Just when you think you have got the idea…

I still have not settled for which sort of dollshouse I would like to invest in. It has to be perfect for a 1940s interior and I have done a lot of research on which houses where available at the time, before Hitler bombed a lot of them and they had to be re-placed by more modern houses. It is not easy to make a decision and should not be made too hastily, since the dollshouses are not cheap and you will invest a lot of money and time, in the house you decide to purchase. It has to feel right and you need to be satisfied. I read on one page that many people buy too small for what they want to do, and then find out that they can not do all the rooms they would like to. Just one of the problems with making a too hasty decision in other words.

Watching the “Road Antique Trip” has become a favourite pastime for me this summer. You could say that I watch too much TV and ought to spend more time on my blog, but at 18:00, I need a break from everything and that show is very nice to watch. First of all, it is a competition between antiques experts. Two experts start out every week with £200 (yes, I have finally found how to make a pound sign! 🙂 I am so happy!), in a vintage car, and drive from spot A to spot B, during one week. On the way, they stop at little villages and towns, to shop for antiques. They need about five auction lots every day/ for every program and they haggle so I sit here in my sofa, blushing out of embarrassment. Poor shop owners can’t say no since they are on camera, aren’t they? At the same time, whatever profit is made during the week, at the auctions at the end of every program, is donated to “children in need”, so of course it is all for a good cause.

But that is not why the program is so fascinating to watch. In one show it explained that what the program is all about, is people getting to learn more about their history. You learn about the items of course. But in every program, the two experts go to visit some historical point in the vicinity of their shopping. One each. And on one of those visits, they showed the most amazing housing. I had never heard of it before but it is worth mentioning.

If you were a poor working class woman or man in 1899-1914, you definitely wanted to work for William Lever. He was of the opinion that working class housing did not have to be damp, ugly and of poor quality. He wanted to set an example of how it should look and that if one cared for one’s workers, then they would work better, be healthier and happier. In other words, a man with visions beyond the time and age of what he lived in. He bought land in the Merseyside area, built his soap factory and contracted lots of different architects, to build nice looking housing for 3500 people. Today, the houses probably sell for quite astronomical figures, since the village called Port Sunlight, is like a dollshouse village. Clean, prettier than pretty and I guess with a good community spirit. How can one not have that when the surroundings are lovely and it is in everybody’s interest to keep it that way?

So, when one thinks that the 1930s going in to wartime, were full of damp, ugly-looking rows of Victorian working class houses, with narrow streets between the rows, it is not entirely true. Just look at some of the images I have downloaded…

image image image It can’t have been very common for someone as rich as this William Lever, to take a personal interest in every detail, but he did. He overlooked all the building and all the work the 30 architects did. 800 houses were built but his care did not end at housing for his employees. He also had a hospital, schools, a concert hall, swimming pool, a church and a temperance hotel created. He truly was a modern man believing in education for the poor and wholesome recreation for them. While many  workers in this day had problems with alcohol, drinking up their salary, leaving the families destitute, he wanted his workers to become teetotalers like himself. The story did not tell if they followed suit, but when a person owns an entire village it is probably very difficult to say no to his wishes?! If your job and income depended on it, I am sure people went to church and stopped drinking, just to be able to keep what they had. A small price to pay.

I have read all of the “Call the Midwife” biographies, by Jennifer Worth, and what you discover there, are the appalling conditions many lived in, around the time when this village was created. The workhouse being a constant threat to people’s lives and families. If one thing went wrong, it usually ment  a straight road to the workhouse and the break-up of the family. But this Mr Lever set up a welfare scheme, way earlier than the rest of Britain and the rest of Europe did. I can’t be anything but impressed. And to see these houses made me realize that when you choose a “typical” house of the period, to make your typical dollshouse interior in, there is no typical house! There were exceptions, individuality, no right and no wrong, because we are looking at humans here, not clones!

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