The Dolls House
From Shalford Mill
Originally the Dolls House was designed and built at Red Lion House, Chiswick Mall W4 in the old skittle alley, by Mr. John Macgregor, for his grandchildren, from a WWI table-top and plywood mainly from old packing cases. The ground floor of the Dolls House was completed for Christmas 1953 and the upper floor a year later.
Eventually the Dolls House was moved to Shalford Mill, owned by the National Trust, but in 2004 they had need for extra space and offered the Dolls House to the Rural Life Centre. The offer was accepted and the rather tatty parts arrived at the RLC in October 2004, where it remained untouched until January 2008.
When the Volunteers examined the parts at the start of the work, they found that much of the plywood had delaminated and needed replacing, following the ravages of time (and small children, probably). The decision was made to restore the Dolls House where possible, rather than just retaining the original materials, so that once again children could explore it rather than it just being a heap of bits. The front facade and an internal wall could be re-used, the stairs strengthened, but much of the remainder needed replacing. Some further work was also needed just in order to comply with up-to-date safety regulations - the sash windows had to be secured closed and emergency access doors fitted for rapid evacuation.
In August 2009 the Dolls House restoration was complete. On Sunday 24th August 2009 John Macgregor's daughters, with their children and grandchildren, attended the RLC Children's Fun Day and admired the finished result — some had even played in the original dolls house and remembered the Vogue magazine articles too! The article from House and Garden on September 1st is shown below; it describes the construction. The other article used the House as a modelling location for childrens clothes.
We all know the house as "The Dolls House", but it is very much larger than the normal dolls-house for children - it is designed for them to enter it and have a good look around! Being around half-scale, the entire construction (originally without a roof) was designed and built to fit comfortably into a room, between floor and ceiling.
Of course, being half as big as a real house, it is too small for grown-ups to enter.
Thanks to the hard work of Museum Volunteers and the generosity of the Farnham firms and other well-wishers who donated materials, the Dolls House is now completely usable again, and has delighted all the small children who visit us and explore it. Unlike the original, which reached right up to the ceiling of the room it was in and had no roof, it now has a roof and has met with the full approval of the Macgregor family.
Come along and see the little house for yourself - and let your small children enjoy it, too, just as John and Janet Macgregor intended in 1953.
Thanks to Vogue Magazine for providing their copyright article on the Dolls House