Advertising

Model village to be big draw

Dudley | News | Published:

More than 100 miles from the West Midlands, a little piece of the Black Country is waiting to be revealed to the public.

More than 100 miles from the West Midlands, a little piece of the Black Country is waiting to be revealed to the public.

A model village and railway, which used to be in the grounds of Himley Hall, is now in storage at a popular tourist attraction in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire.

However, look at a modern A-Z of the West Midlands and you will see that the model village is still listed as being at the crossroads where the A449 meets Dudley Road, next to Himley Park.

Himley Model Village opened in 1986 and was created by Black Country businessman Fred Blakemore.

Fred had seen other model villages and decided it would be good to have one in the Black Country.

He leased a walled garden at Himley Hall from Dudley Council and set up the model village hoping it would make a great family day out.

However, visitor numbers were not as high as they had expected and it closed its doors in 1993, just seven years after it opened.

The walled garden was closed to the public and the model village and railway were left to fall into disrepair.

Advertising

Tim Dunn, who is a volunteer at Bekonscot Model Village, has been looking after the Himley buildings since he moved them there in 2005.

"When I first visited the Himley Model Village it was like stepping on board the Marie Celeste," says Tim, aged 28.

"In the ticket office there was an unwashed mug and a copy of the Express & Star from 1993.

"However, the Bonsai trees had been left to grow, the grass was long and the ticket office windows had been broken into by vandals.

Advertising

"We hacked our way through the undergrowth and found at least 70 buildings in various states of disrepair."

Tim says when he saw photos showing how the model village had looked when it was in its prime he knew it should be saved.

"The model village had more than 70 buildings including The Old Station Hotel in Dudley, Russells Hall Farm, Dudley Market and Himley Hall," he says.

"There was also the Village of Ambridge, which is from The Archers on Radio 4, and buildings from Bridgnorth, along with a cliff railway.

"The buildings are made out of plywood, which is quite durable, but a lot of them couldn't stand being left outside for 10 years.

"For instance, when I picked up the Dudley Town Hall building it just crumbled in my hands – most of them had rotted."

Tim says model villages were popular in the early part of the 20th Century when there were around 60 of them in the country.

However, they started to lose popularity in the 1960s when only around 25 were left.

In 1999 Bekonscot Model Village celebrated its 80th anniversary and that was when the search began to find other model villages around the country.

Tim says that he paid a few hundred pounds to the charity, which looks after the up-keep of Himley Hall, and took the model buildings away to be stored safely.

"I visited the model village over a two year period and in 2005 we were told Himley Hall needed to use the land and were planning on demolishing the buildings," he says.

"So we cleared them out and brought them down to Bekonscot and then in one year we had 30,000 people look at the Himley models on our website.

"People in the West Midlands obviously care a lot about their history because hundreds of them have got in touch with me to tell me about the model village and how important it was to them," he added.

As well as a miniature railway, Himley Model Village also had a ride-on train called the Mardyke Falcon, which was a popular tourist attraction.

"When the model village closed, the train was bought by The Parry People Movers in Stourbridge as one of the directors wanted it for his back garden in Poole," says Tim.

"Once I managed to get the engine I wanted the rest of the train and so I spent two years tracking it down.

"We are spending between £6,000 and £10,000 restoring it so it will be back to how it was when it was at Himley.

"The plan is to take it around the country to places like Weston Park and Kingsbury Water Park where they have tracks that it can run on."

Tim says that every time a new model building is put up at Bekonscot they have to get planning consent from the local council.

"The items we saved from Himley include the bell tower from Dudley Town Hall and, what we believe is the Town Hall from Bridgnorth," he says.

"However the other three buildings are a mystery and it would be great if readers of the Express & Star could help us identify what they are.

"At the moment we haven't got any formal plans to put them at Bekonscot, although it is hoped we can create a separate exhibition with the Himley models." Tim says the little village has its own history which needs to be preserved. He says: "Himley Model Village captured what Dudley was like between 1740 and 1855.

"Each building is an art form which was created with precision and the architecture is amazing.

"They are like a little village all of their own, but they are all about having fun and they should be enjoyed by future generations."

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.

Advertising

Top Stories

Advertising

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News