Building the Great Northern Hotel Lincoln

Howard Leader explains the research and processes he went through to recreate a now-demolished building in the city of Lincoln.

For some time now I have been making some of the buildings for a large layout describing Lincoln Central in the mid-1960s.

The challenge with this project is that every structure has to be researched and, as near as possible, faithfully reproduced – not least because there are many people who will ultimately see the layout who grew up in the city and will know, at a glance, if what they are seeing is ‘correct’.

Howard Leader, pictured at a show, at work on the Great Northern building. PAUL BASON

The Great Northern Hotel was a beautiful Victorian structure that once stood next to the level crossing on the western side of the high street. By the mid-1960s its brick walls had been rendered and the whole building was painted white with all of the corbels and sills and other features picked out in black. The building was demolished by 1967 so I only had pictures and people’s memories to go on.

From the few remaining photographs I’ve seen, the hotel certainly made a statement. Locals will tell you that stage and music stars would stay there when working the city’s theatres and everyone of a certain age has their own memories of the place. Important then, in my mind, to try and make a 4mm-scale representation with the ring of truth about it.

Building this model was not so much a test of skill as a feat of endurance. The first problem was the difficulty in finding enough images to get a real sense of the building. Extensive searching turned up just five photographs, all of which had actually been taken of something else and just happened to have part of the building in the shot. One picture gave a good impression of the frontage, another a good idea of part of the back of the building, the rest just showed odd corners or part of the roof.

I did have the advantage of a comprehensive map from the period, that clearly showed the ground plan of the building and herein lay a bit of a shock… it was vast!

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