A Bit About the Book
This book is the culmination of 50 years of collecting, uncovering and restoring, mending and researching. I wanted to share the revelations and delight these wonderful houses have given me, and I hope in doing so also to find out more from the feedback of my readers. I can't describe the thrill of finding the name of a toy-man in a trade directory after you have been searching for it for years, with only a name or initials embossed on a grate, or printed on the back of a piano needle case to go by. I am still embarrassed recalling the looks I got in the Guildhall Library when I made my first discovery.
And then there is the excitement of revealing wallpapers which have been covered up for perhaps 150 years, and still look as fresh and vibrant as when they were new. This urge to restore has got me into trouble on not a few occasions, and my workshop still has several houses which are in need of much more attention than I had first realised. Hopefully, they will all get done one day.
However, the book has quite enough in it already, and I hope you will enjoy looking at my discoveries as much as I have done making them.
Still, perhaps I can mention just a few. The earliest was an 18th century toyman named John Henry Bielefeld who sold cast metal furniture and accessories, beautiful and fairly faithful reproductions of current fashion.
John Bubb was a wood joiner in the early 19th century producing furniture in his workshop in Bermondsy, which is authentic in style, if not perhaps the most sophisticated. He considerately stamped his name under each piece so we know exactly what he made.
Then there was the furniture made by the children from the Ragged Schools under the guidance of Octavia Hill, sold by the Ladies Guild under the label of "Art Toys".
The early 19th century also saw the rise of the firm of Evans & Cartwright, makers of tin toys in abundance in their Wolverhampton factory, "Whistle Hall". Like the Ladies Guild, they also employed child labour to produce their wares.
Last but not least are the plants made by Beatrice Hindley, gardener to Royalty, who fashioned beautiful creations from metal and planted them in highly decorative wooden pots. The most recent discovery of these was in a cup found in the bottom of a box of china bought at an auction. There's always hope of a new discovery, even in the most unlikely places!
Some readers' comments.
"I did speak to Rita Reeves recently and asked her "what's it like .....is it beautiful".... Rita paused and just said "it's what we've been waiting for". Nick.
"Superb book Liza, I spent the whole of yesterday evening transfixed by it, wonderful photography, and so much information to absorb. Looking forward to long evenings in front of the fire now, curled up with the book. I am so enjoying it, no work is being done! There is so much detail in the book, exactly what you want to know, often missing from and glossed over in other books, I have identified items I have been trying to find out about for ages, fabulous, thank you so much Liza." Barbara
"I finally got around to sitting in what's expected to be the last of the summer sun after work today to open your book. The photography is excellent, there is so much to take in and I just know I will be referring to it and looking through it time and time again. Thank you for writing it. I would recommend anyone who is interested in old houses and contents buys it. Having had a quick look to see if I owned anything remotely that's listed in the book I found I did. I own maybe a couple of the things shown in it--some kaybot foods. Well you have to start somewhere don't you. Maybe if I delve further I may be lucky to find something else (or not). Seriously though, its a brilliant book." Alicia
"My dear, it is simply breath-taking, both to read, and to look at!
But what makes the book unique, I think, is your thorough and brilliant research
One of the Guardian Readers' books of the year.