Vivienne Dayrell-Browning was born on August 1 1905 and brought up in England and the Continent. “My childhood,” she said, “was spent moving house, which I hated.” She was a precocious child: when she was 13 a book of her poetry, The Little Wings, was published at the behest of her mother. “I felt,” Vivien recalled, describing her embarrassment at the publication, “as if I should go up in flames”. Vivien married the author Graham Greene in 1927.
During the war Vivien Greene and her children lived in Oxford after their house in London had been bombed. At a local auction she came across an old dolls’ house which so charmed her that she bought it and took it back on the bus with her that day. As war raged and her marriage disintegrated, she restored and furnished the dolls’ house, and began collecting others, filling the Greenes’ rented home with her miniature world. The art critic John Rothenstein, on a visit to the Greenes’ house, noted dryly that while Vivien was “attending to the needs of multifarious tiny, fragile objects, Greene looked on with a detached eye”.
After the marriage ended, she travelled the world to add to her collection, and in the 1960s Greene gave her the money to build the Rotunda, a dolls’ house museum at her home near Oxford. By the mid-1990s, the Rotunda contained some 41 miniature castles, cottages and manors, all furnished down to the last tiny piece of porcelain. Her expertise in the field of historic dolls’ houses and their social history was such that she received visitors from all over the world. She herself continued to travel widely, despite failing eyesight. Vivien Dayrell-Browning Greene died in Oxfordshire at the age of 99.
Her publications include English Dolls’ Houses of the 18th and 19th Centuries (1955) and The Vivien Greene Dolls’ House Collection (1995). Below is a picture of the Portobello Doll’s House (1700-1710). This Doll’s House was part of the Vivien Greene Collection and was acquired by Tara’s Palace at auction in 1998.