Gina Linley on 'St Agnes
Leisure Park' and Goonhavern 'World in Miniature'
e-interview Rupert White
How old were your parents, John and
Vicki Foot, in 1973 when they opened the model village in St Agnes?
Where do you think they got the idea for it??
Dad was 52, Mum was 45. The story goes Dad made a bet with some locals
down the pub that he could set up the biggest business in the village,
and a year later he had!
Building was in his blood. He was 18 when WW2 started. He was a rear
gunner and went through the ranks to Squadron Leader specialising in
bomb disposal, before he retired back home to St Agnes and began to work
as a builder. He built the original houses in Penwinnick Park and loads
up in Wheal Kitty among others. We moved around lots within the village!
They also owned and built holidays flats up at Wheal Kitty, prior to
building the model village.
Next door was my Uncle Alex's holiday flats. He was a part owner,
initially, of the model village but Dad bought him out after a couple of
Babbacombe Model Village in Devon was part of the inspiration, I
suspect, along with a leaning towards building. He saw a gap in the
market for tourism in the county and went for it.
So your Dad was from St Agnes, and
would have had lots of local contacts? Was it just your Mum, Dad and
Uncle that were Duchy Parklands Ltd (the founding company) or were there
others in on it in the beginning?
Although Dad was born in London, his family were from Cornwall
originally. His dad had a factory on Wheal Kitty and my mum's family
owned the rights to St Agnes beach before they were sold on in the 40's
or 50's . They owned the beach cafe when it was still castellated. Re
Duchy Parklands, there may have been one other chap called Lou involved,
but me and Debbie, my sister aren't sure on that one.
first models were created for 'Cornwall in Miniature'. Who would have
There were many, many contributors, and I'm afraid I don't know all
their names. A gent on Facebook recently mentioned that his Dad, John
Dall, welded together the Tamar Road Bridge, and another's Dad, Cyril
Spurling, made the the boats in the same scene. Plenty was done 'in
house' with our base up at Wheal Kitty housing lots of models, as lots
of my fathers colleagues were carpenters and joiners etc.
The ladies (Mum, my sister and me) did the
finishing touches eg sticking stones onto models such as Restormel
Castle. Yes, 'Cornwall in Miniature' was the first part that was built,
but there was a big focus on the gardens too, with a gent called Roy
Inch leading the team along with able help from a well known Aggie man,
George Mannell. The gardens were as important to Dad as the models were.
base at Wheal Kitty: do you mean your house or were there also some
workshops up there?
Actually there was a workshop up near where the mines were that were
owned by my family. I remember going up there and played on a rocking
horse that was in there. As a 5/6 yr old wasn't bothered about the
models but remember people building different things...
How did things develop in subsequent
years? I think Fairyland was added, which is presumably when the name
changed to 'St Agnes Leisure Park'. And then there was 'The World of
Dinosaurs', and 'World in Miniature' on another site...
I remember the dinosaurs causing a stir as they came into the village!!
Westward TV came and filmed it. I was cross as they filmed during
school...Yes, the name changed when Fairyland was added. 'The World in
Miniature' (WIM) in Goonhavern came about 10 yrs later (1984) and Dad
hired a real life circus in the first two years to perform their show.
The model village was super successful
especially in the 70's as there was nothing else like it. We could have
up to 30 coaches in an afternoon and the car park full, and the overflow
full too. The downturn came when tourists wanted more interaction, and
the money involved to add those sort of rides etc was not viable for the
length of the Cornish tourist season. The company who bought it off us
couldn't afford it either. We did have a great 180 cinema at World in
Miniature (WIM) and other smaller interactive bits at the model village.
Sounds like the dinosaurs were
fabricated somewhere away from St Agnes and brought in. What about
the other later exhibits, and the WIM pieces?
The animated models in Fairyland were made by a company up-country who
sold them to a store in Bournemouth for Xmas displays. We would go up on
holiday to Bournemouth each October half-term so we could go to see
them, and then we'd buy them off the store after Xmas and set up a new
Lots of models were dummies dressed by my mum and team. 'Sleeping
Beauty' wore my sister's bridal dress! One of the monkeys on the display
had my Truro High School tie on. My deputy head visited and I was
worried she'd be cross, but she loved it! The clothes worn by the
exhibits were covered in some kind of glue that made them go hard and
waterproof if they were outdoors.
The dinosaurs were made away from Cornwall, but the WIM models would
have been made mostly on the leisure park site or at WIM itself. The
animated models were made by the same company that made the Fairyland
ones. In the wild west scene one model was made to look like my father
putting his hands up - he was the banker being held up by a robber!
I really like the Fairyland exhibits
eg Gulliver. You can really see the waterproof glue that you mention on
Totally. Prime example, and it made the models last!....
So did your parents sell up both attractions at about the same
time? Presumably your Dad had given up building work and was ready to
Both at the same time. Yes. Dad was ready for retirement. I think it was
about 1988 as I worked there in the summer after it was sold. My
brother-in-law was kept on as general manager till the new owners sold
it and it was dismantled (1999). WIM lasted a bit longer, but like I
said lack of investment due to lack of viability because of short
tourist season led to the demise of both.
you have any particularly personal memories?
My whole childhood memories are entwined with the place. When I was
about 8, we moved in to a two bed flat in the leisure park at the end of
the main building. We lived there full time for about 3 years. We moved
out to live in Rosemundy, then moved back for a couple of years before
we sold the place.
Living at the park in the winter was always
very spooky with everything covered, and hardly any people. I remember
not being allowed to leave the flat on a morning till the guard dog was
away...Being obsessed with Space Invaders and Pac-Man machines, and
always had to beat the high score of the boys who worked for Dad and
Your parents must have been very
creative and hard-working to have created these two iconic Cornish
tourist attractions. And they must have worked well as a team...
Father was the organiser and figurehead but it wouldn't have worked
without Mum's artistic talents behind the scenes. She added the sparkle
to the models and scenes. She ran the seasonal workforce, cafe, shop etc
whilst Dad was the business side/ideas man and organised the permanent
staff and publicity team. Father was a charmer and could pull things
together that you thought weren't possible, and Mum was the one who kept
it going behind the scenes. Mum never put herself in the limelight but
without her it wouldn't gave been so successful! Their creative sides
balanced each other and the success was deserved.