V&A Museum of Childhood Part Two – Dolls and Puppets before 1960

26 Apr

You might remember that I went to the V&A Museum of Chilldhood earlier this week, and a few days ago I posted about some of the animal-themed toys I saw there. Today I am going to share some pictures of the dolls I saw. I’ve also included some puppets, of which there were a surprising number. These days, I think puppet toys are relatively rare – it’s easy to forget that pre mid century, they would probably have filled a niche that is now taken by TV, film and other forms of media. 

These are some of my favourite V&A puppets: 


These beautiful things are designed to represent characters from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Can you tell who is who? I am presuming that the tallest one is Titania the Fairy Queen. I love her sea-green hair and outfit. These puppets are pretty sizeable, Titania must have been about three feet tall. They were produced during the 1940s by a lady called Christine Glanville, who also made the Thunderbird puppets. 

Did you ever see a Punch and Judy show? They were still quite common at children’s parties, fairs and at the seaside when I was young, but I doubt my son will ever see one. These ones were owned by a guy called Gus Wood, who was famous for his puppet shows. The booth apparently dates from 1912 although it didn’t say how old the puppets themselves were. 


Lastly, here’s some unfinished puppet parts, again from the 1940s. I thought the Crusader looked like an interesting character. 

So, dolls! When it comes to older dolls, it’s usually the clothes that impress me. Just look at this: 

This is a German bisque doll from about 1900. The label says that she was designed to show off fashions so it’s not surprising she’s so nicely turned out – I love her white eyelet dress. Her high-colour face doesn’t have much in common with the faces of the kinds of dolls that I collect, but I’ll admit that she has a nice, tranquil expression. 

This Bridal doll dates from the 1860s and I loved the lace overkill on her wedding gown. All that lace must be handmade! So much time must have gone into making her and her outfit, I dread to think what she must have cost. Again, her face doesn’t appeal to my modern sensibilities, but I still think she’s pretty amazing. 



These dolls have always appealed to me, though, so it was nice to see some in real life. Made by Lenci of Italy, the top two dolls (with the delightfully grumpy faces) are made from painted cloth and the bottom doll is felted. All date from the 20s and 30s and I was amazed at how lifelike they are. As you can see by the label in the picture above, Lenci made coordinating dresses for little girls! 

I really coveted this Shirley Temple paper doll. I had a lot of paper dolls when I was a child, so I’ve always been interested in them. I stood here for a while trying to imagine what the dresses would look like on her. 

This was the first Little Miss Vogue doll I have seen in real life too, and I’m surprised by how small she was. Manufactured in 1960 by Pedigree, she was a forerunner to Sindy. Her hair could do with a bit of sorting out! 

This is a walking doll from the mid fifties. Plastic dolls were still pretty new on the scene when she was made. I think she’s quite cute – it’s a shame that her outfit has seen better days, I’d love to know what it looked like when she was manufactured. 


I couldn’t think where else to put these cards from 1910, which are designed to be mixed up to make new characters, so I’ve put them in here. I love the style of the illustration. 

Oh yes, I forgot to mention on the last post! If you are interested in this Museum but can’t make it there in person, they have some great online facilities, look here. There’s a special doll section of the site, which contains some articles I really need to get round to reading, and there’s also an online archive so you can virtually view items from the their collection. As if that weren’t enough they also have a WordPress blog, Collecting Childhood. Enjoy! 


13 Responses to “V&A Museum of Childhood Part Two – Dolls and Puppets before 1960”

  1. Pam April 26, 2015 at 10:22 pm #

    Thanks, these dolls are fascinating. I used to have loads of paper dolls so that brought back memories too.

    • barbielea April 26, 2015 at 10:46 pm #

      Glad you liked them Pam 🙂 unbelievable that the Shirley Temple doll survived, isn’t it?

  2. Andrea April 27, 2015 at 9:20 am #

    The puppets are very impressive. Yes, the lady in green must be Titania, next to her might be Puck and Peaseblossom, one of Titania’s fairies and the little one must be Indian Boy. Sad to see the cut cords though.

    I think the bridal doll was also a doll to show fashion, because her outfit is so detailed. Her outfit is remarkable.

    The grumpy dolls are totally cute. I can’t help it, they make me smile.

    • barbielea April 27, 2015 at 9:43 pm #

      Thanks Andrea – you know, I never even noticed the strings til you said?? That is sad, actually 😦

      Yes, the grumpy children are wonderful. Very striking. When I saw them, for a little split second I found myself surprised to see two children in the cabinet and was wondering how they got in there …

  3. mangusta April 29, 2015 at 5:49 pm #


    • Blackkitty April 30, 2015 at 1:22 am #

      This is completely unrelated but reading about the puppets made me remember how I buggered dad to make me a chicken puppet like one I saw in school! It was made out of a walnut for the head, an apple for the body and walnut shells for the feet. All this was connected with ropes and it was controlled with a single cross. God, I had so much fun with it! Dad used walnut shells glued together for everything so it never spoiled. Thanks for bringing back this wonderful memory of mine 🙂

      • barbielea April 30, 2015 at 8:25 pm #

        That so cute Blackitty 🙂 and perfectly appropriate, as this is a great place for memories – I saw so many things I used to have as a child and had forgotten about … It IS exciting when that happens!

    • Blackkitty April 30, 2015 at 1:23 am #

      Sorry, Mangusta, for posting in the wrong spot, I was so excited and I don’t know how to move it now…

      • mangusta April 30, 2015 at 5:50 am #

        No prob 🙂

  4. Sarah Plays Dolls May 3, 2015 at 5:56 am #

    What a fantastic museum! The puppets bring back memories from my childhood, going to puppet shows. And of six or seven years ago, being in… I think it was Chicago? And seeing the wonder that is Puppet Bike, a tiny mobile puppet theater. I’d almost forgotten about it!

    • barbielea May 11, 2015 at 9:44 pm #

      It really is a wonderful place Sara. Funny (but nice) how the puppets in particular seem to have triggered such nostalgia in my commenters 🙂

  5. Teresa B May 4, 2015 at 4:56 am #

    All of those puppets and dolls are fantastic! I love the vintage and just think back to the children who loved them 🙂

    • barbielea May 11, 2015 at 9:46 pm #

      Me too Theresa. There were some toys there who had been loved almost to pieces. I thought it was very touching …

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