Explore the fascinating world of the Victorian judges at this award-winning historic house.


Victorian Doll

The two dolls shown here are an excellent way to see the difference between what rich and poor girls would have had to play with. The large doll has a porcelain face and hands, which would have been expensive to produce, glass eyes, with a leather body stuffed with sawdust. Her hair is real human hair, purchased by doll-makers from poor women who sold it to get money. Some porcelain dolls were not to be played with. They were beautiful objects to be looked at, and show how rich the family who owned them were. The wooden or 'Dutch' dolls were much cheaper. They could be bought and also made for a poorer child. This one has moving arms and legs, but some had no limbs (called 'stump' dolls), they could be made from clothes pegs, spoons and even old shoes. Dolls helped girls learn about looking after others, provided a companion for a lonely child, and by taking them to 'tea -parties' gave a way for children to socialise. They could spend many hours making clothes and accessories for them, improving their sewing and craft skills. The drawing comes from an article in The Girl's Own Annual, 1880, and illustrated an article called How to Dress Dolls.

In the classroom:  

Look at the photograph. Which doll belonged to a rich and which to a poor girl? What is each doll made of? Where did the hair come from for the china doll and why? What things could you make a doll out of if you had no money? What sort of games could they play with their dolls?
Look at the drawing. How many different types of doll are there? Do you think some of these dolls would have been owned by boys? Which ones? Which cost the most money and would it have been played with? Can you see dolls made out of rags, wood and porcelain?
You could make a doll for a poor girl using a wooden spoon or clothes peg as a body. Clothes can be made from any scraps of material.


doll drawing


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Strange But True

  • list arrowThere's nothing like a nice private shower!

    Having a shower in Victorian times meant a line of maids passing water up a ladder to the final one who poured it over your head whilst you stood in your metal frame or tent contraption - you can see one at Erdigg, an historic house near Wrexham, North Wales.


Historical Handy Hints