Carlisle Collection of miniature rooms

Instruments in the Music Room of the Carlisle Collection

Housed at Nunnington since 1981, the Carlisle Collection is now an intrinsic part of the house and collection. Gifted to the National Trust in 1970 and is regarded by many as one of the finest collections of miniatures. The collection is noted for the high quality craftsmanship and attention to detail, as well as its unusual scale.

The collection was the creation of Mrs Carlisle, fondly known as Kitty, began as a few pieces of miniature Indian silver displayed in an alcove of her London home. She began collecting antique miniatures in 1921 and over the next forty years, the collection grew to form a magnificent collection of period rooms.

The idea of creating miniature rooms dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries, and continued into the 20th century when Mrs Carlisle began her collection. Adult doll houses, or baby houses, were often crafted by leading craftsmen. However, these typically took on only one design, unlike Mrs Carlisle’s collection. The rooms are made to scale – usually one-eighth of actual size although the Palladian Hall is at one-tenth.

As well as miniature pieces of silver, glass, china, pictures and treen (turned wood), Kitty also collected furniture makers’ scale samples. Finally she commissioned a number of highly skilled craftsmen to construct rooms and provide further furniture and fittings. The same attention to detail was applied to every item such as entire works of Shakespeare in miniature print, instruments in the music room that could be played and artwork on the walls of the picture gallery were made by framing decorative needle wrappers.

Although my many of rooms are fine examples of skilled craftsmen, Mrs Carlisle was a keen embroiderer and her own petit point stitching was used to create the carpets and upholstery.

It was Mrs Carlisle’s wish for the collection to be cared for by the National Trust, and to bring as much joy to others as it did to her. The collection is permanently on display at Nunnington Hall on the second floor. 

Rocking horse in the Day Nursery
Rocking horse in the Day Nursery

The Queen Anne Drawing Room
The Queen Anne Drawing Room miniature room