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Cockington Green

Just outside Canberra, the capital of Australia, visitors to Cockington Green can experience a little piece of traditional England and a taste of buildings from around the world.  Described as a "Display of Miniature Buildings" rather than as a model village the Sarah family have not attempted to reproduce a single location but

brick image

have created a lovely garden
setting in which they have set their finely crafted model buildings.
        On a visit many years ago now I was fortunate enough to be shown around the site and workshop by Mark Sarah .

The origins of the Cockington Green project go back 35 years to 1972 when Australian builder Doug Sarah  visited the Babbacombe model village in Devon, England.  Inspired by the possibilities, Doug set about producing a little piece of green and pleasant England in the rather drier landscape near Canberra.  After a gestation period of 7 years Cockington Greencz



The display in its early stages of development

 (or  "CG" from here on)  was opened to visitors in 1979 and now welcomes  thousands every year. 

The 1/12 scale model of the full size entrance building

Seven years might seem a long time but to make a viable exhibit you need more than just a couple of buildings.   Doug and his family worked in their spare time alongside their day jobs to build up a stock of exhibits and develop the site.  As well as constructing the first model exhibits Doug also built the handsome English style timbered building which sits at the front of the display site - arguably a full scale model in its own right. 

We will return to the English display in another issue of The Miniature Builder but it only represents one third of what CG is now involved in.  The second part is an international display of a truly varied selection of prototypes and the third, in the early stages of development, is a display of Australian buildings which I hope we will be able to come back to in a few years time. 

One of the first Australian models already on display.  A typical rural Australian cabin with its veranda. Larger Image .   The hipped roof shape is a very distinctive component of all kinds and sizes of Australian Buildings

This is surely a wise and welcome step into the future.  The Sarah family have done a great job of producing a little bit of England for visiting Brits and nostalgic Australians born of English immigrants but Australia is no longer a colony.  It is  increasingly multicultural, will inevitably one day break the ties to become a republic and has a "western" heritage going back over 230 years.   The indigenous Aboriginal culture goes back a lot further of course but is not likely to provide much inspiration for model buildings.  

I was fortunate enough to visit CG during a Christmas trip to Australia and was shown round the exhibit and the workshop by Mark Sarah, the son of founder Doug Sarah, and now the manager of CG.  Although it was great to get an insider's view for The Miniature Builder as we walked around, the regular visitor is also well served by informative exhibit labelling giving information about scales, modellers and the prototype buildings.

Manager Mark Sarah at work in a non-managerial role - the reality of a small family business.

The main focus of our conversation as we walked in the hot December sunshine was the International section, which is what the on-site workshop is now devoting its attention to.  In an imaginative move some years ago the Sarah family approached overseas embassies and consulates based in Canberra and offered them the opportunity to sponsor a site within the gardens on which a building from their own country could be displayed. 

So far, [   ] countries have taken up this offer and [     ] international exhibits are already on show.  There is a [five year ] waiting list for construction since new buildings can take up to 3000 hours to construct and CG has only three active modellers.  These are Mark himself,  brother in law Roland Schmitz and full time model maker, former school friend ,  Robert Pavlekovic. 

Many of the countries represented have asked the CG workshop  to build the models for them but some have commissioned their own nationals to produce a model which is then shipped and installed on the site prepared for them within the international garden.  One example of this is the astonishingly ornate [                             ]

The workbench at CG featuring their Korean and Mauritian exhibits

Under construction in the CG workshop at the time of my visit were an observatory and two pagodas for the Korean site and a detailed copy of the official  residence of the President of Mauritius - the blue and white building you can see at the back of the picture.  I guess they are by now out in the garden on display and some new project is sitting on Robert's workbench.

Most of the buildings at CG, and all the new buildings,  are constructed from resin and fibreglass using a variety of techniques. As Mark told me "we are always pushing the envelope - exploring new ways of what it is possible to achieve with resin".

One example of this, which unfortunately I was not able to capture on film, is the surface texture on the Korean models created by putting sandpaper within the mould before the resin pieces were cast. 

Even though Canberra is in the more temperate southern part of Australia temperatures can range from -6 C to 40 C and many of the buildings sit out in full sun.  The choice of resin rather than timber or other materials and the integration of colour within the moulding rather than using a painted finish is a practical necessity for an all year outdoor exhibit.

family business

govt grant

exces of 2000 hours

requests from countries to build national models on site

Korea 2 pagodas + observatory

may make or get CG to make


President of Mauritius lunch at CG

St Andrews Church Ukraine c 2500 hours

Presidents dwelling in Mautirius

Plans where possible - countries will assist

some scaling from photos

cross referncing measurement

countries come out for commissining

100 from Jordan

All handmade no laser cutting or fancy software

Dremel key tool

no bought in components

"they're more like works of art for us than models"

English 1/12

newer buildings scale chosen to suit

1/100 1/50 1/18 1/25

Balsa prottypes for windows

rubber cast very flexible long lasting

casting resin

some columns, larger, Petra  - turned rather than moulded

The        at   Petra in Jordan.   Sponsored by a private individual living in Canberra this model attracted a great deal of attention within Jordan.   Over    people made the    mile journey to CG at Canberra for the commissioning ceremony in  .  Larger Image


Jordan private citizen from Canberra

sandpaper in mould to give rough effect Korean pagoda

How much is too much - hours spent , time viewer devotes

Mark Sarah

b-in law Roland Schmitz

model maker Robert Pavlekovic known mark since school

open since 1979

scale or effect

over accentuate to give effect

thickness - so that tile effect or mortar lines are visible

1mm = 1" recognises bigger than on originals

4 or 5 foot test - what we are trying to achieve

sometimes plans of major buildings are wrong


English village mid to late 70s

Father Doug inspired by visit to England     mother was english

no longer much modelling trying to retire

Oast house - individual tiles   possible at 1/12    smaller scale buildings have panels


Queen Anne is version 2 - retaining original roof


Stonehenge - mark's first piece


Duxford   original model wrong    Doug knocked on door for measurements


some models provided by countries eg Indonesai

Australia next project  separate zone    constant scale probably 1/18

3 australia buildings at present in international area


Slovakia 3000 hours

el coat thinking in reverse paining back of coat


Hungary " one we really like"   Fake wood  Gel coat balsa in mould


Slovenia  real modelling   lots of different techniques   variations in colur

individaul roofing to keep slovenia happy  (??)

Filler and adghesive the same - resin plus various fillers


Sister as sculptor - statues on buildings