One of our recent acquisitions is Villa Patricia, which was donated by a local couple in Woodstock. The doll's house was commissioned by Dr Richard Blaiklock who served with the Hampshire Regiment as Regimental Medical Officer. He was sent overseas to Southern Italy in 1944 to assist local hospitals, and from there was sent into several prisoner of war camps to assess the prisoner's medical needs. One of the camps he was sent to was Taranto POW camp, also known as Gravina Altamura. This camp was built to house around 9000 inmates, many of whom were captured in Tobruck and North Africa.
The camp inmates suffered from lack of food and overcrowding, which led to widespread disease and malnutrition. Despite this, according to the children of survivors, there was a camp band, boxing matches and theatre shows organised by some of the stronger prisoners. There was also a barrack dedicated to woodworking, and this is where Dr Blaiklock may have visited during his time as the camp doctor. Dr Blaiklock commissioned an unknown Italian prisoner to create a doll's house to give to his daughter Patricia back in the UK. The prisoner painstakingly created over 30 items of furniture as well as the house itself, even putting tiny hinges on the furniture doors and creating miniature paintings to hang on the walls. When the house was finished, it was stamped with the camp name, and christened Villa Patricia in honour of Dr Blaiklock's daughter.
The house was given to Patricia, then 5 years old, in 1945. She was delighted to receive the doll's house and it became her favourite toy, although she was too afraid to play with it regularly and only took it out on special occasions. In the years that followed, Patricia's own children and grandchildren played with the doll's house until it began to show its age, then Patricia retired it to the attic before offering it to us at the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum.
You will be able to see Villa Patricia on display as part of our upcoming Children and War Part 2 exhibition in 2022 (dates TBC) - we're still collecting objects and stories for the exhibition, if you have anything you'd like to share with us for the upcoming display, please get in touch!
You can also see our Online Exhibition featuring panels from Children and War Part 1 here.