ROCK star Brian May’s three-year quest to find a lost village has ended in a quiet corner of Oxfordshire.

The guitarist, who has filled stadiums around the world performing with Queen, experienced a special kind of magic when he finally set foot in Hinton Waldrist.

The tiny village near Faringdon turned out to be the setting of a collection of old photographs that had obsessed May.

Ever since he first came across a series of photographs taken in the 1850s called ‘Scenes in Our Village’, he has been trying to find the location of the tiny settlement.

May has now written a book, A Village Lost and Found (Frances Lincoln, £35), about his search with photo historian Elena Vidal for what he calls his own holy grail.

And last week he hosted a party to thank villagers who helped him pin down Hinton Waldrist at the end of the rainbow.

Mr May’s photographic passion grew from his fascination with 3D pictures since as a boy, he found a giveaway 3D picture card of an animal in a packet of Weetabix.

“I just became totally hooked. For years I have been collecting old 3D pictures,” he said.

But what really intrigued the rock star was a series of three-dimensional photographs of life in a tiny village, featuring local characters like ‘John Sims at his Pigsty’ and reapers in the field.

They were taken by T R Williams, a leading photographer of his day who was commissioned to photograph Queen Victoria’s family.

Mr May set about finding the full set of 59 village photos — and determined to find the village that had somehow stayed secret.

He said: “When we began, nobody knew where ‘our village’ was.”

The breakthrough came when the searchers published a Williams picture of the village church on the Internet.

Mr May said: “With the help of some kind correspondents, we were able to discover what had been hidden for 150 years, the location of the beautiful village of Williams’s vision.”

He descibed his first visit to Hinton Waldrist as “a Holy Grail moment”.

“ I found myself standing looking in wonder at the very church which had haunted me for so many years. For me, it’s like discovering America. Or maybe it’s similar to what archaeologists feel when they find a lost tomb of a pharaoh, although this is something that happened only 150 years ago.”

He enjoyed introducing villagers to their heritage — “People knew nothing about Williams or ‘Scenes in Our Village’. When they found out, it created quite a buzz. I was able to show them how their village used to be.”

The guitarist, who lives with his wife, former EastEnders actress Anita Dobson, in a village in Surrey, is likely to remain a familiar figure in Hinton Waldrist, having started to write a biography of T R Williams.