Mini marvels!

Top: Bekonscot, a fantastic world in miniature! Centre: The famous house on fire which, now I come to thnk about it looks worryingly like Victoria Farm! Bottom: No detail is too small…When I was a child growing up in Buckinghamshire, one of my absolute favourite days out was a trip to the nearby model village of Bekonscot, near Beaconsfield. It seemed such an entirely perfect world to me, I would spend hours crouched down, peering in through the windows of the houses or watching the train come past again and again. I never tired of it!

What is our fascination with things in miniature? A friend of mine seemed to spend almost all her early years hunched over her dolls’ house, my brother was besotted with his train set, while another friend had a Britains model farm which I was rather envious of! I am guessing our fascination comes from being able to create a world just as we want it, and that we have control over, something we rarely get to do in real life. And as we get older of course it becomes a huge nostalgia trip too. 

Even in these days of computers, smart phones and CGI, I was delighted to discover that about 160,000 people a year still visit Bekonscot – I just hope they aren’t all people of my age, and that it includes plenty of youngsters! It is a1930s-styled village, with around 200 buildings, including a house on fire and an operational coal mine.

There’s also a model of ‘Green Hedges’, the home of Famous Five and Noddy author Enid Blyton – don’t get me started on the Famous Five or we’ll be here all year! Generally accepted as the world’s first model village, Bekonscot opened in 1929 when Roland Callingham – under strict instructions from his wife – moved his model railway from his home to a neighbouring garden. How wonderfully British!

Surprisingly, the UK is home to over 30 miniature villages, ranging from hobbyists creating their own tiny worlds in their gardens, to big tourist attractions employing professional engineers.

Babbacombe, just down the road from me here in Devon is a grand affair with its new fishing village being a mix of three real villages in Devon and Cornwall. It is home to what was the world’s smallest working television, as well as a miniature Stonehenge and a fire-breathing dragon! It opened in 1963 and it still attracts 150,000 visitors a year, wonderful!

But Babbacombe will never be as dear to my heart as Bekonscot because I never knew it as a child. And in a An amazingly detailed Britains model farm garden.way, I think that answers my query on why we like miniature things so much… it’s all about our happy childhood memories!

Did you visit a model village when you were young? Did you have a dolls’ house – or do you still have one?! Come on, tell me your memories – such fun!




13 replies
  1. Dawn says:

    I have never made it to Bekonscot but have great memories of taking my children to Babbacombe. I loved it, perhaps my memories are enhanced by seeing it for the first time in the company of my children, their delight adding to mine. I am always astonished at how such tiny replicas can be made of even very intricate objects. Real craftsmanship. You have rekindled a lot of happy memories – thank you, I am going to dig out the photos now.

  2. Anne Cross says:

    Nice to read about another model village that I hadn't known about. I am an addict of all things miniature. The model villages I have visited are Babbacombe several times, being the closest, Western-super-Mare, Southport and another at Wimborne. They are all utterly fascinating. Dolls houses…..Yes, I have four, all quite different, but not all completely furnished I'm afraid as the hobby waned with my hubby's health. There is a Victorian house with toy shop below, a Tudor house, the House that Moved model based on the one in Exeter, and a one 1/12 scale thatched cottage. My hubby was very handy at making furniture and I did all the sewing and tiny crochet bits. That reminds me, I have a Christmas room scene complete with Santa etc. Which I haven't had out in recent years. Perhaps this year I will!

  3. Gill says:

    This was one of my childhood memories too Joanna. I remember the first time I went with my Uncle. He asked me if I wanted to be a giant!! I wasn't too sure what this would entail so was quite relieved when I realised that it was the surrounding area that had changed not me!!! We really must take the grandchildren there. I've seen the signs from the M25.

  4. Irene G says:

    I have reached 65 without ever visiting a miniature village but remember the delight my younger sister and I had running ahead of my mother to jump up to a fence through which we could see a magical garden. Set out with rocks, gnomes, tiny waterfalls. windmills and such like it seemed like a fairy kingdom to we two little girls. I couldn't even tell you exactly what was in it, but I still remember the delight in spending those precious minutes looking through the fence. I was really upset when I walked along the street a few years ago and it had all been wiped away – to be replaced by a concrete parking place. Even a busy shopping street in Grimsby had its magical places.

  5. sallyann says:

    im sure we went to the Babbacombe one when i was a dot. we have a small model village here in Bridlington..its been here for ever it seems. i went with my kids when they were little and my eldest son took me back not long ago…this time i was like the dont laugh..ok.. you can..but after that hubby got me an old farm set from a carboot ..i ended up with farm animals, zoo animals and dinosaurs all on my window sill ! lol…ive since had to move them BUT the dinosaurs are now in my front garden in a little area…so i have a jurrasic world model village now ! lol. yep im crazy but it makes me smile and gives the postman something to look at too.xx

  6. margaret driscoll says:

    Hello Joanna
    When my children were small and we had holidays down on the South West coast we visited Babbacombe and they loved it!
    When they were older we went to Bourton on the Water..they have a lovely model village , the copy of the real village!
    I loved that, and the shops in the village too!
    Take care
    Love Marg

  7. Carol G says:

    Oh lovely memories……… I have some black & white photos of myself and my brother at Bekonscot – think I was about 5 or 6 years old. Magical place. C xx

  8. Tracy W says:

    A charming post, it is truly delightful to see the world in miniature and organise all the little details. My father makes and furnishes dollhouses and I always look forward to see which little elements have been added during my visits.

    Creative Blessings, Tracy x

  9. Margaret A says:

    Our favourite family holiday destination from the age of 3-11 was Ramsgate and my siblings and I have very fond memories of the once very famous Ramsgate Model Village. I say once famous because sadly I read that it closed down in 2003. The good news, however, was that the vast majority of the model village was saved and indeed ended up at Bekonscot. How's that for coincidence! Although our parents are no longer alive we too have some wonderful black and white snaps of those never-to-be-forgotten times. Wonderful!

  10. Maureen says:

    I often used to take my children to Bekonscot when they were young and also my granddaughter a while ago. We also visited Babbacombe when we were on holiday there. Always fascinated me too. We live in Buckinghamshire Joanna , nice to hear you grew up here x

  11. Dianne G says:

    I was born and brought up in Wimborne, Dorset and as a child loved visiting the Model Town of Wimborne discovering something new each visit.

    I also envied my school friend who was allowed to play with her Mother's dolls house. I was able to fulfil my childhood dreams when I became a Nana to two wonderful grand daughters now aged 9 and 14…..I was allowed to make the curtains and rugs while they spend many a happy hour making minute items out of Fimo.

    Thank you Joanna for bringing us such wonderful memories.

  12. Lynne T says:

    Memories of taking a nursery class to Bekonscot on a rainy day shuffling round and getting soaking wet !! I did take my own children there on dry days and they loved it .

  13. Grace Weir says:

    Lovely to read of your memories of model villages and all things small…. brought back childhood memories of my visits to the Model Village of Bourton on the Water in Gloucestershire where I lived as a child. It was always a special treat to visit Bourton and I was fascinated by the model village each visit. I have never been to Bekonskot though but years ago visited Babbacombe. A very beautiful part of the South of England.


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