Miss Miles' House
- Place of origin:
England (probably, made)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Credit Line:
Given by Miss Amy Miles
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Made by Amy Miles when she was in her thirties, this evocative dolls’ house looks back to her childhood and the house where she grew up in Friern Barnet, North London. It was one of the first dolls’ houses to be collected by the V&A, and has been central to the collection ever since.
Rather than creating a snapshot of a particular time, Amy Miles included gadgets and inventions popular from the 1850s onwards. The geyser in the bathroom was patented in 1868, but was soon surpassed my more reliable methods of heating water. The telephone in the hall would have appeared after 1876 and domestic electric lights weren’t available until the 1890s. In the dining room sits a tiered white wedding cake - made of real sponge cake and icing. These first appeared at the wedding of Victoria’s son, Prince Leopold, in 1882.
Amy Miles (1857 – 1928) grew up in a prosperous Victorian household, overseen by her father, John Miles, who was manager of a book publishers, investor in the New River Company, and active philanthropist. Amy was the youngest of five children, and all the girls were taught at home by governesses.
The house is a large structure consisting of ten rooms. It originally had an artist's studio in the roof. On the ground level is a child's schoolroom, a small dining room, a kitchen and a pantry. On the next level is a large and elegant drawing room and a recreation room with a large billiard table. The top floor has a nursery, a bedroom, a bathroom and a utility room. A staircase runs through the centre of the house.
Place of Origin
England (probably, made)
Materials and Techniques
Height: 119.5 cm, Width: 135.2 cm, Depth: 44.5 cm
Object history note
Miss Amy Miles brought photographs of her dolls’ house to the V&A in South Kensington in August 1915. She met with Oliver Bracket, curator of furniture, who considered it to be “a remarkable curiosity. In view of the proposal to form a room of exhibits to interest children… we should accept the loan”. The display was set up for Christmas 1915 and Amy herself came to arrange the furniture in the dolls’ house.
In May 1918, as the First World War dragged on, the dolls’ house remained in the museum. A letter was sent to Amy Miles: “In view of the possible increase of risk from attack by hostile aircraft, we have been considering new measures to be taken for the protection of the treasures exhibited in this Museum, including the dolls’ house”.
She responded “I really am very anxious to get it back again but I had to wait and see what the management would arrange… I have plenty of room for it here and am longing to have it back.”
News of the dolls’ house next arrived in 1921, when Rev Henry Miles wrote offering it as a gift. “My sister”, he wrote, “is now non-compos mentis… and I have to manage her estate. She has directed in her will that the dolls’ house is to be offered to you for the museum”. The house was accepted for the new Children’s Section being planned at Bethnal Green Museum (now the V&A Museum of Childhood), and was one of the very first exhibits for this innovative venture.
Dolls' house known as Miss Miles House made in England in 1890
Children & Childhood; Dolls & Toys
Museum of Childhood