In exquisite miniature

SOPHIE PREECE
Last updated 15:30 25/02/2013

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There are few homes in Marlborough as grand and well appointed as the Edwardian home of Mr and Mrs Charles Fortescue-Witherspoon.

With detailed care and attention to everything from the hand-stitched bedspreads and handmade rugs, to the tableware of the formal dining room, the Waihopai Valley home is perfect for this turn-of-the-century family.

And it's a dream come true for Sue Beardsworth.

As a small girl in war-torn England, travelling the country with her family while her father tracked down army deserters, she longed for a doll's house to furnish and play with, but made do with the dolls her mother made from old fabric.

Five decades later, still living in England, she finally got her wish, buying this ornate four-storeyed Edwardian villa from the Dolls House Emporium, and proceeding to fill it with love.

The home arrived ready to go, with wallpaper and light fittings, but she has spent years collecting pieces to complete the tableau, including a child, baby, nanny and housekeeper.

When Sue moved with her husband, Roger, to Botswana in 1993, the precious home stayed in England, but when they came to New Zealand 10 years later, she carefully packed up

the manor, contents and inhabitants, and shipped them over for a new life.

She is still pulling out pieces of detail she has forgotten, recently opening Charles' office drawer to find his tiny spectacles inside, and discovering a brush and comb "belonging to the lady of the house".

Such intricacy is typical of the home, from the gramophone in the corner and miniature parasol in the umbrella stand, to the corkscrew in the dining room and a tiny bird in a gilded cage.

"There's another cage out here for when they're sitting in the garden," says Sue, drawing attention to the garden gazebo, set up with white "cane" furniture.

In the sitting room, there's a half completed embroidery, and a sewing box (for Mrs Fortescue-Witherspoon is very fond of sewing) is full of tiny coloured cotton reels.

In her bedroom there are grand dresses and a hat box, made by Sue's granddaughter, which opens up to reveal a perfect felted hat.

Another formal feathered hat was made by a woman in Nelson, who also made a tiny oval platter in the kitchen, with a couple of fish glistening on top.

Sue's own talents for sewing have been put to great use, with a lovely bedspread made out of quarter inch hexagon patchwork, and two rich and detailed carpets created with tiny petit point stitches and 26 skeins of embroidery thread for background alone, plus that for the detailed patterns.

Although late to arrive, this doll's house has made up for the years of waiting.

"I still love it," Sue says, tweaking the feather on an exquisite little hat.

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- The Marlborough Express

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