Shell House; c1890; 2006.33


Port Macquarie Museum


Shell House

About this object

This hand crafted miniature house made of small pink, cream and brown seashells is a unique and rare item of shell craft, a once popular form of folk art. It is believed that the shell house was made around 1890 from seashells collected at Port Macquarie.

The house has roof shingles, a chimney, fanlights above the front door and window, and exhibits features of Georgian architecture on a cottage scale. Each shell has been arranged to complete symmetry and design elements including window sills and door step.

The roofing shells are an unknown bivalve and the walls comprise a form of Bankivia fasciata known to be endemic to this area and usually washed up in large numbers.

Shell craft is a traditional female handicraft, hobby and pastime dating back to primitive cultures to whom making and trading shell craft was often turned into an industry.

Shell craft was popular in the late 19th century in Britain and Australia, with an emphasis on craft objects and ornaments, particularly those to decorate the home such as frames and trinket boxes. Items this large were less common and few shell houses are known to exist today.

A heightened interest during the Victorian era in nature and the natural environment saw genteel women take up many crafts using natural materials including seashells and seaweeds. Seaside visits and holidays were also popular and shell craft was seen as an appropriate seaside amusement for women and children using shells collected during seaside walks.

This miniature house is a well-constructed and excellent example of shell craft. It exhibits its maker’s understanding of design and form and is quite beautiful. Given its good condition it appears to be a well-cared for drawing room or parlour decorative item. It is an outstanding piece of shell craft work and must have taken a large amount of time and painstaking effort to complete.

Looking at the house evokes memories of seaside holidays and collecting seashells for most of us and reminds us of the sights, sounds and charms of the sea as it must have done for its maker.

Debbie Sommers
12 June 2014

Date Made


Medium and Materials

Shells, timber, glue, lace

Credit Line

Donor: Mrs Huby

Object Type

Shell crafts

Object number


Copyright Licence  

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