Daneway House, Audio Tour Track #3016
Daneway House, ca 1775
Daneway House, located in our museum's History Gallery. A George III style Baby House built in England, circa 1775. Acquired by Museum Founder Pat Arnell in 1988. This piece was not created in a specific scale, but the figures and accessories are close to the modern-day Playscale, in which one inch in miniature is equivalent to 6 inches in the full scale; an example of Playscale is the Barbie doll.
The Daneway House is a typical Baby House. The term "Baby House" refers to a common practice of the wealthy of 17th and 18th century Europe to collect miniatures and display them as a novel curiosity; therefore, Baby Houses resemble stylized cabinets rather than small houses, and are intended to merely show off a collection of miniature pieces, rather than be an object of play.
The Daneway House is a rectangular wooden cabinet resting on four 15 inch wooden legs. The cabinet portion is 43 inches wide by 35 inches high and 20 inches deep. The top of the cabinet is styled to resemble a roof, including gables, decorative finials, two chimneys, and a balustrade. At the very top is a small cupola. The entire Baby House is made of varnished wood. At well over 200 years old, the Daneway House has had multiple owners; consequently, the original facade of this Baby House was lost at some time during its long history. Museum conservationist Casey Rice spent a year restoring it, which included designing a replacement facade based on historical research into the period architecture. This new facade replicates the front wall of a home, with five upstairs windows and four windows below - two on each side of a false door. This facade would have been attached with hinges on the cabinet and would open as one large door to reveal the interior. For display purposes, the museum does not have this new facade attached to the Daneway House; it is on display in a glass cabinet on the wall to the right of the piece, along with didactic panels explaining the history of the Daneway House.
The cabinet has two shelves, with the bottom shelf divided by a narrow wall; this creates three rooms in total, one long room on the top shelf and two smaller rooms on the bottom shelf. The upper room is a Great Hall, the lower left room is a parlor, and the lower right room is a kitchen.
The kitchen is quite bare, with only minimal accessories. There is a cook standing behind a wooden rectangular table located in the center of the room. On the table are foods that she is preparing: a large silver fish draped with a row of lemon slices for garnish; a plate of lamb chops; and a plate with two types of squash. Beneath the table is an iron bucket, which would hold kitchen scraps to feed chickens or hogs. The cook stands with a spoon in her hand next to a large, white empty bowl, as though she is just about to fetch the missing ingredient. She is a wire armature doll, 8 ½ inches tall, wrapped in fabric and finely dressed. The wire armature allows her to be posable. She has brown hair piled loosely on her head and covered with a pinner cap, a type of 18th century women's head covering that resembles a white lace doily, which is pinned in place to the hair. She is dressed in 18th century costume: a light gold floral print dress of pink and purple buds, a bodice with pink ribbon lacing, long sleeves with white ruffled cuffs, and an apron tied at the waist. She has a carved, wooden head, painted with pink cheeks and blue eyes. She has a half-smile as though daydreaming.
On the back wall behind the cook is a fireplace with an iron stove. A large brass tea kettle and coffee pot sit on the stove. On the mantle above the fireplace is a simple bowl, a ceramic vase, and a fireplace grate. To the right of the stove, built against the wall is what is known as a "stew hole," a piece of Georgian-era kitchen furniture which looks like a waist-high cabinet without doors, featuring one hole on which a pot would sit, directly over a fire built in the enclosure beneath. Ashes are removed through an opening at floor-level. This “stew hole” has two openings for two pots. The stew hole is the predecessor of the modern-day free-standing stove. The stew hole in the Daneway House is made of wood, but in reality it would have been made of stone or brick. Near the ceiling of the kitchen above the fireplace is another device of the Georgian era, a “clockwork jack.” The clockwork jack replaced the grueling task of hand-turning a spit over the fire, using a mechanical process of weights and pulleys, which would need to be re-wound by the cook or kitchen maid at regular intervals. The clockwork jack would have made a tick-tock sound that could have been heard throughout the day in many Georgian kitchens.
A door opens in the center of the dividing wall between the kitchen and the parlor. Moving into the parlor, we find another sparsely decorated space. The back wall features a white, faux marble fireplace flanked by two floor-to-ceiling bookcases. These bookshelves are completely bare except for one shelf on each that holds leather-bound miniature copies of Shakespeare’s works, including the full text on each tiny page. Against the left wall is an ivory statue of Cupid, standing on a shell, a symbol of his mother, the goddess Venus. He holds his bow in his right hand, which is broken due to age; on his left side hangs his quiver of arrows. There is a decorative pheasant in the front center of the room, which seems almost out of place. There are also two people in this room, a man and a young serving boy. The man appears to be a guest who has just arrived; he is holding his hat in one hand and stands facing the serving boy. The serving boy is of African descent and is elaborately dressed with a red turban and white silk jacket with matching trousers. He is holding a tray with a letter, perhaps from the man, himself. The man is wearing a heavy green, velvet coat with gold brocade. Both he and the serving boy are wire armature dolls with painted wooden heads, posable just like the cook.
Upstairs in the Great Hall one finds a livelier scene. The Lord and Lady of the house are present, being entertained by a quartet of musicians, all of which are the same style of doll as the others found in the house. The musicians are gathered at the far right of the room. They are all male, wearing long coats with white ruffled sleeves protruding past their coat sleeves and sporting long curly wigs. One man is playing the piano, and the other three musicians are gathered around him: one is seated in a chair playing the cello, and the other two are standing, one playing the flute and the other the violin. All of the figures are wire armature dolls, each is between 8.5” and 9 inches tall. The Lord and Lady of the house are standing apart from the musicians, over on the left side of the room. The Lord is finely dressed in a velvet golden coat with white buttons. He has white knee-high stockings and a white powdered wig with a black bow holding his pony tail; the gentleman’s preferred fashion of the day. He is holding his left arm high in the air, as though he is pretending to conduct the musicians, or perhaps he is about to start dancing. His wife stands at his side, elegantly attired in a dark grey silk gown with a stylish white collar and frilly white sleeves. Her dark hair is pinned up with a white cap. She has her hands raised as though about to clap in applause. As an amusing touch, the couple’s fluffy French poodle is dancing in front of them, perched on its hind legs. The Lord and Lady and their dog are all wire armature dolls. The décor of this Great Hall is relatively bare, as is the majority of the house: there is a long table along the back wall with a white marble top, and another faux marble fireplace. Interestingly, to the left of the fireplace is another bookshelf with one more row of Shakespeare’s plays, which completes the set.
The Daneway House is a marvel of the Georgian era, allowing visitors an opportunity to travel through time through the art of miniatures.