Wimborne Model Town was built between 1951 and 1954 and offers an interactive tour of this pretty Dorset town just as it looked 60 years’ ago. The whole of Wimborne has been constructed at 1/10th of its actual size, giving visitors the opportunity to see some of the town’s most famous landmarks from a whole new perspective. Trudge your way down East Street bound for the Minster, which even at a fraction of life-size has an air of majesty. Peep inside the doors and you’ll see a wedding taking place. Listen carefully and you might even hear the church bells!
Tower over the pretty little shops and stride between Wimborne’s familiar streets and walkways as you explore a miniature town frozen in time. If you remember the 1950s it’s a real blast from the past walking through the recognisable streets with fondly-remembered traders proudly showcasing their wares in the windows. Come and have a peep into E.A. Bacon toys and games and ponder over their pocket money toys or gaze wistfully at the tempting treats for ‘sale’ in the window of the bakery. You might remember buying sweets in Frizzell tobacconists or trying on some posh togs in Garrets outfitters. Now you can reminisce while appreciating how much the town has changed in the space of six decades.
Snapshot in time
Although all the familiar landmarks stand proudly in place – the Minster, the Square, the Market etc – it’s remarkable to compare how much the town has changed as you wander the roads like a giant! You can gaze fondly at some of the old favourites like Woolworths and TJ Coles Ironmongers and marvel at how some other businesses are still going strong – albeit selling a different selection of goods to those that were popular back in the early 1950s. Compare how The Rising Sun Inn, The King’s Head and the Albion Inn look today and peep into the window of Holmans, which is still going strong today, for a glimpse of the state-of-the-art TV 50s-style. There won’t be a flatscreen or remote control in sight! If you didn’t have a television, you might have been more familiar with the shelves of Wimborne Radio. You might have bought your first cricket whites from Langer and Son, your school pencils from Tilsed and Son. Did you get your books from Banwells, your hair cut in Broskham or yearn for the chance of a fresh cream cake every time you passed Corfe Mullen dairy? If so, the Wimborne Model Village offers countless opportunities to reminisce.
World at your feet
Not only can you browse around miniature replicas of over 100 of Wimborne’s shops and businesses but, being a model town, you get to enjoy the wider area beyond the high street too. Marvel at the cars of the time, peek over fences into the houses and gardens and meander along the course of the River Stour. Stop by the old post boxes and see where the old red telephone boxes used to be. The 1950s were simpler times in view of the types of businesses on offer. There’s a perfectly scaled butcher, baker, ironmonger and fishmonger for you to show the kids if they’re more used to shopping around Wimborne’s Waitrose. Discover a time when you had to visit Wood and Co coal and coke merchant to warm your home and pop into Eastmans family butchers for your Sunday joint. Kids will love towering above the town as they enjoy a glimpse of what life was like here for their grandparents.
A wander along Wendy Street
Once the little ones have explored the model town, take them to Wendy Street, a charming little community of brightly coloured wooden Wendy Houses. Perhaps they’d like to set up home like the ones they’ve seen from the 1950s and imagine what their lives would have been like back then. While they’re occupied, it seems like the ideal time to sample the model village tea rooms. The attraction’s band of hard-working volunteers serve up a variety of refreshments including sandwiches, cakes and scones. If you want a souvenir of your day, there is a gift shop here too.
Outside attractions at Wimborne Model Town include a putting lawn, giant chess set and its Wimborne in Bloom award-winning gardens. A specially designed sensory garden area provides an overwhelming experience for visitors with sensory impairments to touch, smell, see and even listen to parts of the display.
Venture inside and you’ll find Wimborne Model Town’s miniature steam railway, manned by none other than Thomas the Tank Engine himself. This interactive 00-gauge model has a variety of engines and rolling stock from Southern, GWR and British Railways which puff through familiar scenery and past some of Dorset’s most recognisable landmarks. Just press a button and watch the scene spring to life – right down to the lights in the buildings.
The Model Village is also home to a 15-year collection of lovingly restored doll’s houses. These were the pride of volunteer Beryl Dade, who refurbished them and created a theme and storyline for each one before donating them to the venue.
Visiting the town of Wimborne – big or small – is a real joy. But if you’re stopping by the main one, make sure you come and see the Model Town too and appreciate how the town may have changed but its charm remains.