Museum number: B.88-2011
Currently on display in the Creativity Gallery

George and Joseph Lines were the most important British toy makers of the 19th century, known as the Lines Bros. They made rocking horses and other toys and by the end of the century were producing a large number of dolls’ houses of different types. The earliest surviving catalogues, which date from the early 20th century, show solid-looking town houses and mansions.

These houses were of the highest quality and were built to last. The wallpapers were specially-printed miniatures of contemporary designs. However, real life was changing fast and technological developments had started to revolutionise the way that homes were run. As machinery became more widespread, there was a dwindling need for domestic staff. The First World War (1914-1918) made it possible for women to realise their potential in the commercial, agricultural and industrial world. The three sons of Joseph Lines decided to branch out and produce more modern houses which reflected these changes, and set up their own company after the war using Triangtois as the trade name. This was later changed to Tri-ang, a name and logo still familiar to many people. The two firms merged after the death of Joseph Lines but none of the G&J Lines items were used again.

Tri-ang sold a large range of dolls’ houses, all of which reflected popular taste in domestic architecture and interiors, including cottages with and without thatches, country houses, bungalows, and state-of-the-art geometric Modern Dolls’ Houses of the 1930s. However, it was the range of Tudor houses that proved to be enduringly popular and these were manufactured for several decades.

Tri-ang also made dolls’ house furniture to go with their range of houses, including a period range, and a large number of fretwork kits.

The Modern dolls' house, Lines Bros., England, about 1930 Museum no. MISC.65-1975

The Modern dolls’ house, Lines Bros., England, about 1930
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Modern dolls’ house

Museum number: MISC.69-1965

Lines Bros. were keen to keep up with modern styles, the most innovative example of their products being the Modern house. It was described by the manufacturers as having an ‘ultra-modern design’ because of its flat roof and geometric design. By the 1930s, architecture was widely influenced by the work of architects such as Mies van der Rohe (the last director of the Bauhaus), Le Corbusier and Erno Goldfinger, whose concerns were with economical and flexible use of space and materials.

However, many people still preferred the cosy traditional look of the familiar thatched cottages, or Georgian-style or mock Tudor houses, and so traditional dolls’ houses continued to sell for decades.