Saving the “fairytale” cottage

Illustration by T.G. Tunnicliffe from “Our village” by Alison Uttley (available from Scarthin Books, Cromford).

Welcome to Aqueduct Cottage and the (still-unfolding) story of the mission to restore this much-loved heritage building on the banks of the Cromford Canal.

The story began in 2013, when the Heritage Lottery-funded, DerwentWISE programme, hosted by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, identified Aqueduct Cottage as one of it’s landscape improvement projects. The project scope was to undertake a condition survey and produce a “Restoration Options” report for DWT.

In 2016,  I joined as a “Cultural Heritage Volunteer” (impressive title but a total novice) and was asked to review the options identified in the report and produce a business case for the cottage’s restoration.

What followed was a journey of discovery about the cottage’s fascinating history and it’s occupants that evolved into a passion to see it restored.

The combination of  the cottage’s important historical roots , it’s idyllic setting at the edge of Lea Wood along the Cromford Canal, and a social history insight over a century from the people who lived there, underpins the case for this heritage gem to be saved.

If we are successful, it will not only be a wonderful DerwentWISE legacy, but also a new and unique visitor attraction within the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage site.

The inspiration for the restoration is mainly thanks to the support and encouragement from many wonderful people and organisations including:  (apologies if I ‘ve missed anyone)

  • The brilliant DerwentWISE team for their empowerment,  direction and support, esp. Rachel Costigan, Tania Pells and Annie Bird,
  • Members of the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust team at Middleton, esp. Kate Lemon, Fergus MaCarthur, Dave Savage, Lisa Witham & Alex Morley, for their commitment to the project despite their busy schedules,
  • The advice and guidance of fellow volunteers on the DWT Cottage Restoration Steering Group  – James Boon (James Boon Architects) , Liz Stoppard (Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust), Ian Hooker (Lea Dethick, Holloway Parish Council) , Rick Jillings (Derbyshire County Council),
  • The various people /organisations who help / promote the project including: Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust, Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site,  Cromford Mills, Birdswood (Vix Wilding) , Andrew Churchman Limited, The Homesford Tea Rooms, Derbyshire & Proud, The Jug & Glass, Sarah Parkin (Artist),  ErewashSound (Bob Staveley), The Wirksworth Heritage Centre,
  • The Friends of Cromford Canal for the many archive photos plus background on the cottage, and generous donation
  • The wonderful volunteers from the Friends of Aqueduct Cottage Facebook group and DerwenWISE, for the historical research, creating the window paintings, the hours of hard work on site, plus sharing of anecdotes and photos on the FB page,
  • The families with connections to the cottage who have been willing to share their fascinating stories, with special mention to Fay Bark and her donation of delightful sketches,
  • The Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust and James Boon Architects for their superb professional support, in partnership with DWT, on the planning process,
  • The National Lottery Heritage Fund
  • All the kind people who have made financial donations to the restoration fund either via the Crowdfunder Buy a Brick campaign or directly to DWT,
  • Last, but not least, my wonderful wife, for her patience and support.

At the time of writing, we are waiting for planning consent (expected June/July 2019) and once approved, contractors will be appointed to start the restoration work.

Enough money has been raised to buy materials and get the work started, thanks to the Buy a Brick campaign and other generous donations, but more funds are needed (approx £30K) to finish the job.

If the money can be found in time, and subject to planning consent, the goal is to have a fully restored cottage by Spring/Summer 2020, in line with the bicentenary celebrations of the birth of Florence Nightingale.

I  hope that, as you learn about the story of the cottage and the mission to save it, you will be intrigued enough to make a visit.

If you do, then don’t be surprised if you feel a certain magic about the place. You wouldn’t be the first!

And, if you’d like to be part of the story, there’s still time to  “buy a brick”   (just click the Donate button).

Here’s looking forward to the next chapter…