Museum Treasures: The Dolls House

January 12, 201810:36 amLeave a Comment

One of the most popular exhibits on display in the museum is the dolls house, which can be seen in the Design Gallery. This house was completed in 1982 by local craftsman Peter Hall.  In addition to the house, he also made several other pieces contained within it. The house was donated to the museum in 1992.  It is an accurate copy of Barlaston Hall a Grade I listed building attributed to the architect Sir Robert Taylor (1714-1788).

Robert Taylor was born in Woodford, Essex. He was best known for his grand Palladian architecture, and he became one of the most notable English architects of the eighteenth century. Well-known pupils of Taylor include John Nash, and William Pilkington. One of Taylor’s early commissions completed around 1760, was for the wealthy banker, Sir Charles Asgill in Richmond-upon-Thames. This contact was to prove most useful as Taylor was later appointed as architect to the Bank of England from 1765 until his death in 1788. In this role he extended the Threadneedle Street façade of the Bank. He also held the position of Architect of the Kings Works from 1769 until 1788.

Barlaston Hall was built between 1756 and 1758 for Thomas Mills, an attorney from Leek. In 1822, Thomas’s surviving heir Rosamund Mills, married Ralph Adderley and the Hall passed to their family. The Adderley’s son, also Ralph, died in 1868 and the Hall passed in to the possession of his nephew, Ralph Broughton Adderley. The Hall was leased to a series of tenants in the early 20th century, including J.C. Wedgwood (later Lord Wedgwood). In the 1920s and 1930s it was in use as the Lichfield Diocesan Retreat House. Then in 1937, Josiah Wedgwood and Sons Limited bought the 380 acre Barlaston Hall estate for the development of their new all-electric factory and model village for its employees.

During the mid-1940s, the hall became home to the Wedgwood Memorial College, but due to dry rot the college was forced to leave the premises in 1949. By the time of the commission of the Barlaston Hall ‘Baby House’ (the eighteenth-century term for a dolls house) the future of the Hall was in doubt. The building was in a poor state of repair mainly due to mining subsidence. Wedgwood had twice applied for permission to demolish the building, however this was strenuously opposed by the conservation pressure group, SAVE Britain’s Heritage. During the resulting public enquiry in 1981, Wedgwood offered SAVE Barlaston Hall for the sum of one pound, which was accepted. An independent trust was set up to repair the building and restoration work began with support from English Heritage and various trust funds, and completed in the early 1990s. Towards the end of the restoration process in 1992, the Hall was sold in to private ownership. The work was completed and the house is used as a family dwelling once again.

Written by Dr Samantha Howard (Curator, Arts)

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