I was young. I Have a book which features Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle, it's a real treasure isn't it, maybe I'll feature it in the future!

    Good to have you back buddy!

    Andy xx