Obituary: Roye England

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The Independent Online
Roye England will be remembered as the creator and founder President of the Pendon Museum of Miniature Landscape and Transport at Long Wittenham, near Oxford.

Pendon Museum's scenes display finely modelled trains of the Great Western and other railways at the height of the steam age, as well as an extensive representation of the Vale of White Horse in high summer, complete with a village of thatched cottages. England's individual contribution was as a modeller of exquisitely detailed rural buildings, but it was part of his genius that, as well as building cottages which set entirely new modelling standards, he was able to gather about him a team of others with a wide range of skills and inspire them to new heights in their chosen fields of modelling.

The Vale of White Horse scene aims to recreate a typical village in late July 1930, given the imaginary name of Pendon Parva. To achieve historical accuracy, in 1932 Roye England began to take details of the trains running on the Great Western main line through the Vale: to photograph, sketch and measure cottages, farm buildings and other countryside features. This recording continues today, being supplemented by local records and the reminiscences of local residents. A team of about 80 amateur model-makers has completed some 140 buildings as well as numerous items for the railway, including almost 80 highly detailed locomotives.

The 75ft by 25ft exhibit will eventually contain over 160 detailed reproductions of buildings as they existed 65 years ago, grouped as a village and surrounding farmland, complete with inhabitants one inch high and tiny modelled animals and birds. On the railway will run trains accurate in all detail and representing those which traversed the Vale during the period 1923 to 1938. Although it was started in the early Fifties, this "Vale Scene" will not be complete for many years.

The museum also includes a "Dartmoor Scene", which was intended as a temporary exhibit, but whose reproduction of a Great Western railway line running through South Devon into Cornwall became so popular with visitors that it has become permanent. The pioneering "Madder Valley Scene", the first layout to place a model railway within its true setting, and regarded as of great historical importance to the railway fraternity, was bequeathed to the museum following the death of its creator, John Ahern.

The Pendon Museum thus became famous in modelling circles and regarded as the yardstick by which similar models around the world were judged. It is renowned for its attention to historical detail, and attracts visitors world-wide.

Roye England was born in 1906 in Perth, Western Australia, where his father held a senior position in a bank. His mother was of French-Irish descent. He came to England in 1925, returning only once to Australia.

Soon after his arrival, while staying in the Vale of White Horse, he saw the dramatic changes that were taking place in rural England and resolved to preserve in model form the English countryside as it was in the 1930s. The realisation of this vision became England's life's work.

In 1954 he bought a former beer-house, the Three Poplars, in Long Wittenham, and opened it as a youth hostel. Here, on the former bar, hostellers were the first to be given a sight of his models. The development of Pendon Museum from this simple beginning was not without its difficulties but, when the charitable Pendon Museum Trust was formed in 1961, Roye England was its first chairman and he remained a member of its Council until 1992.

England was a man of strong religious convictions who lived a simple life. He was a prolific poet, and themes of the horror of war and the beauty of the country can be found in his two privately published volumes.

His manner was gentle but commitment to his "dream" gave him special strength, and his personality and charm recruited many a voluntary helper and many visitors were persuaded to become Friends of the Museum.

Seriously injured in a road accident in 1986, England spent his last years in a nursing home near Newbury, from where he was still able to appreciate the continuing work of the museum. His ashes have been interred at the foot of the tower of St Mary's, Bishopstone - the Vale church that is being modelled for display in Pendon Museum.

Austin Attewell

Roye Curzon Cursham England, model-maker and poet: born Perth, Western Australia 11 September 1906; died Newbury 3 September 1995.