Tuesday, 10 December 2013

A Rare & Unusual Early 1900s Swan Dolls House

This is a gem of a dolls house, at least 100 years old. At first I thought it might be German but after much searching through all my usual antique dolls house literature and the internet, I simply could not identify it. Then by chance I was flicking through my well thumbed copy of Marion Osborne's A-Z 1914 - 1941 Dolls Houses yet again, when on page 185, a black and white scanned image of a circa 1912 Swan Toys advert caught my eye.
Image courtesy of Marion Osborne
It was the similarity of the roof for the "Up-To-Date Town Mansion" that grabbed my attention. The hand painted tiled roof, the shape of the dormer windows, the way the roof lifts up and the way the very large chimneys are set behind are all identical, so much so that there has to be a connection. Plus the angled embellishment on the top of the frontage and the hand painted brick top half are similar. I am convinced that this was made by the same company.  Swan Toys was the trade mark of Star Manufacturing Co which was based in London and which was made up of a group of companies...including Simpson Fawcett & Co.

In The Beginning........
This was what this house looked like when I first took it on. It had belonged to someone's daughter who had been given it as a youngster by her grandmother, but she had no interest in it and was now surplus to requirements. As you can see from the above photo, this was covered in modern brick and tile paper (although the upper tiled paper appeared older than the lower), inside the floors were covered in vintage sticky back plastic which hid an endless number of wires that all led up to the roof. Needless to say, the wiring looked lethal and was the first thing to come out.  In the kitchen there was a 1960s/70s Blue Box plastic kitchen unit which was also promptly removed.
On the roof,  I peeled a little of the tiled paper off at the front and found the hint of some wonderful hand painted tiles....so off it all came very quickly! What I found was truly delightful!
 By now I could not wait to see what else was under all the brick paper and this was what I found. Those of you who like immaculately manicured dolls houses will not be keen on this...but those of you, who like me,  adore old dolls houses that are not afraid to show their "wrinkles", you will love this. The most glorious hand painted bricks were painted over a  rich terracotta colour on the top half. On the bottom half, were the remains of a pretty yellow colour. The previous "Grandma" had in good faith, painted around the windows and exterior embellishments in a grey gloss paint. I have to say that I don't dislike it...but of course, whoever took this on, could continue in its restoration and see what is lurking underneath the grey, if they wished.
The front door opens...whether the yellow paint is the original, am not sure but there is this rather nice set of steps and canopy.
Around the rest of the exterior, the side and back walls are painted in a glorious rich terracotta. The side and back of the roof is painted in grey. The exterior is all a bit blotchy due to the removal of the papers. You can see a view of the very large chimneys in the above photo.
Inside, there are four main rooms, a hall with tiny room under the stairs and a landing with a second little room, plus a very odd window and tiny cupboard door above.
The roof lifts up....you can see one or two cracks along the back of the roof.....a common sight with these very old dolls but is not detrimental to this house overall.
Above, you can see a close up of the hall and landing. 
Generally....this house has been beautifully decorated internally. I think "the Grandma" has used gift wrapping paper to cover the internal walls and is definitely in keeping with the house.

The kitchen has a gorgeous hand painted tiled floor over terracotta paint and must be original to the house. There is a tear in the tiled kitchen wallpaper where the plastic kitchen unit had once been stuck.
 In three of the four main rooms there are simple wooden fireplaces, all similar like this upstairs one seen above.
 The frontage comes off and can stand freely in front. The plastic catch situated at the top of the front has long been broken. I suspect at one time, there were hook and eye catches at each side to keep the frontage in place.
This stands at 40" high and is magnificent. The very high ceilings gives the owner a huge scope for furnishing. Personally I would forget about scale and simply fill with old treasures that takes one's fancy.

This is now up for sale on KT Miniatures-click on the following link to view main details:

Needless to say.......if anyone out there can shed more light on this dolls house, would love to hear from you!


Giac said...

Hello Celia,
That is gorgeous and so well made. what a treasure! It has so much charm and character. It will make a wonderful restoration project.
Big hug,

Rebecca said...

An absolutely wonderful find, Celia! And very well spotted, too - I agree that it looks very like the Swan house. It's fantastic to see inside it (though I'd love to know if there's anything under those wallpapers! and I'd definitely be scratching at the window pediments!!)
I realised, looking at the catalogue pictures, that they seem to have retained the triangular pediment that their box-back houses have, and just put a roof behind it! Maybe a kind of transition from one style to another?
All in all, a fascinating house - I'd love it if you could write it up (well, much like this, I guess!) for a future edition of DHP&P :-)

KT Miniatures said...

Cheers Giac...yes I agree, it does have a lot of character and charm doesn't it. These kind of houses just do not come along very often.

Hi Rebecca...thought you would like this. Not sure if the photos do this house justice, the colouring of the frontage and roof is truly glorious. I shall leave any further scraping to a new owner!!! I have to say that the "Grandma" has decorated internally rather beautifully but yes, like you,am wondering what is underneath on those walls...if anything. I would be happy to write up a feature on this house for your DHP&P..maybe for the spring issue but I will email you privately. On page 184 of Marion's book, the advert showing the smaller box back houses do bear a resemblance too. I am intrigued by what seems to be some kind of glazing at the windows in all the houses that are in the adverts. Am assuming it would have been glass. Celia


jenann said...

I love the idea of houses having wrinkles. So that's three houses we have here with wrinkles, the real one and the two miniature ones. That's one wrinkly house for each wrinkly human living here!
This is a beautiful old house, Celia. Thank you for sharing it with us.

KT Miniatures said...

Hi Jenni. Yes, I much prefer a house to have wrinkles!! Hahaha. In my creating, I spend hours sometimes adding wrinkles to my miniatures!Celia