Inside Bridlington’s ‘little Britain’ as owner prepares to sell

In a seaside idyll on the Yorkshire coast stands a little Britain in which time has stood almost still for nearly four decades.

The miniature masterpiece known as Bondville encompasses around 200 houses, three churches, a harbour, railway and even a war memorial, all at one-twelfth their expected size.

It is a Trumpton-esque world nestled among an acre of gentle green hills and untouched by coffee bars, mobile phone shops and the other trappings of the modern high street. But as one of Britain’s few remaining model villages is touched up ready to go on the market, that may have to change.

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“Perhaps the new owner might want to give it a mini internet cafe,” said Tim Whitehead, who has owned the attraction on Bridlington’s Sewerby Road for eight years.

Bondville Model Village in Sewerby, Bridlington

“People want electronic things today,” he said. “Children like to press buttons and see things happen.

“I’m creeping up to retirement and I’m looking for young blood to carry it on.”

He and his wife, Jan, are the villages’s third owners. Built in 1986 by model makers Geoff and Carol Cooper and originally named Minningham, it had been in Withernsea – where it fell victim to vandals – and then at the old Hornsea Pottery before being moved to its present home on a former car park.

“There was a lot of wrangling when the pottery closed,” Mr Whitehead said. “Scarborough and Filey were considered but the only authority that was interested was Bridlington.”

Bondville Model Village in Sewerby, Bridlington

The model recalls a time when intricate toy villages were a staple of holiday towns across the country. In the early 1970s there were thought to be more than 60, but only a few from that era remain and none are thought to have been built on the same scale.

Bondville, which took its current name from one of its former owners, was an eclectic architectural mixture, Mr Whitehead said.

“There are Derbyshire mills, bits of Whitby, and random places that Geoff Cooper had seen on his travels and wanted to replicate,” he said.

“But we have a working railway and a working harbour. They had to be specially done because you can’t buy boats or trains at one-twelfth size.”

The place had been “a bit tired” when he took it over, he added, and it had taken several years of restoration to bring it back up to scratch.

Although closed at the moment, it usually opens from Easter to September, when the falling leaves on to the tiny rooftops destroy the sense of proportion, Mr Whitehead said.

Besides, he added, it took all winter to repaint all the houses and touch up the landscaping.

“Easter weekend would have been one of our busiest of the season. It’s when everyone has been indoors and they come to Bridlington to open their caravans and holiday homes for the season.”

The current hiatus has seen its sale postponed, but Mr Whitehead is optimistic that the delay will only be temporary.

“I think people will be interested,” he said. “These things don’t come up all the time.”

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