In an unassuming house in a north Northumberland village, a number of towns and cities, both real and imagined, are taking shape – and starting to take over.
The property in question, in Longhoughton, plays host to Stephen Willis’ Lego collection and actually belongs to his parents as there isn’t enough room in his own Alnwick home.
Heading upstairs, one room and its cupboards are almost entirely filled with bricks and blocks and boxes, but when you head up into the attic, that’s where the parts become whole.
“People tend to build it then collapse it and I can never understand why people get rid of it,” Stephen said. “Lego should be built to show.”
The 42-year-old has been collecting and constructing Lego for about four years following a career in the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, which included tours in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq.
Stephen explained that when he left the Forces, he needed something to take his mind off things and that Lego is ‘very, very therapeutic’.
He often spends hours on end building things – his ferris wheel took six hours while London Bridge took 12 – when he has time off from his current job at Doxford Hall.
Up to now, he estimates he has spent around £8,000 on Lego and 130 hours building it, but there is always more.
“You have to expand, expand, expand,” he says, pointing out that one of his ‘cities’ is to be expanded soon to incorporate a bank and a national museum.
Stephen is also in the process of building a true-to-life model of Sea View, the street in Longhoughton where his parents live, while he wants to build Alnwick Castle as his next project.
He has set up a Facebook page – Lego collectors Northumberland – and would be interested in finding other collectors; at present, the closest one he knows is in Manchester.
“It would be very interesting to find someone so we can compare or swap pieces,” he said.
And if you’re thinking you know what Stephen will be getting for Christmas, you’re half right – the pieces he wants, Big Ben and the bank, aren’t released until January.