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Penrith - home of the little houses
Penrith in General
Member Name: SusanLesley
Penrith in General
Advantages: A lovely town with an added interest for me
Disadvantages: It's a long way from North Wales!
Penrith is a lovely town in Cumbria and is known as the Gateway to the Lakes, being as it is, on the edge of the Lake District.
It is a large town dating back to the Roman times and was once the capital of Cumbria. It is now a nice shopping centre with a good mix of traditional shops and arcades.
The ruins of Penrith Castle still stand in the town and are interesting to explore.
Pretty and interesting as Penrith is it will only ever mean one thing to me and that's Lilliput Lane, because that's where the studio is based.
The Lilliput Lane studio is easy to find as it is just off the Penrith exit of the motorway.
I began collecting Lilliput Lane cottages when I moved into my current house in 1989 and my parents bought me a cottage called Inglewood as a housewarming present. It started a hobby that has grown and grown. I now have over 100 cottages and am fast running out of space to house them all.
David J Tate MBE founded the company making Lilliput Lane cottages in 1982. He is a Yorkshireman and originally began making models of the buildings that he had loved as a child, but in detail such as had never been seen before.
To make a Lilliput Lane cottage the first thing that happens is that the sculptor makes a model of the building concerned. This is then covered with silicone to make a master mould, from which further moulds are then made. The cottages themselves are made from Amorphite a specially produced material, which enables the detail to be seen clearly. They are passed to teams of painters who have strict instructions as to the colours to be used for the painting process. If you take the tour of the Penrith studios you can see this happening!
A guide who knew all about every process of the making of the cottages took us on the tour. It was really interesting and it was free for Dave and me as I am a member of the Collectors Club.
There is also a museum of the cottages and a shop where you can buy current models together with some retired models. They also make a few cottages that are only available from the studio itself, such as models of the actual shop and café there.
Each of the cottages produced has a small stamp on it, known as a Backstamp, giving the name of the company and the year that the model was made.
Some of the cottages are based on actual properties such as Bridge House in Ambleside and others are based on a type of property prevalent in a particular area.
They also make ranges of cottages such as the Beatrix Potter range; including properties which she owned and subsequently donated to the National Trust and properties which she featured in her books - The Tower Bank Arms being one of these. Other ranges include the British Landmarks range, which has Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Micklegate Bar in York and many more.
They also produce an annual cottage for the collectors' club members as a free gift, one to buy each year, and a further one at Christmas. As these are only available for one year before retirement the value increases quite quickly over subsequent years.
There is an English range as well as Scottish, Welsh and Irish and there are also ranges from America, France and Holland.
Each cottage comes with deeds and a card explaining where the real cottage or type of cottage can be found and a bit of information about the real property. Quite often we have been out visiting somewhere and I have spotted a building, which I have represented in Lilliput Lane form.
The beautiful old wooden church at Greenstead in Essex and All Saints at Watermillock in the Lake District are two that I have spotted on the map and when we found them they were unmistakable as the models I had got at home. Luckily Dave is kind enough to drive off the beaten track to try and find these for me!
The cottages increase in value as they are only available for a limited time and are then retired. This of course makes them rarer and so the price escalates. The original cottage, which started my collection, was about £10 when bought as new and is now worth £70 so you see what I mean.
One of the rarest cottages (and no I don't have one) is The Cliburn School. Lilliput Lane made only 64 of these models and they were given to the pupils and staff of the school on the day of its closure. They were never available for general sale and are now valued at £2,500 each.
I keep a complete list of all my cottages, when and where bought, by whom and why, for sentimental reasons but I also keep a note of the current value just in case I ever need the information for insurance purposes. Luckily on the two occasions that one of my houses was burgled none of my cottages were touched.
I am a member of the collectors club and they send me a current price/value list each year so I keep my list up to date from that.
There is also a website at www.lilliputlane.co.uk, which gives information about the cottages, the collectors club and the studios at Penrith. There are also pictures of a cottage in its various stages of development, if you're interested.
The only real problem with collecting Lilliput Lane cottages is that they are a nightmare to dust!
I realise that this review is mostly about one specific aspect of Penrith but it is a major part of the economy of the town these days so I hope that I will be forgiven!
Summary: Lovely Lilliput Lane