Every year hundreds of fans come together to The Jane Austen Centre in Bath to celebrate the talent and artistry of Jane Austen, but for those who work at the Centre there can sometimes be occasion to stop and marvel at the incredible works of devotion created by our visitors. An exceptional instance of this came to us this summer in the story of Julie Mountford.
Julie’s husband Keith wrote to us in a heartwarming email this year to describe the predicament of his late wife’s own Austen-inspired ‘amateur’ masterpiece: a Georgian dolls house. As part of her passion and love of all things Georgian, Regency and Jane Austen, Julie crafted this 1.6m tall house over a period of five years. It contains eighteen rooms (five of which are large hallways typical of the Georgian era) and each room has been lovingly filled with tiny furniture of the same period. Keith described how ‘everyone who has ever seen the house has been gobsmacked by its beauty and by Julie’s attention to detail’ and we found ourselves similarly enchanted.
Sadly Julie passed away in March 2015, having lived with cancer for five years, and her dolls house has been seen only occasionally by friends or family members since then. Keith described how Julie had been a mental health social worker by profession but was also an extremely talented and creative person, writing period novels in her spare time as well as sewing beautiful historical-attired cloth dolls as gifts; one of these has even found a home in our giftshop at the Centre, a place that Julie loved and visited many times in her visits to Bath.
Keith generously offered for this magnificent work to be displayed at the Centre so that it might ‘inform, educate and entertain’ as is this is our motto and was also Julie’s passion. Unfortunately, we were unable to give a home to her beautiful Jane Austen Dolls house but we hope that in sharing the story of Julie’s dolls house we can echo Keith’s wish that it serves as an example of ‘what an ordinary person with a passion can design and create as part of their love of all things Austen’.
Please visit www.juliemountford.org to learn more about the Julie Montford Dawson Foundation.