Doorbell discoveries

House Steward, Snowshill Manor

Vicki Swinglehurst - House Steward
Close up view of the handmade doorbell at Snowshill Manor with small figurines.

The collection at Snowshill Manor not only contains thousands of wonderful hand-crafted objects collected by Charles Wade it also includes thousands of objects created by Charles Wade himself. These objects include hundreds of models and characters for his model village Wolf’s Cove. They also include thousands of pencil drawings, oil paintings, photographs and architectural plans that clearly demonstrate his skill as an artist and craftsman. One of our favourite objects made by Charles Wade’s hand is his doorbell.

A photograph of the doorbell taken by Charles Wade
A close up of a photograph of the doorbell at Snowshill Manor, originally taken by Charles Paget Wade
A photograph of the doorbell taken by Charles Wade

Initially this object appears to be a toy theatre cased inside a wooden box. The street scene has been delicately designed and features tiny moving figures including toy soldiers and horses. This was positioned above the door and every time it was opened the figures proceeded to move through the doors and music was played on a small music box movement inside. The moving figures were driven by wooden blocks sewn onto a canvas belt, the blocks would also operate levers which open and close doors as the figures pass through.

There is a beautiful verse painted on the front of the case which reads as follows:

‘We were made by our master’s hands to hang upon his wall
And every wight who ope’s the door kindly frees us all.
We are little painted figures from the dear romantic past
But we are better off than he is for we shall always last
And ever do the pleasant things he taught us by his art
And when the shallows lengthen and the mortal folk depart
A gorgeous galaxy of ghosts throng the haunted room.
We’ll watch their nightly revels until the crack of doom
Charles Wade made me December 1914 being the first year of the Great War’

The doorbell was given to the expert conservators at Tankerdale Limited in 2014. With their expertise they have been able to identify evidence of old repairs, of varying effectiveness, and have managed to investigate the drive mechanism in the doorbell so it is now in working order. Some of the figures have been reattached, the canvas belt has been repaired and the missing blocks have been replaced where necessary. The conservators also discovered a secret door on the side of the case which reveals a latin phrase and a window complete with net curtain!

It has now returned to the Manor and you can see it on the topfloor.