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North Devon in 100 Objects: 28. Prisoner of War Furniture

A set of wooden dolls' furniture which includes a bed, bedside table, wardrobe and dressing table.

Many children through the years have had clothes and furniture made for their dolls. But this furniture tells a wartime North Devon story.

This set of dolls’ furniture was made for 10 year old Gloria Butler and her sister Pamela during the Second World War.  Gloria’s parents ran Butler’s Tobacconist shop on Bideford Quay. They were approached by a British Major enquiring if there was any furniture they could get Prisoners of War to make.  The family asked if they could have some dolls’ furniture for their daughters.

Prisoner of War Camp 694 was at Handy Cross, on what is now the Fletcher Industrial Estate in Bideford.  It had previously been a US Army Camp until the GIs left to take part in the D-Day Landings in 1944.  The German prisoners would work in the local community, often as labourers on the local farms. After the end of the war an increasing number of prisoners were billeted with families, on the farms where they worked. The camp closed in 1947.

The furniture is quite plain, like the Utility Furniture introduced in 1942 to ensure efficient use of raw materials and labour.  But if you look closely at the surface of the bedside cabinet and dressing table you will notice that the surface has been decorated using blue and green ink to create a marbled effect.   Look even more closely and you will see the signature Reinhold Haim inscribed in pencil at the bottom of the drawer.

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