Last weekend was the Great Western Brick Show, held every year at Swindon’s Museum of the Great Western Railway, also known as STEAM. This is one of our favourite shows, being in a great venue, attracting awesome exhibitors and drawing a large and enthusiastic crowd.
This year we were once again in the Caerphilly Hall, sitting under the imposing shadow of the Caerphilly Castle, once upon a time the world’s fastest train. Lego Hastings made a return and was the first model people saw on entering the venue. Our centrepiece however was a much expanded England 793, with new additions from Simon Pickard, Tim Goddard, James Pegrum, Jimmy Clinch and Dan Harris. The model now covers an enormous 16 square metres and was built on 105 48x48 stud Lego baseplates. Every year we get asked how many pieces go into our models and every year we have no idea, but we are talking somewhere in the high 100,000s for this one.
Key features of England 793 include an island monastery inspired by Lindisfarne, a ship burial representing Sutton Hoo and an Anglo-Saxon village based on West Stow. A further neat touch was a vast cavern filled with dinosaur bones, which sat under a soaring hill of over 30 bricks in height. Running amok among this sweeping landscape was an army of Viking raiders who are bent on plundering the treasures of the poor Anglo-Saxons.
A shot of England 793.
This year’s show also coincided with Swindon 175, which celebrates 175 years since the birth of the Swindon Railway Works. We couldn’t let this go without note, so we bought along a mosaic of the founding father himself, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Brunell, in Lego form.
We also had a number of smaller models on display, including a Nine Man’s Morris board, a couple of versions of hnefatafl and, in contrast to England 793, our first ever micro-scale build. The micro-scale build is particularly special as it represents the first stage of our work for Caithness Broch Project – a miniature Lego Broch. Brochs it appears are not well known in southern England so we had a great time spreading the word.
Micro-brochs and ye olde board games.
Spreading the word about brochs.
We were once again delighted by the reaction to our models and cannot wait to return next year.
Official photos of our models will be uploaded to the website as soon as we finish editing them. Watch this space for updates!
Here at Brick to the Past we don't just concern ourselves with building enormous, sprawling landscapes and minifigure scale buildings. Sometimes we like to build what we refer to as 'artifacts', which are used to compliment our main builds. So we have a treat for you today because here's one of the artifacts we've created to compliment this year's big project, England 793, which is currently on display as part of the Bricks in Time exhibition at Rheged.
Ard Ri is a variant of the game Hnefatafl, or simply Tafl, which is one of the oldest games in the world and can be traced back in various forms to the Vikings, Welsh, Saxons and Irish. It is rare in that it is one of the few games that comprises of two unequal sides. Ard Ri is played on a smaller board and with fewer pieces than standard Hnefatafl and it is one of the most challenging forms of the game.
In Ard Ri the defending side comprises eight soldiers and a king, who start the game in the centre of the board. Their objective is for the king to escape by reaching any of the four corner squares. The attackers comprise sixteen soldiers positioned in four groups of four around the perimeter of the board. Their objective is to take the King. All pieces move like the Rook in chess and pieces are taken by "sandwiching" i.e. moving your piece so that an opponent's piece is trapped horizontally or vertically between two of yours. Unlike other versions of Hnefatafl, in Ard Ri the defending side starts first.
Ard Ri is associated with the Scottish Highlands with Ard Ri meaning 'High King' in Irish Gaelic. 'Irish Gaelic' you may ask? Well Scot's Gaelic is part of the same linguistic family and in fact comes from Ireland.
Ard Ri and Hnefatafl sets often contained intricately carved pieces and beautifully decorated boards and this is what we've tried to create here, taking inspiration from traditional designs and the iconic Uig Chessmen.
The creation of this set was in fact a collaborative between our builder Dan Harris and his girlfriend, Dot Greaves. In fact it was Dot who created the intricate mosaic that decorates the playing board. The collaboration occurred by accident when Dan, having started the project, had to go away for a few nights for work. When he returned the mosaic was a lot more complete than when he left it; which just goes to show, when you leave your Lego lying around, beautiful things will happen.
We will be taking this set to The Great Western Brick Show in October, why not come along and challenge us to a game:
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