The house includes contributions from more than 1,500 of the finest artists, craftsmen and manufacturers of the early 20th century.
by Martin Cann
"Queen Mary's Dolls' House" was built in 1921–1924 for Queen Mary, Consort of George V, of the U.K. by leading British Architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. The house includes contributions from more than 1,500 of the finest artists, craftsmen and manufacturers of the early 20th century.
From life below stairs to the high-society setting of the saloon and dining room to the library bursting with original works by the top literary names of the day to a fully stocked wine cellar and a garden created by Gertrude Jekyll, no detail was forgotten. The house even includes electricity, running hot and cold water and working lifts.
The house was presented to Queen Mary in 1924 and exhibited at the British Empire Wembley Exhibition in 1925. The lifts, one passenger and one goods, are electrically operated and are to the scale of 1 in. to 1 ft. with a speed of 140 in./min.
The queen's note of thanks, in which she wrote the following in her own hand: “It is with the greatest pleasure that I say ‘thank you’ to all the very kind people who have helped to make the dolls’ house the most perfect present that anyone could receive.”
In April 1924, Waygood-Otis Ltd. received a letter of thanks from Queen Mary for installing the lifts. Along with the other leading companies in their different fields, Waygood-Otis had duly contributed an exact model of its product in the Queen’s honor.
The newspapers of the day were equally enthusiastic. “The tiny machines fitted on the roof of the house are exact models of the standard automatic electric passenger lifts,” wrote The Times. “They are worked by push buttons which enable the lift to be stopped at any floor. These buttons are very little greater in size than a pinhead.”
There is a complete worm and worm-wheel winding machine with motor, brake and controller, just as in the full-scale lift. The steel guides for the car and counterweight are only 3/16 in. in diameter.
The lifts were built in 1924, mainly by Waygood-Otis employee John Nevil Maskelyne, Jr. (who later became known by his initials, "J.N.M.") and Waygood-Otis apprentices. Maskelyne was born on January 3, 1892, at Wandsworth Common, London. The eldest of three brothers, he was brought up in a highly mechanical atmosphere: both his paternal grandfather and father (also both named John Nevil Maskelyne) and his youngest brother (Jasper Maskelyne) were world-renowned stage illusionists and magicians. His grandfather founded the magical entertainment of Maskelyne & Cooke in 1873 and was an inventor of such devices as the coin-operated lock for public toilets.
As well as being a magician and inventor, Maskelyne's father also had a profound knowledge of telegraphy. In 1903, in the early days of radio, he hacked the wireless telegraphy of Guglielmo Marconi, who advertised “secure and private communication.” Maskelyne broadcast his own message to prove Marconi’s claims wrong.
Maskelyne was educated at St. Paul’s School in Hammersmith, London. His technical training was at King’s College, University of London, in 1911-1914. Being unfit for Army service, he joined the staff of Waygood-Otis as a junior member of the engineering department. He had spent much of his childhood helping build the props for his father’s illusions and, consequently, became a very competent model builder, especially in the field of model railways, which was his main interest. After he left the employ of Waygood-Otis in 1932, he became a model engineering consultant. He devoted a great deal of his leisure to the study of locomotive engineering and history, with considerable attention to the design and construction of model railways and locomotives. In 1909, he began writing for railway and model railway periodicals and joined the Stephenson Locomotive Society in 1911, of which he was elected chairman in 1916 and president in 1925, a position he held until he retired in April 1960. In 1917, he joined the Society of Model and Experimental Engineers, subsequently serving several years on the committee (later the council), then as vice chairman and finally as chairman. In 1919, he was elected an associate of the Institution of Locomotive Engineers. In 1926, he published History of the Locomotives of the L.B. & S.C.R. 1903-1923, thus completing the history by G.F. Burtt, initially published in 1903. In the same year, he actively associated himself with the preservation of the locomotive Gladstone in collaboration with G.F. Burtt on behalf of the Stephenson Locomotive Society. In 1928, he began his regular monthly series of articles, “Railway Topics” in Model Railway News. He subsequently left the employ of Waygood-Otis to become a model engineering consultant and, in 1935, became the editor of Model Railway News and technical editor of Model Engineer. He held these posts until he retired 1956. He died on May 24, 1960.
Charles "Charlie" Scholefield was one of the Waygood-Otis apprentices who helped build the tiny lifts. Scholefield was born in South London in 1904. His parents were from York, and his father worked at a building contracting firm in London. Throughout his life, Scholefield remained very proud of his Yorkshire parentage and often gave this as the reason for his stubbornness. After attending school in Battersea, London, where he was often top of his class, he joined Waygood-Otis as an apprentice in 1920. The factory was within 2 mi. of his home. As an apprentice, he worked on general engineering, but he soon showed his talents in electrical testing. In 1924, he became involved as an apprentice in the construction of the model lifts.
Scholefield was subsequently employed as a tester and fitter with the service department. In the 1930s, at a time when new electrical equipment was being imported from the U.S., he was put in charge of the service “Troubleshooting Squad,” sometimes known as the “Crazy Gang,” whose job it was to solve all service problems. He surrounded himself with well-known assistants such as Graham Lambie, Basil Pirie, George Burleigh and Ted Perry. His prowess as the man who could solve every technical field problem became widespread, as did his ability to teach others. He always strove for perfection, and his attention to detail was beyond that of most people. He had very strong views on several basic lift subjects and was never afraid to expand these views to anyone. His general dignity and bearing were such that he commanded respect at all levels and became one of the best-known figures in the lift industry in the U.K.
During World War II, he continued to keep lifts running under very difficult conditions, while also spending time on war work in the factory and as an air-raid warden. He always dressed conservatively and wore a bowler hat, which he was known to use to show the effectiveness of safety edges on power-operated doors.
After the war, he was appointed superintendent of branch offices, a job he never liked, because it was administrative and not technical. However, he always found ways of introducing the technical aspect into his tours of branch offices. For the last few years of his active service with the company, he again became field engineer responsible for construction and service, in addition to the field prototype testing of the 155HT machine.
After his retirement at 65 years old, he was invited to South Africa and Kenya to help train field engineers and adjusters. He spent a year there and endeared himself to all, becoming known as the “gentleman in the bowler hat.” After his return from South Africa, he entered full retirement and enjoyed his hobby of gardening. A lifelong bachelor, he continued to live in the family house and tend a large, beautiful garden.
Soon after this, Otis was invited to rebuild and overhaul the two model lifts Scholefield had helped install as an apprentice. He was the obvious choice to undertake this task, so he happily returned to continue the work he started nearly 50 years earlier. The lifts are not visible when installed in the house, so removing them in their steel structure presented Scholefield with a bit of a problem. The structure fitted neatly in its hoistway and was pressed in by hand over the last few inches. Scholefield could gain access to the hoistway doors only by opening the first-floor windows on each side of the house and inserting a horizontal timber batten through the windows to pry the structure gently upward. It was taken out through the roof and then transported in a specially constructed container to a workshop in London.
Scholefield removed the diminutive call buttons, replacing them with an external operating panel. They were also rewired and given new electric motors and new ropes. The cars were repolished, and the whole installation was tested with the same care lavished on full-sized lifts. He completed the work, and the model is on display at Windsor Castle. The lifts had a service contract with Otis for several years after the refurbishment. At the time of this writing, the display is temporarily closed to the public.
Scholefield was a loyal supporter of the Otis Long Service Association and a regular attendee at its social events. He was always in great demand as an after-dinner speaker, in which role he had a superb and unique style. He died in 1978, as one of the greater characters from the Otis family.
Martin Cann has worked for Otis for 33 years, starting as an apprentice in Plymouth, U.K., in 1987. He has been in many roles during this time, including new equipment, testing, service and modernization. He is currently a member of the field operations department. He has always had an interest in history, which eventually led to an interest in the history of the U.K. lift industry. This interest led to his acquiring and collecting a substantial amount of lift memorabilia. Cann is also a founder member of the Haverhill, Massachusetts, Elevator Museum.