The Dolls

A look at the list on the right of this pane will immediately show how vast was the range of dolls produced by the Nisbet organization.   For many collectors, the sheer quantity of different characters, and number of different versions of some of the more popular dolls has understandably led to confusion.

 For example, King Henry VIII and his six wives were perennial favourites amongst collectors, and sets were produced in the Historical, Portrait, and Dolls House Miniatures ranges, and spotting the difference between an "Historical" and a "Portrait" Henry VIII can be a real challenge! 

 Some doll designs were issued for a short period, and then withdrawn - only to reappear as a completely new character!

A Brief Introduction to Peggy Nisbet Dolls

Rosebud dolls

“Rosebud” dolls, dressed as Queen Elizabeth I and King Henry VIII, believed to be by Peggy Nisbet, circa 1954

Early Rosebud dolls, dressed by Peggy, are very rare, and only a couple of photographs appear in her book, “The Peggy Nisbet Story”, to show us what they looked like.   The two examples shown here are said to have a provenance that establishes them as being dressed by Peggy, but as there are no printed boxes or labels with them to support this claim, there remains an element of doubt.   The style and detail of their costumes, and the characters they are dressed as, (Elizabeth I and Henry VIII), are all in accord with what we know of these earliest Nisbet dolls, and so we have a high level of confidence that they may be genuine, Peggy Nisbet dressed, Rosebud dolls.

By the time Peggy Nisbet began making her dolls in the early 1950’s, “Rosebud” dolls were becoming very popular.   They were hollow moulded hard plastic dolls, with “sleepy” eyes that closed when they were laid down.  They were relatively inexpensive, and at 8 inches tall, a convenient size to work with.   Also, they could be purchased nude, so that owners could dress them as they pleased. 

Tower Walk dolls

H.202 16th Century Elizabethan Lady (Tower Walk Doll)

As the Nisbet business grew, Peggy wanted to make her own plastic dolls, as she felt that the Rosebuds were too childlike.   She wanted a doll with a more elegant and adult body shape to dress, and so decided to make her own.   Many of the early attempts were unsuccessful – in the years after the war, the chemistry involved in making a suitable and stable plastic was not as technologically advanced as it is now.   Peggy decided on a cold setting resin mix for her dolls, but there were problems with the recipe.   Many of these dolls were ruined when acidic chemicals used to cure the mix began to slowly leach out of the resin, causing damage to the clothes of the dolls.   Even some of the examples with a more stable resin mix suffered with this problem to a limited extent, and this caused the faces and hands, which were originally painted a flesh colour, to gradually assume a grey or greyish-blue pallor.   This is evident to varying degrees on some of the Tower Walk dolls shown on this website.  

The stylised facial appearance of this stunning doll, (Peggy called it “moon-faced”), is very evocative of the mid 1950’s, and yet she retains a timeless and elegant appeal for collectors everywhere, as this beautiful model shows

Historical series dolls

H.220 Jane Seymour

Following the problems with the Tower Walk resin dolls, Peggy finally settled on the hard plastic (Styrene) bodied dolls that most collectors are familiar with.   It is these dolls that form the bulk of her output, and although the individual faces may be different, the dolls are all made from the same plastic.   The “Historical” series of dolls are all dressed in costumes representative of certain individuals or eras.   The majority of the dolls in the Historical series all have the same face, (referred to by some Nisbet collectors as the “Dolly” face), but by skilful painting, and the use of different coloured wigs, they all assume an individual identity.

Portrait series dolls

P.605 Anne of Cleves

Portrait series dolls were made to represent various historical personalities, both in facial likeness, as well as in dress, and were often modelled on famous portraits.   They were usually finished to a slightly higher standard than the Historical range, often using more material, and better trimmings than the Historical dolls.    Peggy Nisbet took great pride in the accuracy of their costumes, making great efforts to ensure authenticity in every detail – even in places where it didn’t show, such as the undergarments!

Limited Edition dolls

LE91 King Henry VIII (Field of Cloth of Gold)

Limited Edition dolls were, as their name implies, made in smaller numbers than the dolls in the Historical and Portrait ranges.   Limited Editions were, (with a few early exceptions), all based on the “Portrait” bodies, and were made to represent the chosen character at a particular time, or historic event in their life, such as the “Spanish Armada” set, which included Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Drake, and Philip of Spain amongst its members.   As was always the case, the dolls were beautifully dressed, in costumes relevant to the event portrayed.   Their limited numbers ensure that they will always be scarce, and much sought after by collectors.

Doll House Miniatures

M.930 King Henry VIII

Doll House Miniatures were the smallest dolls Nisbet ever made, (at 6” high), and were fully jointed, allowing them to be posed.   They also included, (amongst other sets), Henry VIII and his six wives.   Because of their complex construction, (with joints at shoulders, elbows, hips and knees), and the difficulty of producing the intricate costumes on a smaller scale, they were relatively expensive, and were never produced in great volumes.   Amongst doll house enthusiasts, these tiny dolls are still much sought after today, and can attract surprisingly high prices at auction.

Tower Treasures dolls

Tower Treasures Lady Jane Grey

Tower Treasures dolls were introduced in May 1976, with Queen Elizabeth I being the inaugural model, priced at £30.00, including VAT (only 8% in those days!).   Their high price meant that only the most dedicated and affluent of collectors could afford them.   The dolls were, without any doubt, the finest creations ever produced by Peggy Nisbet.   They had bisque porcelain heads, hands, and feet, sewn onto a stuffed kid leather body, and the costumes were made from the finest materials and trimmings.   The range included, (apart from Elizabeth I), Mary, Queen of Scots, and Lady Jane Grey, (and also more recent members of the Royal family, including the Queen Mother, and our own Queen Elizabeth II).

 

News

31st October 2015

 
New updates added - We have added a new page on the Isle of Wight dolls, which were produced for the Liliput doll Museum, on the Isle of Wight.   These dolls have mystified us for some time, but an opportunity to do some research through the archives, an email from Graham Munday, (owner of the Lilliput Doll Museum), and an email chat with author and Shallowpool Dolls expert sue Brewer, have allowed a partial reconstruction of their fascinating story.   There are still some gaps in our knowledge, so if you can fill in any of the missing details for us, please do get in touch!
 
 

19th September 2015

 
New updates added - Our thanks to correspondent David H, who has sent us two interesting pictures - The first is of a very rare Nisbet First Doll.   This is the doll that started Peggy Nisbet's dollmaking career, and you can read all about her on this page : dolls/special-collectors-sets-limited-and-signature-editions/SCE-P1953 Replica Edition of the First Nisbet Doll.  David's picture of his original first Nisbet is shown below the article on the replica doll, and below that, is shown a unique 18" porcelain doll that also shows the Queen in Coronation robes, and was used in displays and exhibitions.   This doll is also shown in the book, "The Peggy Nisbet Story".  Other updates added today are the BOAC and BEA dolls, Madam Tussaud Dolls, Wax Dolls, and a Porcelain statuette issued as a tribute to Peter Bull, which is shown under Dolls/Porcelain Dolls/Irish Dresden - Tribute to the Late Peter Bull
 
 

12th September 2015

 
New updates added - Apologies to all our visitors for the long delay in adding some updates and new information - we hope that the items listed below will be of interest!   Many kind thanks to numerous correspondents, for their kind offers of pictues and other information, to fill in the gaps in various galleries :  To Barbara T, for her stunning pictures of H/214 - Queen Elizabeth I, wearing a rubber crown.   Pictures appear in Historical Gallery 1, and in "Know your Nisbets/Headgear/Crowns".   Frank T sent two excellent pictures of Vera Evelyn Samuel, and you can see the pictures and read all about her here - "Porcelain Dolls/Doulton Nisbet".   Penny D has sent in some pictures of her magnificent early P/618 - Robbie Burns - See him in Portrait Dolls Gallery 1.   We have used another of Keith P's pictures in a new gallery just added - "Know your Nisbet/Body shape and pose".   Finally, we have added a new page on Walt Disney dolls, which may come as something of a surprise to many collectors, as the dolls are not typically Nisbet in appearance!
 
 

 

3rd January 2015

 

Exciting New updates added for 2015 - Correspondent Michael A contacted us last year to ask about his mother's "Beatles" Nisbet dolls - Collectors of long standing may have heard of this almost legendary set of dolls - Thanks to Michael, you can now learn all about them here : /dolls/the-dolls-that-never-were/the-beatles/   

A recent contact from author Ian Price, who writes for the "Fashion Dolls Quarterly" magazine, (www.fdqmedia.com), enquired about Nisbet's Christmas themed dolls - We were delighted to assist his researches in compiling this article on Peggy Nisbet's "Legends of Christmas" dolls.   Ian has very kindly allowed us to make a copy of this article available for download - Please go to the Downloads/Miscellaneous/ page, and click on the link to "Styling Santa", by Ian Price, to see the article.

 

 

Thank you for stopping by to browse, or for making contact with us - We hope the website will prove to be of use and interest to you!