Museum number: W.17-1930
Currently on display in the Home Gallery

This dolls’ house was purchased for £30 in 1930, from Margaret Kirkby Neave (1871-1939). She was the daughter of Jabez Riggall and Margaret Adams Kirkby, who were both from old farming families in Lincolnshire. Many of the dolls’ houses in the Museum’s collection belonged to families living in towns, so Mrs Neave’s house is unusual in this respect. However, Jabez Riggall was a wealthy farmer. In 1871 he owned 640 acres and employed 19 staff.

The older Margaret was born in 1838, and is the right age to have been the original owner of the dolls’ house, which is a well-preserved home of the 1840s. As a child, Margaret lived in a large farmhouse with a governess and 2 house servants.

Mrs Neaves House

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The four rooms in this dolls’ house have very high ceilings, making it easy to see in. Full-size wallpaper has been used, creating dramatic contrasts of scale next to the small figures.

This dolls’ house was carefully and prettily furnished with a mixture of homemade and mass-produced miniatures. There are hand-painted pictures on the walls in the downstairs parlour, and a small collection of seashells arranged on the corner table. The nursery or lying-in room upstairs is bursting with hand-sewn textiles, including bed canopies, cradle covers, blankets and tablecloths.

There are also examples of tin dolls’ house furniture manufactured by the Wolverhampton firm Evans & Cartwright. They used a number of standard templates, recombined to make washstands, firegrates, candlesticks, and more. The factory was at the peak of success around 1840, and employed large numbers of children to paint the decorative colours onto the dolls’ house furniture.