As a little girl, Stéphanie, who joined us for a Go Cotswolds tour last week, had visited a doll’s house shop in Covent Garden, London. Fascinated by the miniature homes and tiny pieces of furniture, the memory has stayed with her ever since.
Now back in the UK for a holiday, Stéphanie read that the shop had moved to Northleach in the Cotswolds, and she wanted to show her own two daughters the doll’s houses that had captivated her as a child. Northleach isn’t very far off our tour route, so – intrigued – we went to take a look!
The Dolls House, located just off the market square in Northleach, is a curious, eccentric little shop-cum-museum. It’s only open on Saturdays and “most” Thursdays and Fridays, and you have to ring the doorbell to gain access.
The shop’s elderly proprietor, Michal Morse, welcomed us inside and apologised for the mess. It’s fair to say it wasn’t quite what we were expecting – nor was it quite what Stéphanie remembered from the London shop of her childhood!
There was barely room to move, and we had to be very careful not to knock anything over. Boxes filled with rolls of wallpaper and swatches of fabric littered the floor, and shelves were piled high with a disarray of doll’s houses of all different kinds, as well as dolls, figurines, miniature furniture and furnishings seemingly scattered at random.
The reason for the mess, Ms Morse informed us, was that she’d recently rented out some of her doll’s houses to the crew filming a new television series. “The Casual Vacancy”, based on JK Rowling’s novel of the same name, will be shown on BBC and HBO later this year and saw Northleach transformed into the fictional town of Pagford. Ms Morse’s doll houses will be visible in the windows of “Sweets of Pagford” (in real life, a hair and beauty salon).
Despite appearances, this higgledy-piggledy curiosity shop has a certain charm, as does the owner. Michal recounted how her then husband had owned a model railway shop, and to her dismay spent most of his time there. In response, she opened her own shop in 1971 – the UK’s first ever specialist doll’s house shop – partly as a retreat for the long-suffering wives of model railway enthusiasts!
The shop was established in London for many years before moving to Northleach in the mid-1990s. Michal is well respected in collecting circles, and she has written several books on the subject of making and furnishing doll’s houses. She and her little shop may be eccentric, but she’s clearly very passionate about this rather old-fashioned hobby. Good for her!