Saturday, 3 May 2014

Doll's house miniatures. Secure and happy in a tiny world?

Most of us, male or female, will have played "house" when young. However reluctantly in some cases.... Probably fewer of us will have had access to, or played with doll's houses. Or the furniture and miniature dolls that inhabit them and complete the role play. Here is some of the furniture that my younger sister and I used to "play doll's houses" growing up in King's Lynn, Norfolk .
Collection: Lucy  Britton (nee Thornton)
Normally we created rooms on any available floorspace using square wooden bricks to divide the living areas i.e we had no dollshouse superstructure! There was a large doll's house kept outside come rain or shine, its painted pitched roof must have shed rain well enough for it not to disintegrate in the wet.  It did have a full size electric switch at the base of, and a light bulb at the top of a staircase. But unfortunately not working! Probably in retrospect because there was no wiring to a source of electricity - this fact would have escaped me when young. I was forever optimistic of a lit bulb!


But even if the concept of dollshouse play has escaped the majority of readers, most of us will have had a doll to play with. That could have been a conventional female "dress-up" doll, a "baby" doll, or a male soldier or action figure. Dolls of one sort of another are far more common in history and across cultures than we might imagine. And some of these dolls have survived to tell their tales.

In his book "Great Tales from English History" Robert Lacey mentions a Medieval friar, Geoffrey of Lynn (formerly Bishop's Lynn but renamed King's Lynn following the dissolution of the Monasteries). His "Prompter for Little Ones" has a good claim to be the first child-friendly book, and it gives a rare glimpse into Medieval childhood. This prompter or dictionary set out the words a good medieval pupil would be expected to know - many of them to do with religion. But as Lacey notes "...defying the solemn tone, Geoffrey also listed the names of toys, games and children's playground pastimes. We read of ragdolls, four different types of spinning top, ...games..." Lacey goes onto tell us that Mudlarks on the River Thames have made some wonderful finds over the years. Including tiny pewter playthings dating back as early as the 13th century - miniature jugs, pans, other kitchen and cooking utensils - just about everything you would need to equip a doll's house. Along with small metal soldiers that included a knight in armour cast from a mould, so evidently mass produced for the children of well to do medieval clients. Lacey draws the obvious conclusion that medieval grwon-ups recognised and cherished the magic world of childhood.

So is it a really a "mad" pursuit , as thought by some, when evidently past a youthful age some of us become  "makers"or "collectors" -  allowing us to play once more with impunity.

Big on miniatures and lost in our tiny worlds...... Medieval Morsels, Abasketof  and many

MedievalMorsels   Etsy hop owner Mary

Abasketof ...Etsy shop owners Lucy and Gillian

other doll's house miniaturists love to pursue this hobby. Different maybe, but perfect in our own small way. [With thanks to a partner who could not stop himself coining these disparaging, but essentially tongue in cheek "put-downs" (the italics).]