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Sunday, August 24, 2008

The House of the Three Widows

At the Philadelphia Miniaturia fair in 1994, I discovered a Cornish range by Neil Butcher and bought it from Wayne and Sally Lasch, wondering what I was ever going to do with it. I am very disciplined when purchasing miniatures, only buying for the project at hand. Buying this was a change for me, but I hoped someday to do a house where I could use this piece. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I should contact Vic Newey again (see the Dickensian Street Scene below). He was making a lovely Merchants House, but that was not the style I wanted. I had always dreamed of a Cotswold stone house after several trips through that part of England. I loved the names of the towns, Chipping Camden, Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter, Stow-on-the-Wold, etc. and the sunlit, honey colored stone buildings found there.

Vic and his wife, Jennifer, were willing to drive around Oxfordshire and take photos (this was before gasoline was 6 pounds a gallon). They found a real beauty in the town of Broadway, famous for its Lygon Arms Inn, and that became the basis for the house. My early influence was the book, The Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher. Mrs. Pilcher describes the home of her heroine, Penelope, and there was a warmth and comfort I felt from her description. I could imagine myself living there. I also researched Beatrix Potter's life but didn't want to recreate her Hilltop Farm, but again, an influence. I searched through all the books I found on the country life in rural England, specifically in the Cotswolds.

In an effort to explain why this dolls house is named as it is, I will tell you some of the background of meeting the "3 widows."

I was asked to host a portion of a Nutshell News tour through the East Coast and while there were 55 people roaming all over my house, I expressed my fear of driving in England to a group. An older woman said, "If you plan the itinerary, I will drive you anywhere you want." I asked if she was serious, and she was. So began a friendship with Sally Howard Smith of Salisbury, England. True to her word, that spring, we roamed all over the countryside and saw Montacute, the most beautiful and perfect Elizabethan house I had ever visited. A collection of English Band Samplers was housed there, which fascinated me. They differ from the American style sampler which is usually square with a house, figures and alphabet. The band sampler is a long piece of evenweave linen where the stitcher made motifs of repetitive designs, mostly used to embellish clothing. I have since stitched two of them, but the originals are a wonder. It is really a reference piece and many times, kept unframed just lying in a stitchers work basket.

Sally Howard Smith is a needleworker and was one of the founding members, (along with Daphne Turner), who helped to start the MNS, Miniature Needlework Society. This is an international group of needleworkers who are avid supporters of fine miniature stitching. They usually have a table at the English fairs and sometimes in the United States. I believe they have a branch in Australia as well. Sally had been the mayor of the town, Bishops Stortford, at one time. Again, my interest in British place names, so interesting! I once purchased a book on the British place names, but I guess it's out of "place," I can't find it.

I loved staying at Sally's home with its beautiful garden and conservatory. I felt such a warmth and security staying there. Her collection of miniatures was housed in a room that was fairly inaccessible and we had to climb through a sort of porthole to get to it! She had a garden shed with all the implements needed for her to raise hollyhocks and a whole host of English wild flowers.

On another trip to Salsibury, Sally invited me to join her at a Stumpwork workshop that the British Embroiderer's Guild was sponsoring. I was sure it would be based on 16th c. stumpwork and was surprised that it was very modern day styling. While staying at a nearby Bed & Breakfast, I walked into town and as I approached the Cathedral, found three shops, practically in a row, that were my favorite subjects...first a needlework shop, then an art shop where I was able to buy real ivory (cannot purchase in the United States) and real vellum to paint on, and then the old bookshop, that I talk about in the Dickensian Street Scene below.

At English miniature fairs, I met a dealer, Jill Swift and her husband Michael. I enjoyed their stand at the fairs and somehow got into a conversation years later about a tour of their portion of England, East Anglia. They lived in the Norfolk area at the time and were happy to arrange a personal tour for me through the area. Jill had been a tour guide earlier on before miniatures came into their lives and she is also a needleworker. They took me to private homes of the Tudor period as well as the public ones, such as Blickling Hall. We drove past a beautiful Tudor house and stopped, taking the chance we could tour the garden. The caretaker welcomed us in and showed us around the ground floor! Shades of the olden days, butlers always did this for money. We didn't tip him but it was an enjoyable time for us.
Jill made an appointment to see a Tudor manor house and view Ann Sharp's Baby House, the oldest known dolls house in England, c. 1700's. It was given to little Ann Sharp by Queen Anne as a gift. The door of the manor house stood wide open when we arrived, so after knocking for quite some time we finally walked through the entry into the Great Hall! Ann Sharp's baby house was right there, covered by a green felt cloth to prevent sun damage. Finally the lady of the house came in from the garden and opened up the dolls house, which is more of a cabinet than a dolls house. She was very casual with it and started handing me items from the house. The top floor of the cabinet contains precious small antiques, including an embroidered Elizabethan glove and shoe, unbelievable to get to hold items of such age!
The guest room at the Swift's was upstairs overlooking a garden that held a pair of peacocks. I had never been near any before, and will never forget the sounds they make at 4 a.m.! They had no sense of people who like to sleep in till 9 a.m. One evening, Jill, Michael and I took a walk toward the North Sea, nearby their home, to hear the call of the nightingale that rarely comes to the area. Very strange to me to be walking in the pitch black at 10 p.m. to hear a bird. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York next to the ocean, and believe me, we never did anything like that at home.
At one time, the N.A.M.E. (National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts) held their annual fair in Philadelphia and I met an English lady, Silvia Rowbottom. At the time, Silvia was editor of The Home Miniaturist, and we hit it off right away. We have maintained our friendship over 15 years, I think. As a matter of fact, I am going to England and will stay at her home again. Silvia, whose last name is now Ambrose, was a collector of miniatures herself and has a reproduction of a house at Lacock Abbey by Peter Mattinson. It is really wonderful, Peter is a superb miniaturist. My last trip to see Silvia, she took me to Waddesdon Manor, a Rothschild property, where we had a delightful outdoor tea. Silvia is a gardener and her home again has a warm and relaxed atmosphere, and while not at all an old house, I feel it was the comfort I felt there that influenced me.
Sally, Jill and Silvia are all widows now and the feelings I took away with me from their homes is how I came upon the title for the Cotswold dolls house. When the name for the dolls house popped into my head, it just stayed and felt right.
While not a part of the title of the dolls house, other people whose homes influenced me are Nick and Esther Forder and Trees and Joop Beertema of The Netherlands. Nick has a wonderful collection of antique dolls houses which I enjoyed viewing on my trips to their home. While we were eating dinner at the kitchen table looking out to their garden, a red fox came and stole food from the cats dish. Again, not something I was familiar with in Brooklyn. They took me to visit Hampton Court where we ran into many costumed guides who only spoke in the style of the period clothing they wore. We were on a tour led by a woman who must have been Anne Boleyn in her former life. Her hands were so expressive and she was truly beautiful.
I talk about Trees Beertema in the description of the 17th c. Dutch canal house below and she led me on a tour of Holland and introduced me to its many historic wonders.
Description of the House, the rooms and the makers:
The house was built in 1697 during the reign of William III, but now it is 1935 and the lady who lives there, Mrs. Victoria Winterbotham, is a widow, having lost her husband, Nigel, from wounds suffered in India. This is my only dolls house representing the 20th century, so she can have some more modern things, such as a telephone and the new-fangled electric lights! She is very proud of having electricity, even though it only works intermittently.

The heart of the home, The Kitchen and the adjacent Potting Shed with storage room behind:
The Cornish range is built in on the left side and in the far right corner is a corner cabinet that I painted in a class with Ruth Pollack of Spain. There are a number of pieces of Stokesayware throughout the kitchen and the natural color wood pieces of furniture are by Jane Newman, including the built-in sink with drainboards on either side. She also supplied a number of pieces on the work table made in that green, peculiar only to the 1930's. Mary Carson of Hammer-n-Smith made a number of green handled accessories. Tom Pouce made the Alsatian stoneware with blue designs as well as some green pottery. Steve Hilbert made a pair of cream and terra cotta bowls at the bottom of the kitchen dresser, which was made by Hank and Elinor Taylor of The Carpenter's Chest. Janet Brownhill of Country Treasures supplied the jelly molds, mason jars, copper pots and pans. Jim Watts made a knife sharpener that really works! Leslie Burgess of Miniature Dreams furnished the table with the breakfast items and Frances Steak supplied some of the copperware. Andrew Gregory made brass accessories.

Mr. Cecil Hornsby is the gardener who comes faithfully on Wednesdays. Mrs. Winterbotham is getting elderly now and really couldn't properly tend her garden without his help. These figures are from Pat Boldt kits and I dressed them both.

The Lower Hall:
Adjacent to the kitchen is the spacious front to back hallway. Nick Forder antiqued the cream colored iron hall stand containing an umbrella and a cane. Above is a cherry hall mirror and hat rack by Edwardian Elegance. A Le Blond antique print hangs above the doorway leading to the kitchen.

The Dining Room and ensuite Sitting Room:
The Queen Anne Dining Room table is by Edward Norton and the walnut Windsor chairs are marked "WSC." I didn't know the name of this maker, and Doris Alderman kindly informed me that Bill Clinger is the maker. Mrs. Winterbotham has a collection of cranberry glass, most of which is made by Glasscraft. On the right side is an Arts and Crafts cherry wood cabinet with three shelves made by Jeff Wilkerson. The blue and white china is by Stokesayware and the rose patterned dinnerware service by Avon Miniatures. The working black tavern clock on the left is by Small Time. Mrs. Winterbotham proudly collects pieces of Queen Victoria memorabilia, her namesake, and Stokesayware made the Victorian commemmorative vases and bowl on the mantel.

The ensuite Sitting Room:
I made the velvet upholstered armchair in an IGMA class with Nancy Summers and later made the matching sofa. The anti-macassars are antique pieces of needlework I found years ago and never before found a use. Now, they are perfect to avoid hair oil on the precious furniture. The Canterbury magazine rack to the side of the armchair is by Marcia Gardner of Yesterday's Charm. The gold covered corner chair is by Denis E.W. Hillman, which I petitpointed with gold silk thread on 48 silk mesh. More antique Le Blond prints are on the walls and the round candle stand is by Edward Norton. Maps and paper ephemera are by Box Clever Miniatures and the barrel chair with lions heads is made by Cristina Noriega of Spain. On the desk in the rear stands a vase with 5 pink roses. This was a gift from IGMA and made by Sandra Henry Wall for hosting a tour of my collection in the spring of 1999.

Up the stairs are the following rooms:

Mrs. Winterbotham's Bedroom and bath:
As I don't have room in my house for all my dolls houses, some of the furniture has been moved from the Vassall Craigie house, which is not on display. This includes the bed by Mr. Murter and the tambour frame by Harry Cooke. The fireplace is by Sue Cook, the bathroom fixtures are by Ann Shepley. The quilt on the bed is by Elizabeth Andrews. The Glass People, Lynn McEntire, and Box Clever were the makers of many accessories. Wright Guide to Miniatures made items in the closets and on the sink. The leather purse and shoes were made by Susan Lee.

The Upper Hall:
The armoire on the upper left by M & R Miniatures was meant to be in Mrs. Winterbothams bedroom, but when I came home, I found there was no room for it, it was too tall. M & R also made the chess table that stands below a window. The two bargello chairs that I stitched, could be pulled up to the chess table when family members wanted to play. Hand tinted antique engravings hang above the chairs, c. 1830.

The Nursery:
Granddaughters Amy and Lucy are visiting Grammie Vicky. Baby Lucy is by Amanda Skinner and Amy is by Pat Melvin. The green painted bedroom set is by Ruth Pollack of Spain, and the larger brass bed is by Jason Getzan. The blanket chest is by Trevor Jiggins of Dovetail Miniatures. Truly Scrumptious made the lamps with decorated lampshades and books, Reverie Miniatures made the bed pillows. Some of the toys are by Chris Sturgess Lief, Archa of Rosie Duck made many of the childrens games as well as other toys by Debbie Coyle and Joan Howard. Eric Horne made the penny wooden doll Lucy is sleeping with.

The Attic:
The Attic contains three rooms and Mrs. Winterbotham's neice from Australia, Henrietta Snowden, lives there. Henrietta has her own bed-sitter with kitchen, and at the end of the hall, is the combination artist studio and sewing room. She earns her keep by laundering, ironing and mending for the household. Mrs. Winterbotham was quite well-known for her oil paintings in her younger days, but now with arthritic knees, she cannot climb the stairs to use the art studio. Henrietta has inherited her aunts' talent and makes use of the studio. She aspires to sell her paintings at the galleries in London.
Henrietta brought the lace dresses and warm woolen blankets with her from Tasmania and they were made by Helen Davies of Cupboard Miniatures. The pine wash stand is by A.L. Miniatures, Betty Blankenfeld supplied the marble sink, Jane Newman made the natural finished bedroom peices, and Nick Forder antiqued the iron bedstead. In her spare time, Henrietta knits and embroiders. I stitched the crewel wing chair (shown elsewhere in the blog) and did the tiny cross stitch piece standing nearby.


Anonymous said...

I believe I'm dreaming. It's wonderful !

Anonymous said...

The detail and quality of your miniatures is incredible. I did not realize this level of quality existed in antique doll houses.

Keep up the good work!

Cookie Ziemba said...

To Tim Warren...I didn't mean to mislead anyone, but the dolls house wasn't actually built in 1647! I feel that the actual building in Broadway would be from that era. The dolls house itself was made in the 1990's, dressed as if it were lived in over the many centuries. Thanks for your warm comments.

Flor said...

¡Esta casa es maravillosa!!!
Como todo lo que he viste de este blog ( =

Patty said...

Cookie, I am so happy that I have been able to see more photos of this grand house and read a little more history about it! It is so incredible and one of my favorite dollhouses that I have seen!!

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