Words and photographs by Richard van Ryneveld
You won't believe how lifelike Norma Muscroft's dolls’ houses are, nor how filled with character.
I could have sworn I heard their Yorkshire accents and smelt their Woodbines as the two chars stood nattering and smoking under the stairwell, oblivious to the muddy tracks on the linoleum from the bicycle parked behind them.
Upstairs, an old gentleman in a Harris Tweed jacket, monocle in his left eye, was busy reading the newspaper. An eclectic collection of things the old gent had collected on his travels surrounded him: a moose head, a custom-made split cane trout rod, a butterfly collection on the wall and a tiger skin rug on the floor.
Through another window I could see man wearing a beret, painting at an easel. Reclining seductively in front of him was a voluptuous nude model.
Okay, Okay, I haven't lost my marbles and suddenly imagined I'm writing for Voyeur International. What I am doing is giving you brief look into the marvellous world of Norma Muscroft's dolls’ houses, which are on display at Searle's Trading Post in the Main Road.
Norma started the collection in England several years ago. “It began after I saw a book on miniatures,” she says. “That was what got me hooked.” Norma goes on to describe how she bought her first piece for her 50th birthday. It was to become the Main House, the largest in the collection.
The collection of items in the houses is large and every room is wired with miniature lights that really work. Martin also did the skirting boards, the cornices and all the decorations that went into the miniature homes.
It takes no longer than a few moments to begin appreciating Norma's brilliance. She has put real characters and real personalities in all the rooms. This is not just willy-nilly collection of miniature objects, but a superbly thought-out creation that puts life into what is, after all, just a wooden box.
“I'd have the story in my head about the people in the rooms, like the old man and his collection, and I'd let my imagination run with it,” says Norma. “It necessitated a huge amount of reading about the house interiors of different ages. I also visited stately homes in England to look at details such as the cornices, skirting boards and ceilings.” Norma made many friends among other miniature collectors and visited the large collectors' fairs, like one held every year at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham.
Everything is perfect down to the smallest detail. And it's in the detail that you see Norma's imagination at work. For example on one of the houses a roof tile is loose and if you look carefully on the inside, you can see that the wallpaper below it is peeling and there are water stains running down the wall.
Norma and Martin are Greyton residents and kindly agreed to share the pleasure provided by their doll's houses with visitors to Greyton. So pop into Searle's when next you're in the village and take a 'peep' at their magnificent collection – you won't be sorry.