Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn takes a look at the enduring collectability of Lilliput Lane models.
Half term is approaching, the time when many hope for a balmy autumnal getaway, maybe to a holiday cottage in our very own lakes or dales. The enduring popularity of picturesque cottages brought to mind their collectable cousins: Lilliput Lane.
These attractive and accurately modelled buildings were launched by sculptor David Tate in 1982, just up the road in Penrith. David’s ambitious dream was to capture Britain's ‘vernacular’ architectural heritage; a largely bygone system of building that relies on local materials.
David’s team would drive thousands of miles a year photographing real buildings to reproduce in miniature with great care.
The initial line released in September 1982 consisted of 14 models, which were an instant success. Soon the cottages were joined by larger buildings of historic significance: castles, village churches, cathedrals and historic public buildings.
Collecting and trading Lilliput Lane has remained popular ever since, with the Collectors Club boasting over 50,000 members. Lilliput-seekers to the centre often tell me they started as children, as a wonderful way to learn about our country’s geography, architecture and history.
The company eventually ceased production in 2016. With a large back catalogue, common models can be picked up for a few pounds. However, for dedicated collectors, the most sought after and valuable are the rarer, limited editions, and anomalies.
Look out for the three rarest Lilliput Lane pieces. Only 360 copies of ‘the Old School House Drapers’, were made in September 1982. Just 200 of ‘the Old Mine’ were made in the same run, with the first 10 or so mislabelled ‘the Old Mill’, making them especially valuable. Finally, just 64 copies of ‘Cliburn School’ were produced for the staff and pupils of this closing local school in June 1983.
We have some nice Lilliput Lane cottages in the centre – one is a limited edition. It cost £300 originally and is now on sale for £45. These examples are £5 - £10. Whilst not rare, they could contain just the piece someone needs to complete a collection. Great to inspire and entertain a new generation of little collectors, especially when juggling the great British ‘holiday’ weather. Happy half term!