I’m always on the look out for story ideas around Chester. My daughter spotted this antique doll shop and the interview with the owner was fascinating. This story first appeared in the Daily Telegraph.
Mo Harding, owner, Dollectable, says:
“I was born in Cheshire and, after running a hotel in Manchester for years, we were looking for a new business based around my love of antique dolls.
I had always loved dolls but my parents told me I was too old for them when I was 12.
We found this Tudor townhouse in Chester, dating from 1621, in the early Eighties. Originally we wanted to make a doll museum upstairs but the building is Grade II listed and needs a lot of work.
As far as we know, it’s the last remaining shop of its kind in the UK.
I started collecting pre-1930s dolls when my husband, Steve, was working the antique fairs. I still remember my first one. Polly was a German doll from around 1900. She had a lovely face.
Sometimes you look at a doll’s face and it’s just like a painting.
The heyday of doll making was from the 1870 to 1900 with best dolls made in France and Germany. Most of the dolls in the shop are Victorian.
Children played with dolls differently in those days. They brought the dolls out on Sundays and girls learnt to sew by making clothes for them.
Every doll in the shop has a story. Henrietta is wax doll with beautiful boned underwear; she belonged to a suffragette. We also have some rare items.
The twin French dolls from the 1870s, both with glazed china heads, are worth upwards of £2500 each. A Shirley Temple doll of the American child star, dating from 1934, is one of our few American dolls.
We have travelled the world to international doll fairs and auctions. When you find a rare doll, it’s still an incredible buzz.
I’d sell the house and the car rather than loose my dolls, both the stock for the shop and my private collection at home.
I’m still always searching for the ultimate doll. I’ve wanted a Schmidt, a French doll from around 1870. They would sell at auction for around £18,000.
We hope my daughter will take the business forward eventually, maybe creating a website and taking us onto social media.
My granddaughter loves my Victorian doll houses, too. But there are no plans for retirement yet.
I still love decorating the window every Christmas with a themed display and half the fun of running the business is the community of like-minded people at the auctions.
For me, you are either a doll person or not. It’s a way of life.
A doll person would never dream of collecting teddy bears.
It was a return journey to an old favourite destination — Flanders — but with a new perspective.
I’ve been before to Bruges, Ghent and several times to Antwerp.
But I had never visited the WWI heritage sites of Flanders Fields, nor previously witnessed the moving Last Post ceremony [pictured above] at the Menin Gate in Ypres.
It was also my first river cruise assignment after several previous ocean-cruising commissions.
The story is for Telegraph Cruise and will appear in the spring of 2017, timed with the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele.
But here’s a preview:
What struck me most about the surrounding countryside was the dramatic juxtaposition of historical sites and regular suburban houses, where people lived everyday lives untouched by war. Amongst the shrines, monuments and memorials, I sometimes spotted little commemorative crosses, marked with red poppies. One read simply: “Harry. In Loving memory.”