I have recently inherited a dolls’ house, and it has made me think a bit about houses, homes and the stories that they tell, as well as the ideal world that the dolls house reveals in its miniature perfection.
The story of this dolls’ house begins with a “Once upon a time …”
The dolls’ house belonged to my Aunty Chris, who sadly died earlier this year in her late 80s. (I should point out that she wasn’t really a biological aunt, but my godmother: not a fairy godmother, admittedly, but a godmother nonetheless.)
Aunty Chris had a fairytale chidlhood, but not in a good way: her mother died when she was very young and her step-mother didn’t treat her kindly. She had always wanted a dolls’ house, but never had one as a child. Her husband, my Uncle Peter built this one for her in the 1990s after they retired and they moved to Goathland in the heart of the Yorkshire Moors.
When the TV series Heartbeat started filming in Goathland Chris and Pete got involved. Pete was an extra – in the early series you can spot him, often along with Tasha the spaniel, sporting a very fine moustache! Chris provided board and lodgings for one of the make-up crew and some of the money from their adventures in “Aidensfield” (as Goathland was renamed for the series) was invested into the dolls’ house.
Making the dolls’ house was a real labour of love for both Chris and Pete. They listed everything that they made and bought for the house in a little red notebook; Pete not only built the house but made some of the furniture for it himself, and Chris sewed carpets and soft furnishings, and the finished house was amazing. I used to enjoy looking at it whenever we went to see Chris and Pete, and I was incredibly touched when I heard that she wanted me to have it in her will.
With the dolls house came a fascinating history. Photographs of the house when first constructed, documents from the company which sold it to certify its authenticity, as well as that little notebook listing where everything came from.
So, when the dolls house arrived, I left it empty for a while, with the furniture carefully packed away in boxes. It took a little while to decide that I wanted to change a few rooms around – Chris had added to the original house so she had a kitchen on the main floor of the house and a music room in the basement which was added later – I wanted to change this round to have both the kitchen and the scullery “below stairs” for a start. While it stood empty, a couple of curious new residents moved in:
And now it’s ready to start a new chapter in it’s story. My husband has carefully altered the original structure (slightly) to fit into its new home, and I’m ready to start furnishing and redecorating in the weeks ahead – if I can get the cats out, that is – beginning a new chapter in it’s story.