The Gregson House

24th June 2022

A huge dolls’ house that was created by a Georgian woman for her orphaned nephews and nieces is coming up at auction for the first time in its 190 year history and is expected to make around £25,000.

The Gregson House was assembled by Elizabeth ‘Bessie’ Wilkinson of Astley Hall in Birmingham during the 1830s and passed down by family descent until 2010, when it was sold privately to a family friend. At over two metres tall, it is an impressive example of a cupboard doll’s house, with nine beautifully furnished rooms containing largely original fixtures and fittings.

“When Elizabeth Wilkinson’s sister died tragically in childbirth in 1829, the dolls’ house became a focus for the eight children and a way of bonding with their aunt,” explained Mark Yuan-Richards of Woolley and Wallis, where the Gregson House is being sold. “Since then it has been on display at Astley House near Birmingham, Knockin Hall in Oswestry and 1 Royal Crescent in Bath. It’s a fabulous example of a period dolls’ house with an unbroken provenance.”

The Gregson House featured in a 1973 book by Vivien Greene (wife of the author, Graham), where it was described as “a splendid example” with a distillery room that was believed to be a unique feature.

Built in the Georgian manner, the house comprises nine equal rooms over three floors, including a kitchen, three lavish bedrooms, a drawing room and a music room. The watercolour paintings on the walls were painted by Elizabeth Wilkinson herself in the 1830s, and a particular feature are the Evans & Cartwright tin plate chairs around the dining table, which are also contemporary to the house.

Twelve dolls inhabit the house, including a cook made from pressed and moulded bread with leather hands.

“There is an impressive level of detail in the house, even down to the doors which all open on a metal latch,” continued Yuan-Richards. “The chandelier in the drawing room is particularly fine and hangs above a needlepoint carpet that must have involved hours of work in itself. It’s rare for a house of this age, size and quality to come onto the market; especially one that is so well-documented as this.”

The Gregson House will come under the hammer at Woolley and Wallis in Salisbury on 30th June as part of the Furniture, Works of Art and Clocks auction. It carries a pre-sale estimate of £20,000-30,000.

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