The Model Village on Film: 1938
Bourton is one of England’s most beautiful villages and over the decades it has attracted the attention of film crews. This Pathe newsreel was discovered by Simon Riding on You Tube. Click or paste the link and you will step back in time.
It is entitled Lilliput Village and was released in 1938. The soundtrack has been lost. It begins with shots of Bourton around the green and the War Memorial, looking so tranquil compared with post-war years. Next a man in a cloth cap is shown measuring a doorway while another man, in suit and tie, makes notes and draws a sketch. They are taking the exact measurements of a window frame. Then we are in a workshop where a mason is carving some pale Cotswold stone. We move on to see another man tiling a model house and another planting a small lamppost. All is revealed when we recognise the scaled-down frontage of The Old New Inn, with a sign advertising Teas and Luncheons.
The film is a precious record of the construction of the Model Village built at the rear of The Old New Inn in the 1930s. The man in the suit is – probably – Mr Morris, owner of the inn. It was his inspired idea to make not just another toy town – they’re ten a penny! – but an exact replica of Bourton, using the same local stone and materials. It not only added to Bourton’s charms, it generated work for village men at a time when farming was still suffering from economic disaster. Films like this were shown in cinemas across the country, perhaps the world, spreading Bourton’s fame far and wide and drawing more visitors. Few model villages – perhaps none – equal the accuracy and precision of this one, still as popular as ever.
One can imaging the pride of Bourton people watching this film at the village cinema in the Victoria Hall.
The Model Village is a Grade II listed building and has it’s own excellent website – http://www.theoldnewinn.co.uk/model-village.html – and we reproduce some of the text here…
“The Model Village is a one-ninth scale replica of the heart of the beautiful Cotswold village of Bourton-on-the-Water, containing all the buildings from the Old Water Mill (now the Car Museum) down to the Old New Inn and the ford. The village was created by a previous landlord of the Old New Inn, taking local craftsmen five years to build, and it was officially opened on the Coronation Day of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the late Queen Mother) in 1937.
|“Bourton Model Village has always been famous for it’s miniature bonsai type trees, which are carefully pruned to keep them to scale. We were recently fortunate enough to have help from Mr. John Constable (Author of Landscapes in Miniature) and the village now features a large range of both deciduous and evergreen miniature trees.
Over recent years we have re-designed our miniature gardens; instead of filling them with oversized bedding plants which is a feature of other Model Villages, they have been planted with Alpines, and in the Summer months actually contain greenhouses and miniature garden furniture.
|April 2013: English Heritage celebrates craftsmanship on a small scale.Our Model Village has been given Grade II listed status by Heritage Minister Ed Vaizey, on the recommendation of English Heritage.Ed Vaizey said: “This may be a highly unusual listing but it is no less worthy of its Grade II listed status. The craftsmanship involved in creating what is a hugely loved family attraction is second to none and I’m delighted that in listing we have preserved the work of the local people who built the model village and protected its history for future generations.”Read the full story on the the English Heritage web site..|
|“As a replica of Bourton the Model Village is of particular interest to historians and crafts people, we do not have trains, aeroplanes or gimmicks, it is a perfect replica of the buildings that were in existence in the 1930’s, and demonstrates how they are used today as shops, the bank, the Victoria Hall etc. Both of our beautiful churches are reproduced in the Village.. stand close to each Church and you will hear the choir singing. The village also includes a running River Windrush, the stone bridges for which Bourton is famous, and of course the model of the Model Village itself sitting behind the Old New Inn.”|