‘Richardson House’ originally owned by Vivien Greene, £9000 at C&T.

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When Vivien Greene died in 2003, an obituary in the Guardian noted: “She found great comfort in the miniature world of houses since her ideal house was obliterated by war.”

That was written by Norman Sherry, the authorised biographer of Graham Greene – the novelist who married Vivien in 1927. It became a troubled marriage (and eventually failed when he abandoned her).

The Clapham Common house they shared was destroyed in the Blitz in 1940. Graham was safe, secretly living with a lover at the time, while Vivien had been evacuated.

Among the interests she cultivated of her own, her most famous was dolls’ houses, becoming an expert on 17th, 18th and 19th century models, with three books published on the subject.

She partly attributed her fascination to an itinerant childhood during which the family was constantly moving and she longed for a settled home.

Greene bought her first example at an Oxfordshire auction during the war. She later built the Rotunda Museum for her collection alongside Grove House in Iffley, Oxford, in the 1960s, using money provided by her estranged husband. By the mid-1990s it featured 41 dolls’ houses she had collected.

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Two examples that featured in English Dolls’ Houses of the 18th and 19th Centuries (1955), Greene’s first book on the subject, caught the eye of collectors when they came up at C&T (22% buyer’s premium) of Kenardington, Kent, in a Fine Dolls, Dolls Houses & Teddy Bears auction on November 29.

Both had been sold in 1998-99 by Bonhams in London as part of the two-part sale of the Vivien Greene museum collection.

C&T specialist in antique dolls, teddy bears, fine toys, trains and auctioneer Leigh Gotch in fact counts among his career highlights those two sales at Bonhams, having worked there for 21 years before running an antique doll and toy business with his wife Rachel at their shop in Portobello Road and also exhibiting at fairs, in Europe and the US. He joined C&T in 2015.

Gotch said of the two dolls’ houses sold on November 29: “They were owned by two separate collectors, but they were great friends.”

Wallpaper from 1777


‘Richardson House’ originally owned by Vivien Greene, £9000 at C&T.

‘The Richardson House’, a large – 3ft 6½in (1.08m) tall x 3ft (92cm) wide x 15in (38cm) deep – and impressive painted wooden dolls’ house and contents, English, mid-18th century, had been exhibited in the Rotunda Museum. It also boasted an interesting provenance before then having been the property of the late Sir Albert Richardson, past president of The Royal Academy and pre-eminent authority on 18th century architecture.

C&T noted: “The drawing room wallpaper is of particular interest and has been identified and dated to 1777.” It added: “Since this house was sold in the Vivien Greene sale part I in December 1998 the present owner has carefully removed the later red paint to the façade to reveal wonderful original sand stone brick detail, added repainted window brick pediments, replaced sills and repainted front door and steps.”

Estimated at £1200-1800 in this latest Kent auction, it sold for £9000.


‘Stack House’ originally owned by Vivien Greene, £8400 at C&T.

Making £8400 against a guide of £3000-5000 was ‘Stack House’, a ‘good and important’ early English painted wooden dolls’ house and contents, c.1820, 3ft (91cm) tall without its stand, also previously on display at the Rotunda.

The house originates from a hamlet called Stackhouse (sometimes written Stack House) near Settle in Yorkshire, where it is believed to have remained with one family for more than a century.

It was subsequently bought by an antiques dealer in Sussex who sold it to Mary Titcomb, a friend of Vivien Greene. The house was also exhibited at the Rotunda Museum and sold in 1998 by Bonhams. Later acquired by Jennifer Le Masurier, her further extensive research into the history and family was offered at C&T in the lot.

Both of these Greene dolls’ houses were bought by UK private collectors. Gotch said: “It seems like the doll market is very strong at the moment.”


‘Stack House’ originally owned by Vivien Greene, £8400 at C&T.

Irish auction

In July 2019 a travelling dolls’ house owned by Vivien Greene, made in 1810 to entertain children on long journeys, took €48,000 (£42,800) hammer at Fonsie Mealy in Kilkenny, Ireland, against an estimate of €3000-4000. It sold to a UK private collector.

This dolls’ house was consigned by the Tara’s Palace Trust charity, having acquired it at the Bonhams auction in 1998. It had been displayed at the trust’s Museum of Childhood in Ireland.

Another miniature house from the Vivien Greene collection owned by the trust, with four fully-furnished rooms and dating from 1700-10, one of the earliest-known dolls’ houses in Britain and Ireland, sold in the same Fonsie Mealy auction for a top-estimate €12,000 (£10,700).