In the centre of Walhampton, there is a railyard. It didn't used to be a railyard. At one time it had been a canal dockyard, intended to ferry trade across the town. But as the canal fell into disuse the railroad company seized its chance, claiming the land and filling it in to use it for the storage and repair of old trains. Walhampton is full of stories like this, little pockets of history that reveal the passing of time and echo the town's industrial past. But it isn't a place that you'll find in any atlas. It's not even a real town at all. Walhampton is the elaborate creation of an engineer who has spent a year creating an entire fictional country inside Minecraft.
Whiteburg, the country Walhampton is situated in, isn't your typical Minecraft build. There are no fantasy castles or elaborate reconstructions of world-famous landmarks. Instead it's mostly modest Georgian townhouses connected by lush green land and busy railway lines. The country is the project of Kieran White (better known online as WBC Builds), a civil engineer who has spent the last year building the country and devising its lore with members of his own community. Forever fascinated by Georgian architecture, White uses Minecraft to explore his appreciation, taking inspiration from real-world buildings and incorporating that into the 1:1.5 scale build.
"It started off as just sort of a single player thing, just building by myself, all because I live near the town of Lymington down on the South Coast of England and a lot of the places near here are very old," White says. "Lymington in particular has a lot of Georgian architecture, so it has always inspired me… I then took it to YouTube and started doing timelapses and then eventually did a video going, 'I'm looking for builders to come join in this project of building a whole country,' and it sort of all went from there."
White doesn't get to interact with many old buildings in his day job as a civil engineer. He designs and plans airports for a living. Creating Whiteburg has been a welcome departure. When he's asked to construct airports in Minecraft, he says it would be too much like "a busman's holiday."
It's this dedication to such a specific architectural niche that's so impressive about Walhampton and the rest of Whiteburg. All the buildings across the various towns and cities commit to a Georgian and Victorian aesthetic, using reference materials like personal photographs and Googled images to nail the look. This has allowed White to tackle some personal builds from around his local area, including Sway Tower, a concrete folly near Lymington that was built in the late Victorian era.
"It's like one of those build-your-own-railway sets in your garage type of thing. It's definitely along that line. But I think what I've found as well is that there's a lot of people out there who also do this [in Minecraft] and they're coming together in our Discord, but also in the world, and it's really nice to see what people build. You post a reference picture of something and people will have a go at it.
"We've actually got 10 people currently who are on the server building their own towns," he continues. "So each town is only really built by one person, so that's another sort of idea I want to go along. Because I had a server about five years ago where we were all building one city and it got messy. People obviously weren't building in the same styles or building with the same ideas, so I thought this way at least they're all part of an overall project, where we're actually building it ourselves but together."
Besides Walhampton, there are the towns of Offenburg and Brookwood to the east, locations boasting busy harbours and canalways; as well as Carlton, Beaulieu (based on the house from Netflix's Haunting of Bly Manor), and Kesale in the surrounding countryside. The idea is for the rail network and roads between these locations to eventually join up, creating a realistic infrastructure across the whole country.
"I think about a backstory for pretty much everything," says White. "The fun thing about building it in Minecraft where everything is alterable [is] nothing is set in stone. It can be changed as the town grows. For me, I've always had the mindset of: There was going to be the main train station, I would then build the high street off of that, and then sort of work my way out to the suburbs and the rich parts of town. And that's kind of the thought process I've gone through."
The scale of Whiteburg as a build is incredible, but it wouldn't have been possible without tools like DynMap, a dynamic map that lets the creators see the entirety of the country and plan their towns from an overhead perspective; as well as WorldEdit, which lets creators build more quickly. These two tools have been perfect for creating a world at this size, and have made sure that the individual creators can compare and plan their builds accordingly.
For something that started as a simple side project, the success and popularity has taken White by surprise. There's been a ton of interest from viewers, with folks tuning into his Twitch streams and watching his videos to see how the build develops.
"I'm actually surprised it's got so much traffic lately," says White. "I think people are interested in it because it's so different to what they normally see... the fantasy and the medieval stuff. Because what I'm trying to do as well is keep it so it feels like Minecraft but it also has this realistic aspect to it. So people can recreate it in their survival world, if they wish to. That's the idea. It's not making it unobtainable."
Though he has another hope for the project, too: That it will encourage more people to pay closer attention to their local area and the history of buildings they encounter day-to-day.
"People don't look up enough because they think it's all the same, but if you do actually look up you realize that buildings really are quite beautiful." Spoken like a true engineer.