The Nostell Dolls' House
Only a handful of dolls’ houses have survived from the 18th century and Nostell’s is the only one you can see still in its original family home. An intricately crafted masterpiece with a unique connection to its life-sized surroundings, this is a grand mansion in perfect miniature.
Peer through the window into a past world
In the 18th century, dolls’ houses weren’t toys for children. Known as ‘baby houses’, they were used by aristocratic women in their teenage and adult years to learn how to run a country house, practice social etiquette and express their creativity.
From rehearsing how to take tea and manage servants to choosing clothes and curtains in the latest fashions, dolls’ houses were miniature worlds in which 18th-century life played out.
Unravel the history of the Nostell dolls' house:
A prized family treasure
From the overall design to the tiny family crest on the Drawing Room fireplace, the many similarities between the life-sized and miniature house reflect perhaps how Susanna Henshaw hoped her new home would be furnished and run - a mood board for the full-scale house that stands proudly at Nostell today.
Sadly, Susanna died at the age of 32 from a complication of childbirth, and didn’t live to see her vision completed. We can see that later additions were made to the tiny treasure house, most probably by Susanna’s daughter-in-law, Sabine D’Hervart, who may well have put her own stamp on this family heirloom.
A marvel in miniature
As well as providing an educational tool for women, dolls’ houses like the one at Nostell were also symbols of wealth and status.
Just as the Winns filled their big house with treasures to impress their guests, no expense was spared in producing a highly crafted dolls’ house.
From doors with working locks, handles and hinges, to a hallmarked silver dinner set and tiny dolls’ dresses with three layers of petticoats, the extraordinary detail of Nostell’s dolls’ house sets it apart from the rest.
Discover the detail of this miniature masterpiece:
A fragile survival
At nearly 300 years old, Nostell’s dolls’ house is a remarkable survival, with investigations by National Trust advisers confirming that almost all the interior decoration is original.
However, it’s been subject to all the agents of deterioration that affect a real-sized house, which have taken their toll.
In 2019, Nostell launched a fundraising appeal to undertake vital conservation work on the dolls’ house and, thanks to generous donations from donors and the public, the team raised over £100,000 to bring this unique treasure back to life.
Click on the videos below to see an insight into conservation on a miniature scale.
From petticoats and sleeves to bedspreads and curtains, take a peek behind the scenes at the work undertaken on Nostell's miniature textile pieces, by experts at the National Trust conservation studio.
Get an insight into conservation of the fragile paper elements of the house, included miniature hand painted wallpaper.
Each of the tiny fireplaces is constructed just like those at full scale. See the tools and techniques for cleaning these miniature focal features.