Inside the Ealing Dolls’ House Museum

Does the title of this post surprise you? It surprised me: I thought I was familiar with most of the museums in London, but it’s only recently that I learned of the existence of the Ealing Dolls’ House Museum.

I disliked dolls as a child: my mother has never forgiven me for taking my brand-new doll’s pram, a Christmas present from my grandparents, out into the garden on Boxing Day and filling it with bricks and mud. Yet, I loved my dolls’ house and would spend hours rearranging its furniture and devising complicated plots for its inhabitants. That fascination with miniature homes has never left me; I still find them charming.

The Ealing Dolls’ House Museum has no social media presence or official website, meaning that my lovely friend Mary and I had no idea what to expect when we arrived at its unassuming location on Haven Green.

It turns out that, the Museum’s founder, Nousha Pakpour Samari, is something of a local celebrity, having established the local Ladies’ Creative Centre and been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to the community. Hailing from Iran, our impossibly glamorous hostess has lived in England for a number of decades, having seen all her worldly goods seized during the Iranian Revolution. Nousha was taking a group of visitors around the Museum when we arrived and promptly invited us to join them, making us feel very welcome.

Housed in a converted garage, the Museum is a labour of love developed over many years. It does feature several dolls’ houses, which I spent a very enjoyable amount of time peering into, but the real star of the show is Nousha’s collection of dolls, sourced from all over the world. Of all imaginable sizes, they’ve been bought or donated from countries including Japan, Russia, Europe and American.

The dolls are kept company by an extensive collection of miniature animals which delighted Mary, an ardent animal lover; for my part, I’d moved on to looking at the exquisite doll-size garden furniture at the far end of the room, which I continue to covet.

“Eclectic” is the word that springs to mind as I try to think how to describe this new-found London gem. It’s not for everyone; its name, alone, will put off a sizeable chunk of the population, but it’s quirky and unusual and it’s impossible not to fall a little bit in love with Nousha, whose very presence elevates the Museum into something special.

She is a strong advocate of local artists & craftsmen, one of whom was exhibiting his paintings outside the Museum while we were there: do spread the word, as Nousha is keen to promote more such artists.

Overall, a fun and different outing. I wouldn’t recommend travelling there from a distance, but if you’re in the area one Saturday and want to experience something unusual, do visit the Ealing Dolls’ House Museum.

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