The Doll’s Toy Bazaar

Last week I had to ring an information telephone number and when my call was connected I was informed the current waiting time was 60 minutes. Interestingly the voice didn’t say one hour, but 60 minutes. Maybe, they think you’ll mishear and be hoping it was only going to be a 16 minute wait. Eventually after 57 minutes of holding on, I spoke to a human who endeavoured to help, but when they attempted to put me through to another department the advisor inadvertently cut me off.

Momentarily I was stunned. Disbelief was rapidly followed by R A G E. My blood pressure must have rocketed into the stratosphere. I felt I needed to get out of the house as quickly as possible. Breathe some fresh air. Go for a walk. Visit somewhere soothing and peaceful.

I strolled over to Christchurch Mansion which is near to where I live and at 10.15 on an August weekday morning it was open and thankfully still quiet. Of course, I have visited the Mansion on a number of occasions since I moved to Ipswich, but as yet had never investigated the Toy Room. To my surprise, along with the usual faded dolls and well-cuddled teddy bears, there was this fascinating gem. It is a Victorian Glass Dome display called the Doll’s Toy Bazaar.

The Doll’s Toy Bazaar is roughly 22 inches tall by 18 inches wide by 12 inches deep.

It’s difficult to understand the scale of this piece from photographs even when estimated measurements are given so I thought I’d include a sequence of photographs with ‘normal sized’ reference points.

Left, dome on the middle shelf of the case next to a doorway. Centre, dome above the antique dolls. Right – a little hard to see, but me with my phone in the toy mirror.
An aerial view of the Doll’s Toy Bazaar show it’s not as cluttered as it first appears.

The Doll’s Toy Bazaar is packed with miniature versions of familiar homeware. It’s relatively easy to spot candlesticks, glasses, porcelain ornaments and a few crocheted doilies.

Candlesticks, bottles, ornaments and a couple of white egg cups.

But something I didn’t notice until I looked at my photographs was this grouping of three very tiny houses. I think you can tell how small they are by the brush behind which has a head of bristles the size of a modern toothbrush head.

A model of three tiny houses – a toy for a Doll’s house nursery perhaps?

Looking at the entirety of the Doll’s Toy Bazaar made me consider the nature of the person who had collected and selected and arranged this display. Her name was Henrietta Clarke and she died in 1869. I’ve not been able to find out anything else about this Victorian woman at all. There’s no indication of her marital status or age at the time of making the display nor even if she grew to adulthood.

Mind you examining her creation we might presume that she had had steady hands and a patient temperament although lurking beneath the Victorian etiquette of feminine passivity there might have been an inner core of turmoil and vexation.

Doll’s house drinking glasses. Each glass is the size of your little finger’s finger nail.

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

29 thoughts on “The Doll’s Toy Bazaar”

  1. HI AGNES, I LOVE YOUR POST, SEE YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BE IN NEED OF COOLING OFF THAT DAY, LEST YOU MAY NEVER HAVE DISOVERED THE TOY ROOM OR THIS BEAUTIFUL WORK/COLLECTION. I TRIED TO FIND AN EMIL FOR YOU, INSTEAD OF WRITING IN THE COMMENTS. YOU PROBABLY FOUND THIS, FOR HENNRIETTA , I THOUGHT IT COULD BE A LEAD A WOMAN BY THIS NAME WAS BORN IN SCOTTLAND IN 1887
    https://www.geni.com/people/Henrietta-Clark/6000000011105212656
    ALAS, I WAS HOPING TO FIND SOMETHING PERHAPS IF ONLY JUST A TIDBIT MORE TO GO. JUST THINK HOW LONG IT MUST HAVE TAKEN TO EMASS & ARRANGE IT ALL!! LOVED YOUR POST AGNES! 🙂

    1. Yes, actually I did have quite a hunt around on Google and there were more than a few Henrietta Clarke’s throughout the 19th century. Clarke is a common name in the UK. I think it needs somebody called Clarke who has researched their family tree to maybe find a Henrietta who died in 1869 when they do a ‘Death Records Search’.

  2. What a fascinating sight and how well you photographed the items. Sorry about the extreme frustration that lead you to the museum and hope when you rang the firm you had better luck the second time.

    1. Yes, I did ring back in the afternoon. It was only a 45 minute wait that time! But eventually I have managed to sort out the problem. It’s a relief these days when you finally speak to a human and not a chatbot. It is possible to go round and round in circles with a bot – aaarrrrgh.

  3. What an extraordinary creation! Exploring it was probably more rewarding than remaining on hold – fruitlessly – for 57 minutes. Did you finally get through?

    1. As I just replied to Susan I did ring back in the afternoon. It was ‘only’ a 45 minute wait that time! But eventually I have managed to sort out the problem. It’s a relief these days when you finally speak to a human and not a chatbot. It is possible to go round and round in circles with a bot – aaarrrrgh

      1. Too true. I am beginning to take the approach where I ignore all choices until there’s (hopefully) the ‘any other’ option which, with luck, results in speaking to a human.

  4. I am a lifelong lover of dollhouses and miniatures and this post just made me so happy. I marvel at the ingenuity and the skill in creating such objects and the enjoyment of the collector who put it together. Many years ago in Washington DC (right outside it, actually) there was a dollhouse museum (you could also have a tea party there in the midst of them but I never did that) and we always went there when we visited the city. This reminded me of that, and how much fun it was. Thank you for this post!

    1. You are most welcome and I am pleased it prompted some good memories. You know as I was putting this post together I recalled your series of Tiny Houses. I prefer your contemporary versions of miniature houses, all free-flowing and colourful. They look so much more fun than the very staged Victorian versions which now end up in museums.

      1. Thank you. I think if we could see a house played with as the Victorian kids did (if it were one to play in and not for display) I think we would feel a kinship. Adults get hold of the tiny houses and turn them staid, I think! but the kids never do. I have one of those metal dollhouses from the 1950’s that my grandparents kept at their house for us to play with, and when they died I received it because I was the one who really loved it. I have my little plastic doll inhabitant here in the room with me right now, in the pathetic brown dress I sewed for her when I was about 8, I guess. I could go on and on, just the thought of a dollhouse is exciting! Thank you for listening and for your post.

      2. Oh I so agree with you about children playing especially when they’re not worried about breaking something. If an adult gives a doll’s house to children the adult should let the kids get on with it. Nothing stifles creative play quite as much as an eagle-eyed, interfering parent.

  5. It is a delightful miniature. I think I saw something along those lines at Legoland in Billund in Denmark. I don’t know if they still have that museum there. I couldn’t find any reference to it on their website.
    I assume you looked at the census records for Henrietta Clarke. As you say, such a common name – even I have Clark Ancestry. In 1861, at 121 East Street, Ipswich in the parish of St Matthews, there is a 10 year old Henrietta, daughter of Henry and Rachel Clarke. Hard to see how he could have any connection to Christchurch Manor though, as he is a bricklayer & plasterer. But just in case – her siblings are George, Arthur, Mary Ann and Laura.

    1. Oh thanks for the ‘Clarke’ info. From the census it would have made Henrietta around 18 years old when she died in 1869. I can imagine a sickly teenager making such a creation, but the link with the Mansion is more difficult. Mind you one could imagine a benevolent Lady Bountiful type at the Mansion gifting a project such as the glass dome to the dying child of a favoured estate employee.

      1. Yeah … no (Aussie expression). She turns up on the 1871, 1881, and 1891 censuses, living with her mother at various street numbers in Bamford Road Ipswich. Seamstress, dressmaker, etc. (both of them – I’d say the mother was widowed young even though the enumerator has not made that clear).
        Perhaps Henrietta married a Henry Elliott in her mature years and is listed on the census as “Minnie”. But I’d have to prove that to myself.
        Anyway, not the owner of the miniature.

      2. Ah righty ho. Well that’s that for the time being. And, thank you for going down that trail. I used to like doing the census searching when my mother was trying to trace her Irish great-grandfather through the records. She had a subscription with Ancestry UK and we did have a family tree going, but I haven’t had the time, money or inclination to carry on and nobody else in the family has shown any interest.
        After doing some searching around it appears that we, English, still have some free access to the Census Databases, but naturally they don’t get front page Google listings like Ancestry UK and Find My Past.

      3. Fiddle. Now I’m obsessed. I’ve found the Fonnerau’s easy enough but no sign of a Clarke servant or visitor.
        By the way, the brothers, Thomas Neale, and Peter, of Christchurch Park, died on the 11th and 12th October 1890. There’s a story in that, I’m sure.
        Anyway, have to have a stern word with myself to get on with my pile of other little jobs (read – nowhere near as interesting as THIS tale).

      4. Ah yes, real life, has to be done. On that note I am thinking about reducing my blogging activity with the aim to probably quitting sometime next year when I have done a decade!

      5. Over the years I don’t think it has resulted in many people clicking over to my shop, but the opposite where hesitant, potential customers check up to see if I am real and my work is authentic. The online blogging world is mostly a friendly place and people often still comment even if they no longer produce post themselves. We sometimes find real life suddenly and unexpectedly takes up significantly more time. A situation I guess you discovered when getting your work published.

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