Nominated by: Bill Morris
As objects go, it’s rather large – covering one and half acres of prime Buckinghamshire real estate, and it’s made up of many thousands of delicate, hand crafted components. But it’s very DNA is about being small – offering a miniaturised vision of life, society and human existence. Bekonscot Model Village in the heart of Beaconsfield is said to be the oldest of its kind in the world. Established in 1929, and built up over the following years, it continues to offer an idealised and tranquil essence of bucolic Britain in the 1930s (unless, like me, you worry about the thatched cottage which has been on fire for almost ninety years). The disjunction between a microscopic idyll and the globally troubled decade in which it was born, gives Bekonscot a renewed relevance in our current turmoil.
Set up by a successful London accountant, Roland Callingham, in his rather generous back garden when his wife insisted his model railway had outgrown the house, it was visited by the young Princess Elizabeth in 1934 (and on a number of subsequent visits). She and millions of visitors since have helped Bekonscot to raise over five million pounds for local charities (indeed even as a major tourist attraction the village hasn’t fallen into the hands of Disney, Merlin Entertainment or Peppa Pig Inc – it still operates as a charity and is largely run by volunteers).
Its winding paths, rivers and three thousand vertically challenged inhabitants inspired writers as diverse as Will Self (short story “Scale”) and Enid Blyton (“The Enchanted Village”) and may have been the source of Mary Norton`s famous “Borrowers”. Hardly a generation of Blue Peter viewer can have missed it or, inevitably, fans of Midsomer Murders (but where can they have hidden the bodies in that 2009 episode?).
Twenty years ago Bekonscot was a weekly destination for our toddler children (yes they offer season tickets) who never tired of the steam trains, coal mines and ice creams. Now perhaps we need a different excuse to return just as soon as Bekonscot reopens its magical doors – I feel the urge even more for its calming and benign comfort blanket just as much as it’s the puns – the miniature baker is “Ivan Huven”, the greengrocer “Chris P Lettis” and the butcher is “Sam and Ella”…..
For more information about Bekonscot, please see their website.
Bekonscot was nominated by Bill Morris LVO, Co-Chair of Buckinghamshire Culture. Bill is a proud Buckinghamhsire resident.