Introducing Pendle Hall

by Kate C
Publish date
2 March 2011
Comments (4)

Pendle Hall is an enormous, elaborate and intricate dolls’ house that Felicity Clemons built almost entirely by hand. It was donated to Museum Victoria through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program in 2010 and work has begun to ready it for eventual display at Melbourne Museum.

Beginning in the 1940s, Melbourne-born Felicity was inspired to create Pendle Hall after her daughter received a small dolls’ house as a gift. Ultimately, Pendle Hall reached 21 rooms of Georgian-style country splendour, complete with parquetry floors, working chandeliers, a fully-stocked larder, a resident family with servants and even a mouse beside a wheel of cheese.

Pendle Hall larder The shelves in Pendle Hall's larder are well-stocked. You can see the wheel of cheese and mouse in the middle of the the first shelf.
Image: Michelle Berry
Source: Museum Victoria

Janet Pathe has been steadily registering the individual pieces which number over 600 items. As chief unwrapper, she’s been the first to sight some of the amazing miniature items therein. “ I really like the little pack of cards but some of the pieces of furniture, like cabinets, are just absolutely amazing. All the little drawers and doors open.”

Cabinet from Pendle Hall A cabinet from Pendle Hall's Withdrawing Room. It's hard to believe this intricate piece is only 18 cm high. (HT 25753)
Source: Museum Victoria

Pendle Hall has been on display in Felicity Clemons’ private museum in Westbury, Tasmania for many years. To transport it from the Apple Isle, the dolls’ house was carefully photographed while assembled, then each item wrapped, labelled and boxed by a conservator. The reference photos will be critical to reassemble and manage all the little pieces, since, as Janet explains, “so much of it is too small, like the tiny candlesticks, for us to put registration numbers on them.”

Display board for Pendle Hall This board shows the tools and techniques Felicity Clemens used while constructing Pendle Hall.
Source: Museum Victoria

While Janet registers, conservator Sarah Babister is working through the house room by room. “At the moment I’m doing a conservation assessment on all 612 components, literally looking at every piece, and trying to determine what treatment, if any, needs to be carried out,” says Sarah. “To date most pieces I have examined only require basic surface cleaning, however there are some components which will need to be repaired or stabilised." In some cases she may consider replacing materials (such as a tiny foam mattress) with an inert material because she suspects the foam may be speeding up the deterioration of the bedspread on top.

Sarah with the Chinese Bedroom furniture Conservator Sarah is working through the furniture from the Chinese Bedroom of Pendle Hall.
Source: Museum Victoria


ABC Radio National: interview with curator Michael Reason on ByDesign

Comments (4)

sort by
Jen 2 March, 2011 21:58
One of my favourite places when I was little was the doll shop in the Block Arcade, especially the shelves of dolls house furniture. I'll definitely have to come and see this when it goes on display.
Lucy 3 March, 2011 10:09
Looks so beautiful!! Can't wait to see it.
Siobhan 8 March, 2011 16:24
A beautiful exercise in miniatures - I'm very jealous of Janet and Sarah right now!
Julie 6 November, 2013 13:55
Have just booked trip to Tasmania with my daughter, who has always loved dolls houses, only to find Pendle Hall is now here!!!!! Hope to bring her on its first open day in Melbourne....Enjoy your work!!!!!!
Write your comment below All fields are required

We love receiving comments, but can’t always respond.

About this blog

Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.