Giant Temple to-Scale Model

A small English village secretly houses a 1,800-sq.ft. project: Possibly the most accurate model of the Holy Temple in the world.

Tags: Jewish World
Hillel Fendel ,

Temple model
Temple model
Israel news photo: Walter Bingham

In a small town in eastern England lies a 1,800-square foot project that is still a well-guarded secret from most of the world: possibly the most accurate model of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in existence.

Its builder is a retired property-developer named Alec Garrard, who has been working on it for nearly 30 years – and expects to continue to do so until his dying day. “It’s not me who says it’s the most accurate model of the Temple in the world,” he told Israel National Radio’s Walter Bingham. “It’s the experts who come and say so!”

Click above to hear the interview

Bingham, just slightly older than the 79-year-old model builder, says it took him “three weeks of intensive research to locate” the model and finally found it in a one-street village named Needham.

Garrard told him that he began building his Holy Temple for his own pleasure, and “didn’t realize the great interest it would attract.” He says he always built models as a child, but gave up the pastime in his teenage years when he became “seriously interested in religion” and active in his church. However, at age 50, after a series of clashes with various church leaders, he decided to return to model-building. He can't exactly explain why, but his first, and only, subject became the Holy Temple built in Jerusalem some 2,500 years ago, and later added on to by King Herod.

The model Temple in the English countryside town is built, at a 1:100 scale, of thousands of tiny clay bricks and tiles, all of which Garrard fashioned, baked, and painted manually. In addition, he has made some 4,000 ¾-inch human figures – “each one with its own costume and playing its own part in one scene or another.” These scenes include the offering of sacrifices, taking part in the Temple service, and more.

What were his sources for the down-to-the-inch accuracy? Garrard told Bingham he consulted Josephus, the Mishna, and more. “But it was very difficult,” he said, “and lots of things I couldn’t find, so I just had to make it as I thought it was.”

“One of the things I discovered,” he said, “is that most people say that what Josephus said is correct, and others say that the Mishna is correct – but I say that both are correct, because they are talking about different areas. The Mishna is talking mainly about the Second Temple… Orthodox Jews say that nothing can be added to what G-d commanded, and so they don’t recognize the Herodian extensions." In order to make sure everything corresponds, "everything has to be rectified, and the gates have to be placed in different places, etc.”

Garrard says he has never been to Israel to “see the real thing,” nor does he have a desire to do so.

Asked whether he plans to sell the model, or put it on display for educational purposes, Garrard said, “I’ve been guided throughout my life by the hand of G-d… so I don’t know what will happen to the model, but I’m sure that whatever happens to it, it will be guided by the hand of G-d.”