Monday, 12 September 2016


A nice Sunday morning walk on what turned into a glorious autumn day. But, no, that isn't Ham House - it's the most amazing miniature house that's on display there for the next few weeks. (Don't call it a dolls' house. There aren't any dolls.) It has taken two years - and 30 craftsmen from all over the world - to recreate the house as it was in its 17th century heyday, with candelabra blazing. In matters of extravagance, the clever couple who built the house asked themselves, 'What would the Duchess [of Lauderdale] have done?' and went for luxury. ... she was a big spender.
When the rooms swing open - no touching, though I longed to - it's as though the inhabitants have just left the building. I was entranced by the tiny pair of gloves on a windowledge, and the letters on a desk - even more so than by the Mortlake tapestry hangings, painstakingly stitched to a 48 count. (So nearly 22,000 tiny silk stitches, and each little tapestry took a year to make.) There's even a special fragrance for the house - wood smoke, polish, flowers, a hint of the Duke's tobacco - but I wasn't able to discern this; maybe it was too subtle in a crowd of visitors. But the real Ham is said to be one of the most haunted houses in the country and the strong aroma of tobacco is quite often discerned on the stairs, a sign that the Duke's ghost is wandering the house  ... so maybe he'll step into the parlour to see this wonderful toy. The miniature house has been built as a private commission for an Arab sheikh; I wondered if he'll ever pull out a tiny tea dish or a leather bound book and rearrange the contents, or if it's only for looking at? Here's a link to the website of the couple who built it.

6 comments:

Sue said...

Entrancing. I was smitten by miniatures when I saw Queen Mary's Dollshouse as a child. I had an illustrated guidebook to it which I pored over for hours -predictably the kitchen and pantry were my favourites. Thank you for the link to these wonderful craftspeople.

mary said...

I'm always amazed that people have such skills and patience, Sue. My favourite part is the kitchen, too! But I'd love to see their recreation of Hogwarts - I wonder where it is?

galant said...

From my researches into these miniatures houses, they were once known as 'baby houses' because they were small versions of the owner's actual house. AS well as being something to show off to friends, they were also used as a teaching aid for the daughter of the house so she could learn how to run a household when she was older. They were never intended as playthings which doll's houses (or dolls' houses) are considered today. I have seen Queen Mary's Doll's House designed by Lutyens with furniture and paintings and so forth by the great and the good of the day, really a showpiece for British craftsmanship.
Margaret P

mary said...

I'd love to see Queen Mary's house, Margaret.

galant said...

Queen Mary's Doll's House is quite magnificent. I enjoyed seeing it more than Windsor Castle itself!
Still with doll's houses, or more correctly, miniature houses, there is a couple who make them rather splendidly: Kevin Mulvany and Susie Rogers, and they have a book on the subject: Magnificent Miniatures. You will hardly believe that the rooms and buildings you see aren't real ones!
Margaret P
www.margaretpowling.com

mary said...

This house is one of theirs, Margaret. I went back for a second look a few days ago and noticed lots I hadn't picked up on the first time. People are saying it's even better than Queen Mary's house.