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Bekonscot is the oldest original model village in the world, hidden away in a large old country garden in Buckinghamshire

David Goran

Bekonscot is a toy village located in the English town of Beaconsfield, in Buckinghamshire, first created by a Beaconsfield accountant named Roland Callingham, in the late 1920s. It is believed to be the oldest original model village in the world, and it is regarded as the “grandfather” of the model village and miniature park movement.

View over Bekonscot. By MichaelMaggs CC BY-SA 2.5

View over Bekonscot. By MichaelMaggs/CC BY-SA 2.5

 

Created by Beaconsfield resident, accountant Roland Callingham in the 1920s. By MichaelMaggs CC BY-SA 2.5

Created by Beaconsfield resident, accountant Roland Callingham in the 1920s. By MichaelMaggs/CC BY-SA 2.5

 

Callingham named the village 'Bekonscot' after Beaconsfield and Ascot where he previously lived. By Cristian Bortes Flickr CC BY 2.0

Callingham named the village ‘Bekonscot’ after Beaconsfield and Ascot where he previously lived. By Cristian Bortes/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Callingham developed the master plan for his miniature empire as an addition to his large 1.5 acres back garden, drawing with help from his staff: the gardener, cook, maid, and chauffeur. Together they developed the model landscape portraying rural England at the time. At 1:12 scale, it is stunning in its attention to detail.

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Successive generations of modelmakers, gardeners, and craftsmen have left their mark on their subjects, which display a wide range of vernacular architectural styles. By William Warby/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

 

Detail of a house. By Cristian Bortes Flickr CC BY 2.0

Detail of a house. By Cristian Bortes/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

 

It portrays aspects of England mostly dating from the 1930s. By Timo Newton-Syms Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

It portrays aspects of England mostly dating from the 1930s. By Timo Newton-Syms/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

 

 

The model was originally planned to decorate the garden where Mr. Callingham entertained his high-profile guests of politicians, aristocrats, and minor royals. It was only after 1930 that its existence became widely known.

It was only after 1930 that its existence became widely known. By William Warby Flickr CC BY 2.0 2

It was only after 1930 that its existence became widely known. By William Warby/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

 

Model of burning house at Bekonscot. By MichaelMaggs CC BY-SA 2.5

Model of burning house at Bekonscot. By MichaelMaggs/CC BY-SA 2.5

 

Buildings and train. By MichaelMaggs CC BY-SA 2.5

Buildings and train. By MichaelMaggs/CC BY-SA 2.5

Bekonscot boasts the ultimate train set, and its historic Gauge 1 line has been famous since 1929 for being one of the largest, most exciting, and complex in Great Britain. There are also a sit-on railway, remote controlled boats, kiddie rides and a pirate water feature. Some of the trains, controlled by a computer, have been running for over 50 years, each covering a distance of about 3,200 km per year.

Many of the trains have a significant historical valueBy Cristian Bortes Flickr CC BY 2.0

Many of the trains have a significant historical valueBy Cristian Bortes/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

 

Motor garage. By MichaelMaggs CC BY-SA 2.5

Motor garage. By MichaelMaggs/CC BY-SA 2.5

 

The village expanded in size throughout the first half of the 20th century. Callingham sold off much of the land surrounding the model village, all of which is now a housing estate. The village is now entirely surrounded by urban development, so further expansion is impossible.

Model of Ascot racecourse. By Marek.69 talk CC BY-SA 3.0

Model of Ascot racecourse. By Marek.69 talk/CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Harvest time. By MichaelMaggs CC BY-SA 2.5

Harvest time. By MichaelMaggs/CC BY-SA 2.5

 

Successive generations of modelmakers, gardeners and craftsmen have left their mark on their subjects, which display a wide range of vernacular architectural styles. By William Warby Flickr CC BY 2.0

Watermill with Barley Corn Pub in the background. By Marek.69 talk/CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Bekonscot is acknowledged to be the inspiration for many other model villages and miniature parks across the world. By William Warby Flickr CC BY 2.0

Bekonscot is acknowledged to be the inspiration for many other model villages and miniature parks across the world. By William Warby/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Currently maintained by four full-time members of staff including engineers, gardeners and figure artists, the lure of the attraction is appreciated by railway and garden enthusiasts alike. All profits from running Bekonscot go to charity. It has raised the equivalent of almost £5,000,000 so far and has been visited by more than 14,000,000 visitors.