Pendon Museum

Model town at Pendon Museum

We were given the opportunity to visit the Pendon Museum this week and take part in their half term model making workshop.  Despite only living a couple of miles down the road we have never visited before. I was intrigued to see what it was like.

I had kind of expected this to be pretty much an overgrown collection of someones model railway in an outbuilding or something. I couldn’t have been more wrong! We entered into a lovely little shop with a small cafe attached to it and were greeted by very helpful and friendly staff.  We were given an audio tour pod each and shown how to use them.  The kids thought these were absolutely brilliant (and I have to say I was impressed too!).  You literally just wave them in front of the pod catcher symbol on the wall and the audio begins.  The kids loved finding the symbols and listening to what each one said.  Such a great way of making the displays interactive. Even 3 year old Cody enjoyed listening to them.

I assumed the museum was built by someone who lived in the village but in fact the man who started it, aptly named Roye England, was originally from Australia.  He came to England at the age of 18 and fell in love with the Great Western Railway and the rural countryside, so much so that he decided he wanted to preserve it in models for future generations to see.  He would take notes of things he saw and from these notes the models continue to be brought to life.  There is even a model of Roye himself, in his younger years, writing notes in the huge Vale scene upstairs.  See if you can find him when you visit.  Bear in mind he is about the size of my thumbnail!

Model house and people at Pendon Museum

The first model you come across when you enter the museum is the Madder Valley Railway.  This scene was built entirely by one man named John Ahern. It was the first model railway to be built with its own landscape.  The cute little details like people riding bikes and standing on the station platform are brilliant.  There is so much to see.  In this room are also displays showing how the models were created.  The buildings are actually made of card and have an incredible amount of detail painted on them.  Many of them take years to make.

Model town at Pendon Museum

The next room brought us to the Dartmoor Scene.  The collection of buildings are based on places which actually once existed. There is an imaginary Great Western branch line with a long viaduct stretching across moorland scenery.  The size of this model is impressive and seeing the different trains going round it was great fun.  The volunteer operating the trains was very informative and told us all about the trains.  He also let the children take it in turns sitting in the control seat.  They turned the daylights off and put the station platform lights on so they could see what it looked like at night.  The kids though it was brilliant!

pendon model train

Upstairs we found the final model in the collection which is the Vale scene.  This one is absolutely huge. I’m talking bigger than my living room kind of huge.  In fact to be exact it measures 21 x 9 metres!  It includes models based on real houses and buildings from around the Vale of White Horse in the 1930s.  One gentleman who was visiting at the same time as us found a model of the house he used to live in!  The details in this scene are absolutely astounding.  I spoke to one of the volunteer staff and she said that even though she has worked there for 30 years she still keeps finding things she hasn’t seen before!  From tiny little cabbages growing in the allotments, to sausages in the butchers shop and a tandem bicycle leaning against a fence.  We literally could have spent hours looking at this model as there was so much to see.

Model cottage at Pendon Museum

After having a good look at all the models we headed to the workshop room to have a go at our own model making.  With the help of the volunteer staff the children were shown how to design a simple park with a pathway and tree in it.  They drew out their path, then covered the grass areas with glue and put their ‘grass’ in place.  Next they sprayed their trees with hairspray and sprinkled green ‘stuff’ over the tree to give it leaves.  They put their trees in place on the model and voila!  They were so proud!  The museum runs these model workshops regularly in the school holidays. Check their website to see when the next one is running. It’s a great addition to the visit and is included in the price.

The Verdict

In total we spent about 2 hours at Pendon Museum for our visit. Many people tie in a visit here with a trip to the nearby Didcot Railway Centre which would make a great full day out.  The Pendon Museum is open on limited days so check the website before you visit.  Under 5s get in free which is very handy. I felt the admission prices were a little high for the size of the museum and length of time you would spend there.  Having said that, we did thoroughly enjoyed our visit. The level of detail in the models is fascinating and astounding.   The modelling workshop was a fantastic added bonus. I would highly recommend visiting on a day when this is running.

Facilities Checklist

  • Toilets / Disabled Toilet Yes
  • Pushchair / Wheelchair Friendly No pushchairs allowed due to limited space. Not all areas upstairs are wheelchair accessible.
  • Disabled Access Chair lift up to second floor. The models are 1.4m above floor level so visibility from a wheelchair is limited.
  • Dog Friendly  No dogs
  • Refreshments available Yes small cafe
  • Car Park Yes small free car park
  • Gift Shop  Yes
  • Baby facilities

Address: Long Wittenham, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX14 4QD

Price: ££


Disclaimer: The Pendon Museum kindly gifted us tickets to visit the museum, however they had no involvement in this review. All photos, words and opinions are that of my own

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