That was the first of several miniature buildings and characters from Charles Dickens’ stories George Mitchell would eventually buy. ‘The Old Curiosity Shop,’ is a Charles Dickens novel about a character named Nell Trent. It was printed in 1841.
“I just bought The Old Curiosity Shop, and I liked it, and then I found out there were other pieces to the set,” says Mitchell, owner of George Mitchell Insurance on Zwicker Street in Liverpool.
“I purchased a few more and then a few more, and it kept going.”
Now, on Dec. 16, 15 years after he began to show his collection publicly, 65 buildings and a number of characters are set up on a large table in Mitchell’s office.
Soft light shines through the small buildings’ windows, and characters are dispersed among narrow streets and lanes. Snow-covered trees and a sprinkling of snow on the ground lend a festive feel to the miniature village.
Each year as Christmas approaches, Mitchell holds an open house for people to view the display and have hot apple cider, coffee and treats.
“They’re all surprised,” he says about how people react when they see it. “Most of them say ‘Wow.’”
Many people have seen the Dickens’ buildings and characters, but most haven’t seen such an extensive collection at once, says Mitchell.
“It’s just a little hobby I do,” he says.
Mitchell built his collection slowly, buying three or four each year. He says he might have had 10 buildings the first year he invited people in.
“A gentleman in here yesterday said until he receives his invitation, Christmas doesn’t start,” says Mitchell.
“We’ve had a number of people over the years that will say, ‘Now I can go home and do my Christmas shopping.’ We feel good about that.”