The first Modellers’ Weekend was held in 1971 at Hassocks in Sussex. It moved to Missenden Abbey in 1981 and, apart from a short time when the Abbey was destroyed by fire and underwent restoration, has been there ever since.
2012 was the 30th year at the Abbey and in that time the courses have grown to take over the whole of The Abbey. This was due in particular to Martin Brent who took over as Chief Tutor in 1996.
Martin created a new, more practical format. He wanted participants to acquire new skills and build something to show for their weekend’s work. He introduced Bob Alderman, Mike Sharman and Ian Rathbone, and as a result attendance steadily increased. The concept of a weekend of uninterrupted hands-on modelling with one-on-one tuition has proved to be a great success. Places sell out quickly and attendance has increased year on year.
It was Martin who introduced the Missenden Abbey Railway Modellers Manual, in which he passed on useful tips and techniques gained during his long and successful modelling career. This manual is updated every year, and is now available on a CD-ROM.
After the Weekend in 2000, Martin was diagnosed with leukaemia and Christopher Langdon, who had been to the courses since the early 1980s, became the Course Organizer. The format has remained the same, but additional tutors now come to help the increasing number of modellers, currently approaching 70. Participants have come from South Africa, France, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Australia and the USA. We also have several ladies on the courses.
The Spring Weekend in March, has proved very popular, so three courses on two additional weekends have been added:
- In 2005, the first ‘Electronics for Railway Modellers’ was run in conjunction with MERG (Model Electronics Railway Group). This now forms part of the expanded Autumn Modelling Weekend.
- October 2006 saw ‘Locomotive Kit Construction‘ running with Tony Wright and Bob Alderman as tutors. This has been a huge success.
- On the same weekend in 2007, Barry Norman started ‘The Craft of Scenery’. This, too, has attracted many enthusiastic participants.
- 2010 saw the first ‘Railway Modellers’ Week’, now called The Summer Retreat, during the Missenden Abbey Summer School. This takes place in early August.
- 2011 was the beginning of an expanded Autumn Modelling Weekend with a guest tutor.
- In 2012, the Autumn Modelling Weekend was expanded to include Electronics for Railway Modellers and another Guest Tutor. The original Modeller’s Weekend in March will become the Spring Modelling Weekend.
- The organization of the gatherings has become much too great for one person and in 2013 Chris Langdon shared the load with Tim Shackleton, David Brandreth and Mick Bonwick to help and he became ‘Tutor without Portfolio’.
- In 2019 Chris Langdon retired from organising the courses and David Brandreth, Mick Bonwick and Simon Roberts took over the mantle of organisation.
- Subsequently David took a step back from the management team and Missenden “regulars” Mark Riddoch and Chris Hopper were recruited to assist with the new website and other areas of work.
- 2020 went on to be a difficult year for all; long time 7mm tutor Bob Alderman sadly died following a long illness. We also saw the cancellation of Missenden residential courses for the first time ever as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic and plans made for the first “virtual” weekend in Autumn 2020.
- October 2020 saw the running of our “virtual” event, with a mixture of online video and written content and a number of hosted events led by tutors. This content is still available on the website. As part of the virtual weekend the Missenden manual was also moved to the website for all to view.
- The ongoing Covid 19 pandemic also led to the cancellation of the Spring 2021 weekend, once again this was replaced with an online event featuring a mixture of written, pre-recorded and live content.
- After much planning and anticipation of a return to modelling in the Abbey the 2021 Summer Retreat was also canceled due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
August 2021 also provided a further blow to the Missenden Abbey Railway Modellers and the modelling community at large with the sudden and untimely death of Mick Bonwick. Mick had been our weathering tutor and organiser for many years and will be deeply missed by all who knew him. Many examples of Mick’s work along with the excellent tutorials that he recorded during the virtual weekends can be found on a page cataloging some of his work
- October 2021 saw us return to Missenden Abbey for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Although not a completely normal return, we still had some extra measures in place to protect against Covid 19, we ran a successful and above all safe event. Albeit with a reduced number of courses and modellers present. This was a most welcome return and a good antidote to the events of the previous 18 months. Our thanks to David Brandreth for returning for this weekend to help with the organisation following the loss of Mick Bonwick.
From the first course in Hassocks through 40 years at Missenden Abbey, the Modellers’ Weekends have come a long way. There are now three courses a year; Spring, Autumn and the Summer Retreat, all designed to give railway modellers a weekend of uninterrupted modelling with expert tuition on hand.