Bekonscot: The World’s Oldest Model Village

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Bekonscot is a toy village located in the English town of Beaconsfield, in Buckinghamshire. Spread out over 1.5 acres, this Lilliputian village with miniature buildings artfully created with wood, stone, metal, and glass, its well kept gardens and a huge model railway has been fascinating visitors for more than 80 years. Indeed, Bekonscot is believed to be the oldest original model village in the world.

Bekonscot was created by Beaconsfield resident, accountant Roland Callingham who in the late 1920s developed the master plan for his miniature empire as an addition to his large rock garden of his Buckinghamshire home. The model was originally planned simply to decorate this garden where he entertained his high-profile guests of politicians, minor royals, aristocrats and the movers and shakers of the era. It was only after 1930 that its existence became widely known, catching the imagination of the press and public alike.

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There are actually six model villages set within the miniature landscape. These are entirely fictional towns, but many buildings within them are based on England as it appeared in the 1930s. Successive generations of modelmakers, gardeners and craftsmen have left their mark on their subjects, which display a wide range of vernacular architectural styles. The buildings are made of timber, stone and plaster, but sometimes with dense foamboards. The towns are populated by tiny people, barely four inches tall, engaged in various activities — neighbours gossiping in the streets, youths hanging around the market square, and a lady cleaning her windows. Tucked away here and there a few humorous scenes such as a painter falling from a ladder, a barmaid carrying tankards of cider about to topple backwards, and a burglar sprinting across the racetrack with a couple of cops in hot pursuit.

Bekonscot also features a large outdoor model railway, which is among the largest public garden railways in the UK. Small trains, controlled by a computer, chug around the railway. Some of these have been running for over 50 years, each covering about 3,200 km per year.

From the very start all profits from the model village went to charities. Till date Bekonscot has raised the equivalent of almost £5 million and has been visited by more than 14 million visitors. Bekonscot has also inspired the creation of many other model villages and miniature parks across the world, including Babbacombe, Southport, Tucktonia, Madurodam, Bourton-on-the-Water, Wimborne, Great Yarmouth, Clonakilty and Mini-Europe.

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Sources: Wikipedia / The Guardian

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