August 25, 2013

A Dollhouse, Beatrix Potter and Susan Branch!

863 Park Avenue Meets England!

Nearby the dollhouse is our old fashioned table top Christmas tree like my Grandmum always had! The tree is surrounded by an old fashioned fence; it looks like a park in the distance from the house.
In front of the dollhouse are little trees and another fence.
A festive Christmas wreath is hanging from the wooden latch that shuts the two doors. Like Beatrix Potter's doll's house at Hill Top this dollhouse has two large doors in front that open up to see the inside.
Click Here for Lovely Music.
Return Here to Read the Corgyncombe Courant.
The music is so delightful whilst reading!

Two little mice nibbling crumbs beside the English teapot, similar to one at Old Sturbridge Village.

Hunca Munca at the door of the doll's house.
 Along with the dust in the dustpan is swept up Corgi hair.
Beatrix Potter wrote and illustrated the adorable book "The Tale of Two Bad Mice", published in 1904.

Beatrix Potter was inspired to create this book by her pet mice Hunca Munca and Tom Thumb, the doll's house that Norman Warne was making for his niece and the doll's house pieces and miniature food that he sent for her to draw.
Some of the furniture and small foods illustrated in the story are now in the doll's house at Hill Top.

Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca went into the doll's house, and after becoming frustrated at finding the miniature foods to be inedible, started wrecking things and then decided some of the things in the doll's house would go quite well in their own mouse house. In the end, because they had caused havoc in the doll's house, the mice slipped a "crooked six-pence" into the dolls' Christmas stocking. Also, Hunca Munca came back to the doll's house, every morning and cleaned and swept for the dolls.

This enchanting dollhouse may look familiar to our dear readers.

We first read about it on author and artist Susan Branch's blog.
Susan had found the dollhouse on her trip through Autumnal New England at an antique shop, thought it charming and shared photographs of the dollhouse on her blog.
I loved the dollhouse the minute I saw it!
So we made an Autumnal visit to the antique shop, ourselves.
There we found the dollhouse tucked in a corner, setting on the floor.

Tillie Tinkham, the seamstress mouse for the dolls at Corgyncombe, looks out from the door of her shoppe "Tillie Tinkham's Frocks & Fashions" at 863 Park Avenue.
Tillie has a country shoppe, too.

As we were loading the dollhouse into the vehicle, out into a better light where we could see it better, I tried the little door to see if it would open; it did and it has a little latch to hold it shut!

That is when I said "Oh, look it has has an address number above the door, 863 Park Avenue", which of course, we would have to look into later.

We asked about the provenance and the kind people at Rustology Antiques said that the dollhouse was found at an old estate in Connecticut. The estate was the family's summer home, the rest of the year they lived in Manhattan, New York.

We had a feeling that whoever had the dollhouse had also lived at 863 Park Avenue.
863 Park Avenue, built in 1908, was known as one of the "earliest luxury apartment buildings" on Park Avenue.

In hoping to find more information about the dollhouse, we found the estate sale that had first sold the dollhouse, then we did some research of the genealogy of the family who had the estate. We discovered the Parsons family had lived at 863 Park Avenue near the time when it was first built, with their first child, a little girl named Alice.

An interesting note also discovered was that amongst the other families who lived in the apartments at 863 Park Avenue, was William Taylor, the man who had the real apartment house built.

At the Parsons family's beautiful stone summer house at their Connecticut estate they entertained many prominent people. The Parsons' Connecticut estate was featured in House & Garden Magazine.

We were even fortunate enough to find a photograph of the little girl with her mother.

Little Alice Parsons in ribbons and lace, with her Mother, who looks like a fairy godmother as she holds a little slipper.

Perhaps Alice had Beatrix Potter's book "The Tale of Two Bad Mice", as it had been written several years before.

The clear sparkly lights of the Christmas tree are reminiscent of starlight, candlelight, and snowflakes.
Tucked in by the teapot on the shelf one can see the little mice.
Two of the dollhouse windows have curtains with lacey like snowflakes.

Old music box music playing is so nice whilst looking at the Christmas tree and the dollhouse.

In this fairytale like scene, the Mother's gown and the little slipper take on a radiant luster as little Alice holds a book and looks intently at the little satin slipper.
Perhaps her Mother was telling her the story of Cinderella!
The photograph was taken on Alice's birthday.

Tillie Tinkham, holding forget-me-nots from the banks of Corgi Creek, stands by her Park Avenue door and Susan Branch's book "A Fine Romance, Falling in love with the English Countryside". Susan takes us along with her lovely handwriting, artwork and photographs of her travels to England during the lovely months of May and June.

How we love England and so does Susan!

Susan Branch's book "A Fine Romance" led us about the English countryside with its sheep, hills and dales, stone walls, quaint old villages, shops, cottages, and gardens! Susan Branch's book has all these things and more! When Susan Branch visited England, the country was decorated in a festive manner in honor of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Amongst our favorite stops were her visits to Beatrix Potter's Hill Top Farm and Jane Austen's Chawton Cottage. Susan delightfully captured a wonderful variety of lovely landscapes and architecture of Kent, the Lake District, the Peak District in Derbyshire, the Yorkshire Dales, and the Cotswolds. The book has a red grosgrain ribbon bookmark at hand ready to mark where ever you left off reading.

Susan Branch spent time in Kent, England, just a hop, skip and a jump from my 10th great grandfather's church, St. Dunstan's, the parish church of Cranbrook, also known as "The Cathedral of the Weald". He was William Eddye, the Vicar of Cranbrook from 1591-1616. Some of William Eddy's descendants were early settlers in the 1600's on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, the same island that Susan Branch makes her home.

At Christmastime I took some photographs of some of the old things and Beatrix Potter figurines on my cupboard. You can see the reflection of the sparkly Christmas tree lights in the glass and china. On the old apothecary jar filled with bay leaf, it looks like a twinkly waterfall coming down the jar between Rebeccah and Drake Puddle-Duck.

Susan Branch also has a collection of Beatrix Potter figurines and she talks about them in her book, and sees a group of them on the window of a particularly charming cottage in England. Back at home on Martha's Vineyard she has her own delightful Peter Rabbit room.

Whilst in England, Susan Branch stayed at a friend's cottage decorated inside with twinkle or fairy lights.

Our old fashioned table top tree at Christmas with twinkle lights.

"According to Season", written by Frances Theodora Parsons, is about flowers throughout the seasons.
We were thrilled to discover that little Alice Parsons' Aunt was Frances Theodora Parsons who studied and wrote about botany. Her first book "How to Know the Wildflowers" was met with resounding acclaim from Theodore Roosevelt and Rudyard Kipling. In "A Fine Romance", Susan Branch writes about visiting Bateman's, Rudyard Kipling's home in England. Rudyard Kipling and his wife lived in Vermont about the same time as Frances Theodora Parsons wrote her book "How to Know the Wildflowers". Kipling told her that the book would be most useful in discovering the wildflowers around and about his Vermont home.

Amongst the old books on the table are several by our cousin Louisa May Alcott.

In "A Fine Romance", Susan Branch illustrated Fred Astaire, a favorite actor/dancer/singer of her and Joe's, in a top hat and tails.
Fred Astaire opened a dance studio on Park Avenue, just a few twirls and taps down the Avenue from the dollhouse!

Tillie herself has a millinery shoppe and tea room at 863 Park Avenue. Tillie is helping the little dog decide on a hat.

Inside Tillie's in town Shoppe at 863 Park Avenue, "Tillie Tinkham's Frocks & Fashions" with Millinery and Tea Room.
The blue and silver scenes on the walls are like diamond shaped windows looking out to fashionable folk walking about on cobbled streets. The rows of close buildings with their steep roofs and chimneys are reminiscent of the charming old English villages Lacock and Bibury in the Cotswolds. Susan Branch visited Lacock and Bibury and there are photographs of those places in the book. Susan Branch enjoyed many tea rooms and whilst in the Lake District Susan stopped at a shoppe and tried on some hats. What fun!

One of Tillie Tinkham's favorite views in Corgyncombe Country.

The Turret at Castle Corgyncombe.

The Tailor of Gloucester

"The Tailor of Gloucester", written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, is a story of mice who help the tailor at night to finish his work.
Whilst the cat was away, the curious Tailor, upon hearing tip, tap, tip, tap, sets free the mice that the cat had captured under tea-cups.
In the photograph above, there is a charkha spindle of my handspun silk. In the small bowl is cochineal for dyeing the silk a pleasant shade of cherry. Do you hear a tip, tap, tip, tap, tip?

Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit with postbag.

At Finch Post, 863 Park Avenue Branch, top floor, the Tweet Sweets are holding a 
Valentine Banner of Love!

Even as a baby my daughter Sarah would study and analyze detail. Dolls and their houses have been always amongst her favorite things. When she saw this old dollhouse she got so excited and started chattering up a storm. I have always loved dolls, dollhouses, and playhouses, too.

Miss Elsie Pricklish the Hedgehog makes an apartment above Tillie's shoppe at 863 Park Avenue her home during the winter. In the summer she lives in a mossy hollow log down by Corgi Creek.

Debbie Dibble Dabble (one of many Dibble Dabble sisters) is quacking and bouncing on the bed, as the mattress goes up and down. Boing, boing, quack, quack, boing.

Miss Elsie Pricklish is to soon set about making clapbread, a traditional English flat bread made from oat flour.

With her cap and apron she looks like a Lady of Cranford!

Elsie has a surprise guest for tea...
Draw the latch, sit by the fire and spin, take a cup, and drink it up, then call a Spinstress in...

A tussie mussie was made using larkspur, lavender, thyme, winter savory, rosemary, wild marjoram, rose geranium leaves, and baby's breath all gathered from the Corgyncombe Garden of Herbs.

The little mouse knitting figurine is based upon Beatrix Potter's illustration of the "Old woman who lived in a shoe" in "Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes". It is one of our favorite Beatrix Potter illustrations! "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" book on the table is a limited edition reproduction of Beatrix Potter's first privately printed Peter Rabbit book and has the original illustrations with Beatrix's own handwriting. The dust jacket is a reproduction of calico printed by Beatrix's grandfather's calico printworks. It is such a sweet book!

We found out about this book on Susan Branch's blog when she had a giveaway. Included in the giveaway book was a sweet drawing of a lamb in an apron. Alas, I did not win the giveaway, but found another copy for my own library. We just love that print on the dust jacket!

In her book "A Fine Romance", Susan Branch has illustrated a similar lamb gathering flowers in a bowl.

In Jemima Puddle-Duck, Jemima is sent by the fox Mr. Tod, to look for the herbs for stuffing..

In Beatrix Potter's "The Tale of The Pie and The Patty-Pan", Ribby, with a pitcher of milk and a plate of butter, is returning from the farm on a path crossing the pasture where the cows are grazing.

A photograph I took several years ago of some of my Beatrix Potter figurines Tabitha Twitchit and Miss Moppet, Flopsy Bunny, and Peter's Mum Mrs. Rabbit.

Beyond the tea table, through the window there is Mr. Darcy walking in his top hat and coat!

The diamond shaped "windows" are looking out on the old cobbled streets of England edged by old buildings and there are people of old England going about their business, out for a walk, perhaps some from a Charles Dickens novel and some from a Jane Austen novel.
The scenes remind us of the English village of Lacock and the Arlington Row weaver cottages of Bibury in the Cotwolds.
Lacock, England was used for villages in the movies Cranford and Pride and Prejudice (1995).

Why is that Elizabeth Bennet or perhaps even Jane Austen herself?
This Regency lady is charmingly similar to Cassandra's portrait of her sister Jane Austen, below.

Above, "The Illustrated Letters of Jane Austen", edited by Penelope Hughes-Hallett, is a wonderful book to read Jane's letters and of the time and places she lived in.
The small bouquet of feverfew, lavender, baby's breath, and forget-me-nots was picked from Corgyncombe Garden of Herbs. The combination of herbs is very fragrant all together.

Tillie Tinkham, the seamstress mouse for the dolls at Corgyncombe, descends from the Tinkham mice of England. One of her Brown mouse family ancestors came over on the Mayflower and his daughter married into the Tinkham mouse family.

Tillie holding forget-me-nots.

The dollhouse reminds us of Beatrix Potter's doll's house!
Like Beatrix Potter's doll's house at Hill Top this dollhouse has two large doors in front that open up to see the inside.

Here is a link to:

Here is a link to:

Here is a link to:
A video of "The World of Beatrix Potter and Friends: The Tale of Two Bad Mice" with a charming introduction of Beatrix Potter riding in a cart through narrow, curvy cobbled streets and arriving at Hill Top.

The scenes on the dollhouse walls remind us of the English village of Lacock and the Arlington Row weaver cottages of Bibury in the Cotwolds.

Here is a link to a photograph of:

Here is a link to:
The Parsons' Estate in Connecticut

in House & Garden Magazine
which reminds us of the stone house in
"Christmas in Connecticut"

Here is a link to:
Rustology Antiques

Here is a link to our post
about the Large Golden Dollhouse:
Tasha Tudor Birthday Celebration 2013!
Pumpkin House!
copyright © 2013 Diane Shepard Johnson and Sarah E. Johnson


Anonymous said...

Wow, another wonderful series of photos and things of interest!!! Love the story of the dollhouse!! My interests are so much like yours--Tasha, Susan B. dolls, antiques, etc. etc. I just read Susan's new book and like everyone else just loved it!!! She is a very talented lady, but you are also:) Thanks for sharing your life and interests with us!!! Really enjoy it all!!!! Joyce

Diane Shepard Johnson and Sarah E. Johnson said...

Dear Joyce,

So glad that you enjoyed the post! We love sharing our interests with those who enjoy the same things we do!
Susan is very talented and what fun it is exploring England with her!

Your friends,
Diane and daughter Sarah and Tillie Tinkham the seamstress mouse at the Corgyncombe Courant

Jeri Landers said...

Dear cousins. YOURS is one of the best dollhouses I have seen in a very long time, it is superb! And it has been decorated with such style as only you and the Dibble Dabbles could achieve. Wonderful post, I loved it all; my favorite characters are abiding here.

Whiffletree Farm said...

Your sleuthing abilities astound me! I saw the dollhouse on Susan's blog and also loved it -- have a few of my own. Have you seen the BBC documentary on youtube about dancing in Jane Austen's time? It's wonderful: You'll never look at Pride and Prejudice quite the same. Thank you again for a really fun and interesting post! Beth

Diane Shepard Johnson and Sarah E. Johnson said...

Dear Cousin Jeri,

The dollhouse is very special! We love it! Thank you for your kind words. All the little critters who live there have a grand time!

Your cousins,
Diane and daughter Sarah and Tillie Tinkham the seamstress mouse at the Corgyncombe Courant

Diane Shepard Johnson and Sarah E. Johnson said...

Dear Beth,

We do love solving mysteries! So glad you enjoyed the post!

Thank you for giving us the link. Regency is my favorite time, love the dancing, the clothing, and the food!

Your friends,
Diane and daughter Sarah and Tillie Tinkham the seamstress mouse at the Corgyncombe Courant

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