Doorbell discovery

The collection at Snowshill Manor not only contains thousands of wonderful hand-crafted objects collected by Charles Wade it also includes thousands of objects created by Charles Wade himself. These objects include hundreds of models and characters for his model village Wolf’s Cove. They also include thousands of pencil drawings, oil paintings, photographs and architectural plans that clearly demonstrate his skill as an artist and craftsman. One of our favourite objects made by Charles Wade’s hand is his doorbell.

Charles Wade's doorbell

Charles Wade’s doorbell

Mr Wade's sketches for the doorbell

Mr Wade’s sketches for the doorbell

Mr Wade's initial sketches for the street scene

Mr Wade’s initial sketches for the street scene

Initially this object appears to be a toy theatre cased inside a wooden box. The street scene has been delicately designed and features tiny moving figures including toy soldiers and horses. This was positioned above the door and every time it was opened the figures proceeded to move through the doors and music was played on a small music box movement inside. The moving figures were driven by wooden blocks sewn onto a canvas belt, the blocks would also operate levers which open and close doors as the figures pass through.

Inside the doorbell. There are even tiny soldiers rotating inside the tower

Inside the doorbell. There are even tiny soldiers rotating inside the tower

There is a beautiful verse painted on the front of the case which reads as follows:

‘We were made by our master’s hands to hang upon his wall
And every wight who ope’s the door kindly frees us all.
We are little painted figures from the dear romantic past
But we are better off than he is for we shall always last
And ever do the pleasant things he taught us by his art
And when the shallows lengthen and the mortal folk depart
A gorgeous galaxy of ghosts throng the haunted room.
We’ll watch their nightly revels until the crack of doom
Charles Wade made me December 1914 being the first year of the Great War’

Wade took this photograph of his doorbell

Wade took this photograph of his doorbell

At present the doorbell is not on show at Snowshill. It is currently being cared for by the expert conservators at Tankerdale Limited. With their expertise they have been able to identify evidence of old repairs, of varying effectiveness, and have managed to investigate the drive mechanism in the doorbell so it is now in working order. Some of the figures have been reattached, the canvas belt has been repaired and the missing blocks have been replaced where necessary. The conservators also discovered a secret door on the side of the case which reveals a latin phrase and a window complete with net curtain! We were very lucky this week to have a private view of the doorbell in working order.

Secret door revealed!

Secret door revealed!

Window with curtains!

Window with curtains!

We took a rather amateur video of the doorbell which can be viewed at

Can anybody name the tune?

The doorbell will be on show later this year.


6 thoughts on “Doorbell discovery

  1. Thanks again Vicki — love the video! the name of the tune evades me for now. can you leave the dooebell in the volunteers room?!

  2. Can’t wait to see the doorbell, although I can’t imagine how it worked as a door bell. Couldn’t recognise the tune though.

  3. What a lovely post – it will be wonderful when the doorbell comes back. I wondered, when it comes back, if volunteer guides could demonstrate it for the public? Believe me, I would be so very careful especially as Margaret would be here!!!

    What awful news about the ceiling in Turquoise – hope that the damage is only superficial.

    Best wishes,


  4. Cannot believe the amount of workmanship that has gone into that, such a wonderful object that oozes personality. Very much hoping that it will be available to view one day!

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