Amid the doom and gloom of these strange and unprecedented times, it makes a nice change to report some good news. Despite the lockdown, announced by Boris Johnson on 23rd March, the restoration of Aqueduct Cottage has continued to make progress, albeit at a reduced pace and with some management changes.

When the lockdown was first announced, the project was immediately put on hold. Then, once the Government restrictions were clarified, our builder, Andrew Churchman, kindly agreed to continue working. Social distancing rules meant that his team could no longer be on site, but Andrew was allowed to work alone, with certain measures in place. Since all work is undertaken within a fenced compound, there is no risk of contact with members of the public. Also, all materials are on site and the nature of the work means that much of it can be done single-handed. For added safety, given the remoteness of the site, regular check-in calls are made to Andrew by his team.

Sadly, the restrictions did not allow our volunteer team to continue on site, so the working parties were put on hold on 16th March. At the time of writing, despite some easing of restrictions, we are still waiting for a date when our volunteers can resume . Also, since most of the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust staff are furloughed, the day to day management of the project is being temporarily led by DWT’s architect, James Boon, and myself in liaison with the skeleton staff still working at DWT.

The good news is that the repairs to the structure of the cottage have made great progress in recent weeks. I reported in the Spring issue that the first major repair, to underpin the front LH corner of the building had been completed. Since then, further structural repairs have been made – the rear RH corner of the cottage, (which had a tree growing through it !) has been completely rebuilt, the large hole in the front wall (inside face) has been filled, the north gable-end has been rebuilt with replacement stone, and new oak window lintels and a cross-beam installed.

In addition, the front and rear wall heads have been repaired, the raking out of the old mortar is well advanced (the stone facings get a clean-up during this process), and the south gable-end (which had a large settlement crack in it) has been dismantled ready for reconstruction.

Its been fascinating watching our master craftsman at work, thanks to the regular supply of photos and videos on Andrew’s Twitter feed. He’s enjoyed some great weather and with the benefit of his elevated working platform, his recordings have provided a rare glimpse of the beauty and tranquillity of the Cromford Canal where, thanks to an almost complete absence of traffic on the A6, the only sound you hear is the birds.

Andrew commented, several times, on the stunning location and how the unusual circumstances helped him appreciate the natural wonder of the landscape. He said he felt privileged to witness it. I couldn’t help feel a sense of envy.

With the stonework repairs nearing completion, the next step is the most eagerly awaited – the rebuilding of the roof. The first stage of this is rather interesting. The restoration plans include creating an open plan first floor which will better utilise the space (intended to be rented out to generate income for the cottage’s upkeep). To make this possible, instead of rebuilding the central wall, which has partially collapsed, the roof will be supported by a large wooden truss spanning the centre of the building. Once the design is signed off by the structural engineer, the individual sections of the truss will be made by a local carpenter, Phil Twigg, who has kindly volunteered his services to the project.

Installation of the truss and the construction of the rest of the roof is expected to take place during the summer. It will feature re-claimed stone tiles at the front and slate tiles at the rear to replicate the original design of the cottage.

Prior to being stood down, our fabulous restoration volunteers also made some impressive progress on the cottage grounds, including restoring the stone recess of one of the stop-locks and discovering inlaid ironwork which was part of a gate anchor strap.

Over the years, a tree root had grown between the stones causing them to be dislodged. It took a concerted effort by several volunteers working together to remove the root, but once out, they were able to re-set the stones back to their original position. Through removing the soil, they also uncovered the anchor strap. An exciting find!

This prompted an on-site discussion with Hugh Potter, Patrick Morris and Ian Hooker about the position of the second stop-lock. Based on a diagram produced by Hugh, and the visible evidence which shows part of the recess of the second stop-lock a few feet away, it was concluded that part of this recess (and possibly another anchor strap) was buried under the concrete footbridge.

The planning application for the cottage restoration includes the possibility of re-introducing a replica stop-lock sometime in the future, although Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has not committed to this and there would be all kinds of hoops to jump through to obtain the necessary permissions.

However, where there’s a will, there’s usually a way and it would be so exciting to see this opportunity come to fruition. It’s a matter of historical fact that the requirement for the stop-lock was the reason Peter Nightingale built Aqueduct Cottage in the first place. It therefore sets the context for the cottage. The recreation of at least one of the lock gates would improve the visitor experience by providing a physical example of how disputes over water were resolved in the valley 200 years ago. What a fitting and worthy addition to our World Heritage Site that would be.

Funding Continues to Grow

The second Crowdfunder “Buy a Brick” campaign was another resounding success.

Launched only 7 months after the first Crowdfunder ( May 2019), we were uncertain what the response was going to be. We needn’t have worried. It raised over £11,000.

The first raised over £15,000 meaning the combined total was over £26,000. That’s a lot of bricks sold!

However, the December Crowdfunder total was also boosted by a very generous grant from our closest neighbours…

…The Friends of Cromford Canal, in collaboration with the Derbyshire County Council, awarded a £6000 grant towards the restoration fund, which was a wonderful surprise and pefectly timed.

The grant, the largest donation received by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, outside corporate funding, meant that the funding target to complete the re-building works (of the main building at least) , was achieved by mid February.

This was a very important milestone to reach since it was the final piece of the jigsaw on the 3 year mission to secure the restoration .

The other good news is that Andrew Churchman, our builder,  started work on site at the end of January. Andrew and his team will spend 4-6 months repairing the masonry and re-instating the roof.

With the funding secured, it means that work can continue unimpeded (subject to the weather) until the project is complete, which is targeted for July /August 2020.

DWT has agreed to include information on the history of the canal in the cottage’s interpretation, in recognition of the FoCC’s contribution.

It will inform visitors of the importance of the canal and why the cottage was built, and this will help raise awareness of the vision to regenerate the canal.

The cottage restoration is turning out to be a fantastic community collaboration project and it is important for the FoCC and the Derbyshire County Council to be stakeholders, along with local businesses and volunteers, to ensure the project is a success.

Volunteers have been on site since October 2019. They have a regular working group on Tuesdays and almost every week a new discovery is made. From a John Else “Purity” lemonade bottle, (made in the old Hatter’s factory), to the iron bracket of (what appears to be) the original stock lock.



They’ve also removed over 20 tons of debris from inside the cottage and , more recently, they have been concentrating of rebuilding dry stone walls around the garden areas and rebuilding the steps into Lea Wood.

On the building side, the first major structural repair was completed in February, which involved removing a large tree root from under the corner of the cottage and under-pinning.

There are a number of structural problems to be resolved during the restoration process,  but Andrew Chuchman is highly experienced in these kind of buildings an relishes the challenge.

So, although there’s a long way to go, the restoration is now well and truly underway. By coming together as a community, we are proving  that the seemingly impossible can achieved, and the vision can be realised. It takes patience and a lot of determination, but the end goal is worth the effort. This is a Derbyshire “good news” story that we can be all proud of.

Ron Common
17th Feb 2020


November 2019 will go down as one of the defining months in the mission to save the cottage.

– Our newly formed restoration volunteers group did an amazing job clearing the cottage ready for the construction phase. Over 6 days, the team cleared all the debris that had accumulated inside the cottage over the past 30 years. 20 tons was shovelled, bagged and removed from site. The original floor has now been uncovered and the building is ready for scaffolding . It was bloomin hard work, but very satisfying, and great for the soul…Here’s a few photos of the fun we had…(spot the 1950’s boot polish lid found in the debris!) 

– Thanks to all this activity, there’s been a significant increase in public awareness of the project. The photos of the volunteers at work, posted on the Friends of Aqueduct Cottage FB page, triggered loads of interest and membership has rocketed. As we approach the 3rd year anniversary of the FB page on 8th December, there are now over 1150 members. At the beginning of the year, there were 300!  

– A positive meeting was held with the Case Officer at Amber Valley Council earlier in the month and a response was sent to satisfy the conditions attached to the planning consent. We expect to receive formal discharge of conditions early-mid December. 

– By far the most exciting news for the project  – The Pilgrim Trust confirmed its award to Derbyshire Wildlfe Trust of a £35,000 grant towards the restoration of the cottage. This was a fantastic boost to the project and means there are now sufficient funds to restore the building.  

– Thanks to this generous grant, we are now within touching distance of the funding target of £70,000. So, DWT launched a Crowfunder page to help raise the balance of funding required to complete the project.

– Good news triggers more good news and during the month, several local businesses offered to help the project. The free services and materials include a footings survey , PR assistance, free building materials, and an amazing stump grinder to remove awkward tree roots! 

We slso owe huge thanks to fellow volunteers at the Cromford Canal and Codnor Park Res group who loaned us their power barrow. It was a great help carrying the bags of debris along the canal towpath to the skip. Another star of the month was Dougie Porter, from Ascent Tree Solutions, who volunteered to remove the huge Ash root that was lodged at the base of the cottage wall. The photos say it all! 

Thanks to everyone who has stepped in to help with the restoration. This is turning out to be a brilliant community project.

Continue reading “WHAT A MONTH!”

Work starts on the restoration

Monday 28th October 2019 was a very special day. A team of community volunteers made a start clearing the ground inside and around the cottage in preparation for the builders scaffolding.

Of course, ground clearing around the cottage has been happening at various times over the last 3 years. But, this is the first time that work has been done inside the ruin.

Tons of debris has accumulated on the ground floor and it all has to be sifted, sorted and removed before the restoration can begin. Its a mixed layer layer (up to 2 feet thick) of soil, fallen masonry, branches, beams and even a couple of old bed frames.

It was an exciting moment to get the first glimpse of the red and black floor tiles in the kitchen, and later, what appears to be an original flagstone under a thin layer of leveling cement. We can’t wait to find out if more of these are revealed as the clearance work continues.

Our fabulous volunteers had a great first day, and everyone enjoyed getting stuck in.

For sure, there’s a long way to go, but it promises to be a really exciting restoration project.



What a fantastic project…
To think, 217 years ago, in 1802, the first stones were being laid to build Aqueduct Cottage – a small but important piece of the industrial development of the Lower Derwent Valley, renowned as the birthplace of the industrial revolution.
Although the railways soon took over from the canals for commercial transport, the cottage remained a workers cottage and family home for the following 170 years, until vacated in 1969.
Decades of decline followed which led to the cottage becoming derelict to the point of collapse.

Then in 2005, local villagers, having set up Lea Wood Trust,  bought the woodland (including Aqueduct Cottage) to prevent it falling into the hands of a private developer.
7 years later, in 2012, the  Trust generously gifted the land to Derbyshire Wildlife Trust to preserve it in perpetuity.
The wood became a Nature Reserve but the question remained, what to do with the cottage?
Thankfully, it was identified as one of 50 landscape improvement projects under the DerwentWISE programme, hosted by DWT and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
A report was commissioned in 2013 into its background and development options, and a business plan for the restoration finally agreed in February 2017.

Which brings us to today, 2 centuries later, with new plans passed, funding to start the re-build, and volunteers now registering their interest in taking part in the restoration – whether its ferrying materials, mixing mortar, a bit of carpentry, organising , recording or simply making the tea. 

Its thanks to this great community spirit  – a true joint effort between organisations and community over the last 3 years, that we are now on the brink of saving this important little building, including all the wonderful history, pictures and people stories that go with it.

All credit to Derbyshire Wildlife Trust for taking on this heritage project, and for their continued efforts to raise the balance of funding needed to finish the build ( £35-£40K). 

When completed, they will not only have an inviting “gateway” to the beautiful Lea Wood Nature Reserve, but will  have rescued an important piece of heritage within the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.

We can all feel very proud of this collective endeavour – a  Derbyshire “good news” story that is about to enter its most exciting chapter.

If you would like to take part, please email either myself at: 

or, Alex Morley at




£10,000 Crowdfunder target reached!

WE DID IT!! 👏👏👏👏👏👏
Rebecca Walton from the wonderful Homesford Tea Rooms, has just bought a brick that takes the Crowdfunder total to over £10,000
This is a brilliant result, and with a day to spare!
Huge, huge thanks to EVERYONE who has taken part in the Buy a Brick campaign over the last few weeks and helped make it a resounding success. The response has been absolutely fantastic.
Thanks not just to those of you who have made generous donations, but also to everyone who has helped raise awareness of the campaign from the sharing of posts, etc. The power of social media!
The total amount raised (with a day still to go) is just over £13,400 ( on-line + direct donations). This is 34% more than the £10k target set by DWT at the beginning of the campaign ( and we thought that was ambitious!)
What a wonderful “community” restoration project this has become, which demonstrates the level of affection people have for the cottage and the strong support for it to be saved.
Well done everyone and a MASSIVE thankyou!!

Only 2 days left of the Buy a Brick campaign!

The Crowdfunder Buy a Brick Campaign closes on Tuesday so if you want to take part in helping restore Aqueduct Cottage, you need to act soon!
The response, so far, has been fantastic. The fund currently stands at £13,045 (Approx. £3K more than the original £10k target).
A sincere “thankyou” to everyone who has made this possible.

As mentioned previously, it means that DWT is able to start the restoration work this summer (subject to planning), which is something we could only dream of a couple of months back.
More money is obviously going to be needed to finish the job, so please do not hold back if you would like to make a donation to the fund, either via the Crowdfunder or directly to DWT.
or, call Lisa Witham (during office hours) at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust on 01773 881188.


Just a reminder that the Aqueduct Cottage Photo Exhibition is still on display at the Wirksworth Heritage Centre.
The best of the photos from the previous exhibitions are on display in the upstairs workshop of the Centre. There is also a shop and nice café , so irrespective of the weather , its worth a trip.
Website :



The National Lottery Heritage Fund has confirmed a large contribution towards the Aqueduct Cottage Restoration fund.

The precise amount has yet to be confirmed but it is known to be sufficient to cover the majority of the building material costs.
This is absolutely brilliant news and marks a significant milestone in the cottage restoration project.
It also means that there is now sufficient funding (when added to the proceeds from the Buy a Brick campaign) to make a start on the restoration work, once planning consent is obtained, expected end June 2019.
Whilst more funding still needs to be found to complete the structural building work (rough estimate £30K), making a start on the work this summer will enable DWT to meet it’s goal to get the cottage restoration completed by Spring/Summer 2020. This means the newly restored cottage will be open to the public in time for the bicentenary celebrations of the birth of Florence Nightingale.

The Buy a Brick campaign still has 5 more days left to run, so if you have not bought your brick yet and would like to have a stake in this exciting restoration go to:
or, call Lisa Witham (during office hours) at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust on 01773 881188 to make a direct donation.
Step by step, we are getting there! 🙂