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Meet the Hilgay woman who has a collection of over 100 lifelike dolls



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A bed and breakfast owner has a collection of over 100 lifelike reborn dolls, worth thousands of pounds.

Mary Flint, 76, owns Crosskeys B&B in Hilgay with her husband Bob Flint and has been collecting baby dolls for over four decades.

Her home, set against the idyllic backdrop of the River Ouse, is home to three floors of realistic dolls, each with their own exquisite outfit.

When asked how much she has spent over the years Mary said: "Oh probably thousands!"

Mrs Flint's collection is so vast that it featured on a Channel Four documentary entitled Fake Babies in 2008 and ITV's Richard and Judy.

The collector is refreshingly candid in her approach, clearly comfortable with her hobby and identity.

"This was the doll I took on Richard and Judy, and also on Fake Babies," she said, balancing a delicate little girl on her lap.

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People have come to Mary's home to see her dolls, some of which have cost up to £1500.

The materials vary, some are made of silicone and their skin feels very real to the touch. A few dolls have silicone fingers that behave in a hyper-realistic manner.

Mary's husband, who is an avid horse fan, accepts his wife's hobby. She said: "When I first had them he would tell me to get them off of the bed before he came up! He's good though he accepts it, it's something that I do and he knows when the packages come what's in them."

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The dolls have their own collection of clothes, prams and most of them are wearing a nappy - however Mary makes it clear, although she derives some comfort from her dolls and loves to dress them, she doesn't "feed" them or "change them" regularly.

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She told the Lynn News: "Everyone has their own preferences, I personally like to dress my dolls and I love buying clothes. During lockdown instead of shows, we had virtual shows, so it's a chance to show what they are wearing and make a connection with others online. Some people feed them and change them every night, but for me it's a collection and it doesn't replace a child, it's different. I've always had dolls in my life in one way or another and it's just progressed since my daughter was born. People sometimes want to make it seem weird but it's a hobby, it can also be useful for those with dementia."

Mary's open manner is refreshing, and shows that the reborn community is not as hidden as it once was. With the advent of social media many reborn doll groups have been created, with thousands of members all over the globe.

Often seen as an art form, many dolls are painstakingly painted and stitched with mohair to create a realistic head of hair.

Our Reporter meets some Premature style dolls (47601813)
Our Reporter meets some Premature style dolls (47601813)

Mary said: "I like my dolls to look real, and pretty, but people like all sorts of different ones."

In recent years, doll makers have turned to making alternative reborns, which are fashioned to look like baby versions of popular characters such as Yoda, little vampires and Avatar babies.

The sight of the dolls alone is impressive to look at, and slightly surreal for a quiet village such as Hilgay, and it certainly kept Mrs Flint busy during the last year of lockdown.



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