Visitors to Woburn Abbey can peek behind the curtains of a historic doll’s house that is a model of a house once owned by the 4th Duke of Bedford.
The intricately furnished toy is a miniature of Oakley House, which is just outside Bedford.
It was made by members of the Russell family at the beginning of the 20th century and is one of the largest doll’s houses of this era in the UK.
Its creators were Leo and Phyllis Russell, the two youngest children of the Baron of Ampthill, who were aged 13 and 10 and lived in Oakley House at the time.
The current owner of the doll’s house is Mrs Georgiana Fiddian-Green, who visited Woburn Abbey
to help with installing the furniture ready for it to go on display to the public.
She said: “Aunt Phyllis would have been over the moon to have it on display at Woburn Abbey; it feels that it has come home and is back where it belongs.”
Georgiana remembers some of the furniture from her childhood when she visited her grandmother at Oakley House and still owns some of the pieces of the original furniture herself.
Oakley House was purchased by John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford, around 1750, and completely rebuilt by his grandson to designs by architect Henry Holland.
The original idea for the doll’s house came from Phyllis. She got her brother Leo interested and
Lady Ampthill approved the scheme - with the proviso that all the measurements must be correct and that once begun, it must be completed.
After the external parts had been created by a local carpenter, the children spent their free time and holidays creating the furniture. Phyllis even embroidered the carpets and some of the soft furnishings in true likeness, including the delicate patterns and colours.
Matthew Hirst, Curator at Woburn Abbey said: “We are very pleased to be able to have this splendid piece on display. We hope that our visitors will very much enjoy seeing the doll’s house and finding out more about the history of Oakley House and its furniture.”
From 18th March Woburn Abbey will be open daily from 11.00am until 5.00pm, with the
gardens open daily from 10.00am until 6.00pm.
To find out more at www.woburnabbey.co.uk