If you are a dolls house fan, then you will already know about Queen Marys Dolls House and the quality furniture, original artworks and books it contains, produced by over 1,500 artists, craftsmen and makers.
Designed as a gift for Queen Mary between 1920 and 1924 by British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, it went on display at the British Empire exhibition held in London from 23rd April 1924 to October 1925 before being re-located to Windsor Castle. For over 90 years it has continued to raise money for charitable causes and be admired by thousands of visitors.
Queen Mary's 1924 letter of thanks
British Empire exhibition leaflet and map
Accompanying the dolls house when it was completed in 1924 were two volumes of books - vol 1 The Queens Dolls House, with a complete inventory and lists of donors, artists makers and craftsmen. Vol 2 - the Queens dolls house library devoted to the authors that produced the many books the library contains.
In the same year, extracts from the books were produced in a smaller book entitled "everybody's book of the Queen's Dolls' House" with profits from the book going to Queen Marys charitable causes. 3 detailed sets of tucks postcards were also produced showing many rooms and individual items in the house.
While I was researching the history of the Old Bleach Linen Co ( you can read it here ) I discovered that they produced a host of finely stitched tiny replica linen items for Queen Mary's Dolls House so this is a follow up post about these amazing items.
Old Bleach supplied the Royal Household with Damask tablecloths and other linens so it seems natural that they would be selected to replicate tiny versions of all of the household linens for the dolls house. These included linen towels, bed and cot sheets and pillows, tablecloths and runners for both the royal household and the domestic staff, as well as the more mundane domestic use items such as dusters, pudding cloths, knife cloths and aprons.
These incredible hand stitched reproductions in miniature were monogrammed for the dolls house with white for the royal rooms and red for the servants and housekeepers. Bundles of linen were also stored in the dolls house linen room tied with "colour coded" ribbons denoting the household use. One of the full size Damask tablecloths was sent to Ireland to help with reproducing it in miniature for the dining table in the dolls house.
the linen room in the dolls house
The housekeepers room with Old Bleach Linen towels
The dolls house book from 1924 tells us that "certain properties of matter do not scale down comfortably when size is altered.. the clothes, linen table cloths, the bed sheets etc.. though exquisitely made, of the very finest known materials, are liable to behave as if they had been slightly
starched... Curtains, carpets and the table cloth laid on the dining table all required extremely careful coaxing"
The Old Bleach Damask tablecloth in the dining room
Old Bleach proudly advertised their connection to the dolls house - the following advert appeared in New York in 1924 when the dolls house was completed :
The Royal collection has some lovely photos of some of the linens in the dolls house made by Old Bleach, I especially love the beautifully made aprons which were pictured in black and white in the 1924 book about the dolls house and also show the cross over fastening with tiny buttons.
Monogrammed pillow case for use in the Royal rooms
The Lisburn Irish Linen centre and museum in Ireland has a selection on display of some of the monogrammed Old Bleach linen contained in the dolls house, donated to them in the 1990's. I have not been able to find out how the donor came to acquire the items, but I think most likely the collection was kept as a record by an old Bleach employee. Many employees often built up personal collections of items they had produced at the factory.
Makers also re-produced items supplied to the dolls house for purchase by the general public. Old Bleach Linen co produced a boxed set of "Dollies Towels" which contained a set of 6 replica tiny linen towels that can be found in several rooms in the dolls house. They are not marked as such, but I think these little sets were most likely sold as souvenirs during the British Empire Exhibition. The set I have date to this time and came in a tiny 10cm or so long box, lined with tissue paper, tied up with a green shamrock ribbon together with a card insert explantion.
The box and it's contents are a fantastic historical reference to both the Old Bleach Linen Co and Queen Mary's dolls house - a rare survivor now over 90 years old. There may have been other miniature replica items sold as souvenirs by Old Bleach, and I would love to know if this is the case.