I’m going to “fess up”. I wasn’t expecting to like the Dolls’ House exhibition at Leonardslee Gardens. For a start I don’t and never have liked dolls. Not even as a child (I was a teddy bear kind of girl).
In fact, I only wandered in to this exhibition by mistake. I was vaguely following a family as I left the gardens at the end of the day and I thought they (we) were all going into the cafe. But bear with me, because, this inadvertent visit was in fact … incredible!
Not any old dolls’ house
It’s quite hard to describe this exhibition apart from saying that it’s an amazing miniature world. Officially, it’s described as depicting an “Edwardian estate and neighbouring villages at 1:12 scale, with landscapes and characters acting out day-to-day activities.
Exquisite in detail and accuracy, a six-foot-tall person is recreated as six inches in height.”. That really doesn’t do it justice and neither do my photos. The attention to detail is mind blowing.
The collection was created by Helen Holland in 1998. It includes a greenhouse and potting shed, an emporium, greengrocer, butcher shop, post office, laundry, wheelwright, carpenter and cabinet maker, church, pub, and school.
Then there’s also the mansion house with an entrance lodge, farm buildings, granary, farm garden, topiary garden, kitchen garden, gardener’s cottage, walled garden, stable yard, keeper’s cottage, and dozens of tiny, detailed versions of the mansion rooms. The entire collection sadly fell into disrepair a few years ago, but with a massive amount of work, it’s now been brought back to its former glory.
OK, I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but there is something utterly compelling about this extensive display of little people and their lives and I cannot recommend it enough.
As a big fan of the Edwardian era, it feels like your own private back stage pass to Downton Abbey and I honestly could have lingered there all day, soaking up the detail. So, if you want something quirky and compelling, you now know where to find it – in the main courtyard at Leondardslee Gardens.