Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Bed Warmer Update! - The Stubbington Workshop

Well it didn't take long to find another piece of the puzzle regarding the bed warmer in my previous blog!

Bed Warmer - Coin Miniature by The Stubbington Workshop

My clever friend Claire has discovered that my lovely miniature bed warmer was made by Kevin J. Stubbington of The Stubbington Workshop in Portsmouth (UK).

There is a nice little YouTube video of Kevin being interviewed at the New Forest Show, posted in August in 2010. The caption by FRL Media reads: "Kevin Stubbington, founder of the famous Stubbington Workshop at Twickenham, has been a coppersmith for some twenty years. Apart from his practical skills, he is also gifted with artistic and creative flair. Underlying his work is a passion for the Victoria [sic] era."

Maker's Mark - The Stubbington Workshop

The Stubbington Workshop maker's mark, matching that on my bed warmer, can be seen on the sign in the background of the YouTube video (left above).

Screen Shot of a Bed Warming Pan Like Mine
in the YouTube Video

I was even able to spot a little bedwarmer just like mine in the opening shots of Kevin's stall.

Miniature Globe made from Coins
Made by The Stubbington Workshop
©Claire Quick

And in fact, my friend Claire, having identified the maker of my bed warmer for me, then realised that she too had a piece by The Stubbington Workshop - one of the little globes discussed in the YouTube video. The little maker's mark on the upright part of the stand had previously gone unnoticed, so we're both pleased to know more about our items!

In the video, Kevin explains the he trained as a coppersmith, serving his apprenticeship in Portsmouth dockyard where he worked for about ten years before taking his work on the road and selling it to antique shops. He gradually developed an interest in antiques and then old coins, which then lead on to his business making coin miniatures like my little bed warmer.

You might have noticed that the video caption refers to "Twickenham" (London), whereas the sign on Kevin's stall indicates that the business was located at 30 Chilgrove Road, Drayton, Portsmouth, and it looks as if the the business relocated to Twickenham, perhaps soon after the interview was filmed.

As evidence of this relocation, at the time of writing, there is an example of a table and chair in its original box - sturdy plain white cardboard with an oval sticker on the lid. The sticker looks just like the oval sign displayed on Kevin's stall in the video (see photo above), however, the address given is "37 Hamilton Road, Twickenham, Middx., TW2 6SN, England". I can see too that the workshop is still listed at that address in various online telephone directories, which could mean that the business is still trading today.

Some of the other dolls' house-appropriate items which I spotted in the video were: a gramophone, a kettle, a jug, balance scales, candlesticks and holders, and a drum kit. 

I will be keeping an eye out for them from now on!

Until next time,

Monday, 16 May 2022

A Two Penny Bed-warmer

My last post was about a miniature with a bit of history and this one continues on a similar theme.

This little bed-warmer arrived in the post today. It's 8 cm long and as that's the perfect size for a dolls' house, I'm assuming the that is what it was made for. Here it is hanging from a nail in one of my dolls' house kitchens.


What drew me to this little object was the fact that the pan of the bed-warmer is made from two pre-decimal British pennies. They are both dated 1930. I love that!

Being pennies from the 1930s, the inside of the bed-warmer shows the head of King George V (who reigned from 1910 to 1936) on their reverse sides.

It seems appropriate that these pennies have been used because, as I mentioned in my last post, George's queen was Mary of Tek: she of the keen interest in dolls' houses and Queen Mary's Dolls' House.

It's been beautifully made. The handle and hinge are made of brass, as is the little knob on the lid of the pan. The handle, which is soldered to the lower penny or base of the pan, has this lovely embellishment made from what appears to be two interwoven strands of copper, tying in nicely with the copper of the pennies.

The hinge works perfectly and is made from a rod of brass through a hole pierced through the end of the handle. The hinge is soldered to the upper penny or pan lid.

I'm wondering, of course, who made the warming-pan and when.

Intriguingly, there is this tiny impressed mark on the on the end of the handle, next to the hanging ring. It appears to be the letter 'S' with something either side of it. Unfortunately, my internet searching hasn't, thus far, turned up any information on it.

Equally, though we know the age of the coins, I'm completely in the dark as to when they were made into a miniature bed-warmer. 

I've learned that the pre-decimal penny ceased to be legal tender in 1971, and that it's only since The Coinage Act of 1971 that it's been an offence to destroy a metal coin that is current in the UK. Unfortunately, these facts combined mean that the bed-warmer could legally have been made any time in the last ninety-two years!

That said, references to maker's marks on brass seem to indicate that they're seen mainly on antique brass items, and this lovely little object does seem to have some patina of age, so who knows...

Hopefully one day I'll find another piece of the puzzle and all will be revealed!*

Until next time,

*Update Added 24th May, 2022

Well, it didn't take long to find another piece of the puzzle! My clever friend Claire has discovered that this lovely item was made by The Stubbington Workshop - see my next post for more information.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

George and Mary - A Miniature Souvenir Photo Album

This is a little trinket I bought for one of my dolls' houses last week and absolutely love.

Having recently been immersed in researching the miniatures relating to Queen Mary's Dolls' House for an article I wrote for Dolls' Houses Past and Present online magazine, I'm now hooked on everything to do with Queen Mary and the post-Edwardian era monarchy leading up to our present queen, Queen Elizabeth II (Queen Mary's granddaughter).

The tiny album measures only 2.3 cm high x 1.8 cm wide. The front features a photograph of King George and Queen Mary together.

Inside is a set of fold-out photos of King George, Queen Mary and each of their six children.

First we have King George V of England (b. 1865, d. 1936) who reigned from 1910 to 1936. George was the son of Edward VII and grandson of Queen Victoria.

Next we have Queen Mary of Teck (b. 1867, 1953). Originally betrothed to Prince Albert, the eldest son of Edward VII, she ended up marrying George, after Albert died unexpectedly.

Queen Mary is well-known in dolls' house collector circles for her keen interest in dolls' houses. It was said that when she visited stately homes with dolls' houses in them, the owners dreaded showing them to H.M. because if she took a fancy to something in the house, as she often did, they really had no option but to gift it to her!

It was for Queen Mary that Sir Edwin Lutyens was commissioned in 1921 to construct the palatial dolls' house known as Queen Mary's Dolls' House, now on display in Windsor Castle.

Next in the tiny photo album we have, on the left above, Prince Edward (b. 1894, d. 1972), who later became King Edward VIII before abdicating from the throne to marry the American socialite Wallace Simpson.

On the right above, is Prince Albert (b. 1895, d. 1952), who became King George VI following his brother's abdication. George was the father of our present queen, Queen Elizabeth II.

On the left above, we have the Mary, the Princess Royal (b. 1897, d. 1965) who later also became the Countess of Harewood.

On the right above, we have Prince Henry (b. 1900, d. 1974) who became Duke of Gloucester.

Next we have, on the left above, Prince George (b. 1902, d. 1942) who later became the Duke of Kent and died tragically at the age of 39, along with fourteen other men in a military air crash.

And finally, on the right above, we have Prince John (b. 1905, d. 1919) who was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of four. He was subsequently sent to the King's Sandringham estate where he was kept out of the public eye. He died of a severe seizure when he was only thirteen years old.

Judging by the ages of the children in the photos, I am guessing that the miniature will date to around 1911 when the eldest son, Prince Edward, would have been about seventeen, and the youngest, Prince John, about six. This would make sense because the souvenir is likely to have been produced to commemorate the coronation of King George V which was in June 1911.

The photos are all signed "Lafayette", referring to Lafayette Photography which began trading in 1880 and is still trading today, claiming to he the oldest photographic company in Ireland and possibly even in the world.

All that remains now is for me to place the album in a dolls' house of the right period - I'll add a photo here when I've done so, but just at the moment, they're all [very frustratingly] packed away pending a full-size house move.

Until next time,


Sunday, 19 September 2021

The Nostell Dolls' House - A Wonderful Surprise!

On Friday, my friend Jenny and I headed down the A1 to Nostell Priory near Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

Nostell Priory

Owned by the National Trust, Nostell Priory has been home to the Nostell Dolls' House - one of England's oldest and best preserved dolls' houses - for almost 300 years.

Why the Surprise?

Well, what we hadn't anticipated about our visit was just how well-timed it was, because it turns out that there has recently been a significant investment of time and money into the sensitive conservation, restoration and improved presentation of the Nostell Dolls' House.

This is refreshingly at odds with what we've seen in so many other stately homes and museums, where it seems less and less importance is being placed on dolls' houses as items of historical interest, and in some museums they have, sadly, been removed from display altogether and placed in storage.

  New guidebook published in 2020: ISBN 978-0-7078-0457-6

So, when we arrived at the ticket desk and found that not only was there a guidebook for the full-size house, but there was also a separate one - written only last year - for the dolls' house, our anticipation grew.

It was soon clear from a quick glance through the very well-written and informative guide, that we were in for a treat, and we couldn't wait to see the newly restored house.

And hats off to the Nostell National Trust team, because we weren't disappointed!

The Nostell Dolls' House, dated to 1735.

We found the dolls' house situated in its own room in a prominent position on the ground floor of the big house. It is displayed with an open front - as all fabulous dolls' houses on public display should be but sadly aren't! - and positioned directly behind glass so that we were able to get close up to it and see into the rooms properly.

What a size it is! Apparently it stands five and a half foot tall, without its stand, and it is easily just as wide.

Lighting is always problematic when delicate antiques are displayed, but I though the balance between keeping the room dim enough to keep the dolls' house safe, and providing enough light for good viewing, had been well-struck.

Entrance hall with beautiful wooden panelling and grand staircase.

Kitchen - there is a lovely spit jack, slightly hidden behind the servant.

The grand and beautiful drawing room.

The Red Velvet Bedroom.

The Yellow Bedroom.

The Morning or Lying-in Room.

The newly cleaned drapery looks almost new, but it is all original.

In addition to the rooms I've shown here, there is also a dining room and a dressing room each for the Yellow, and Red Velvet bedrooms - unfortunately, I couldn't get any decent photos of them because of reflections in the glass.

And there was more!

In addition to the main attraction itself, I was also impressed by a well put-together and interesting video which is screening in the dolls' house room, with seating provided so that you can watch it sitting down (several times, as it happened..!) 

We used the same seating to sit and gaze longing and lovingly at the dolls' house in between the arrival and departure of numerous other visitors too!

And just when we'd torn ourselves away from the dolls' house and were off to see the rest of the big house, the next room surprised us with a second video giving even more interesting information about the dolls' house, as well as some more general information about the role of dolls' houses historically.

What more could we ask for? Well, a lovely cup of coffee and some cake in the sunny courtyard after our tour, as it happened!

Until next time,


P.S. I almost forgot....the big house was very interesting too! The ambitious plans (drawn up by Adams) for a huge new addition to the earlier house, were never completed due to a family tragedy. However, the house is still very impressive, with beautiful ceilings and other architectural features by Adams, rare Chippendale furniture, sumptuous drapery and some excellent paintings. We didn't get a chance to look around the grounds on this visit, but we'll definitely be back at some point and hopefully we'll get to see those then too.

[All photos copyright Zoe Handy, September 2021.]

Thursday, 13 May 2021

The Wonders of Dol-Toi Accessories

I don't have much Dol-Toi furniture in my collection as, generally speaking, I find it to be too small, even for my smaller houses. However, the same can't be said for Dol-Toi accessories which I find perfect for adding interest to 1:16 scale properties.

The list of different Dol-Toi accessories a child could spend their pocket money on is huge, but here are some of my favourites:

Dol-Toi Breadboard, Loaf and Knife

As a young girl, I would have found adding details like this breadboard set and the pastry set below to my doll's house absolutely thrilling.

Dol-Toi Mixing Bowl, Pastry Board and Rolling Pin

My pasty board and the breadboard are essentially the same and the rolling pin sits in a groove like the one in the breadboard in the previous photo. The mixing bowl is made of plaster.

Dol-Toi Salad Bowl

The sweet little bowl of salad is also made of plaster.

Dol-Toi Toast Rack

These little toast racks are such a lovely vintage detail for a dolls' house kitchen that they've found homes in several of mine.

Dol-Toi Plate Rack

As have the plate racks for the same reason. They look sweet with painted metal Dol-Toi tea plates stacked in them.

Dol-Toi Pan Rack and Pan Set

These colourful tiny metal pans sit neatly in the little wooden pan rack and are another lovely detail for a smaller-scale kitchen.

Dol-Toi Groceries

The groceries are another firm favourite in the kitchens of my smaller houses. I find that majority of vintage groceries (as opposed to modern reproductions of vintage groceries) are too big for my dolls' houses, but these are great... 

Dol-Toi Groceries in a Barton Kitchen Dresser

...and fit perfectly into the cupboards and on shelves in 1:16 scale furniture.

Dol-Toi 'Electric' Mixer

The fab electric mixer is made of plaster. Which 1960s cook didn't own or long to own a Kenwood Chef!

Dol-Toi Pans with Food

Bringing the dolls' house kitchen further to life, these Dol-Toi pans have various contents and can sit bubbling away happily on the cooker top.

Dol-Toi Plates of Food

And for when breakfast, lunch or dinner is served, these sweet little metal plates with plaster food on them are just the ticket! 

Dol-Toi Lobster Platter

For those special occasions, how about a lobster platter? This platter is made of plastic with a plaster lobster, but the earlier ones are made of metal with plaster food. 

Dol-Toi Green Cups and Saucers

Dol-Toi's little metal tea sets are lovely and come in several pretty colours, but the green set is my favourite as it's so cheerful.

Oddly, the tea pot in the later tea sets is unfeasibly large (Scout jamboree size!) compared to the rest of the pieces. I wonder how many of the tiny tea cups it could fill... oh dear, I see a miniature experiment in the offing, ha ha!

Dol-Toi Cake Stand and Cake

Another lovely detail for a dolls' house.  The cake is wooden and the stand is glass.

Dol-Toi Soda Syphon

Which other British dolls' house maker supplied such grown-up and sophisticated accessories as this glass soda syphon? I don't think I even knew what a soda syphon was as a young girl of the 60s and 70s!

Dol-Toi Soda Syphon

This syphon has a slightly fancier base than the one in the previous photo.

Dol-Toi Decanter, Tray and Wine Goblets

Again, this set is far removed from anything I was familiar with in my childhood home, but aren't they great? And they do suit the more affluent households in my dolls' house collection now!

Dol-Toi Bottle of Wine and Wine Goblets

In addition to the soda syphon and decanter, Dol-Toi sold a selection of alcoholic beverages for the dolls' house drinks trolly or cabinet. 

Dol-Toi wine goblets (I'm not sure why they didn't just call them glasses!) vary a lot in size but are all generally quite tiny.

Dol-Toi Bottle of Whiskey, Tray and Tumblers

The trays came in silver and gold and were either round or oval.

For those dolls' house drinks parties, other tipples such as Absinthe, Advocaat, Claret, Port and Burgundy were available.

Dol-Toi Brown Glasses and Tray

These brown glasses always look to me as if whatever beverage was in them has already been drained by the dolls' house residents.

Dol-Toi Goblets and Tray

These cheerful red glasses are my favourites.

Dol-Toi Letter Rack and Letters

Moving away from the kitchen and drinks cabinet to the other rooms in the dolls' house, what mid-20th century home was complete without a letter rack?

Dol-Toi Letter Rack and Letters

They were even supplied complete with Dol-Toi stationery!

Dol-Toi Alarm Clock

This little alarm clock would be a cute little detail in any vintage dolls' house bedroom.

Dol-Toi Standard Lamp
(Also Dol-Toi Alarm Clock and Book)

I'm not sure if the shade on my lamp is original or not as the others I've seen are made of paper, but it looks right to me and is a huge part of the appeal of the piece.

Dol-Toi Bear Rug and Leopard Rug

I like to think these odd little Dol-Toi rugs were based on the imitation fur rugs many households of the 60s and 70s sported and not real animal skins. What were we all thinking back then? I'm so glad we live in generally more enlightened times now.

Dol-Toi 'Continental' Flower Trough

Dol-Toi delightfulness can also be added to the garden with a little flower trough!

Dol-Toi Radio

And this lovely little radio is perfect for the hair salon.

So, that's my tour of my favourite Dol-Toi accessories compete.

Having said at the start that Dol-Toi furniture is generally too small for my houses, I do have a handful of pieces which I treasure and I'll end this post with a photo of my absolute favourite Dol-Toi set:

Dol-Toi 'Modern Kitchen' (1957-67)

This cheerful vintage green colour with the stained wood and formica tops is so appealing to me. The fact that the whole kitchen fits neatly into the bay window of my Tri-ang Ultra Modern is an added bonus.

Before I finish, I must mention that everything I know about the Dol-Toi items in my collection comes from the meticulous research of Marion Osborne, published in The Book of Dol-Toi - Dolls House Furniture and Accessories 1941-1975, 2012 - a highly recommended book which comes with a CD containing hundreds of colour photographs (and no, I'm not on commission!)

Until next time,

[All photos copyright Zoe Handy, May 2021.]