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  • Writer's pictureRon Common

The Crowning Glory

(Click on photos to enlarge)

As milestone moments go on the Aqueduct Cottage restoration project, the first week of April 2021 takes some beating.

The anticipation had been building during March as Andrew Churchman progressed the tiling of the cottage’s new roof; first the rear elevation with reclaimed Welsh slate and 4 Velux “heritage” rooflights. Then, the painstaking process of tiling the front roof with reducing courses of Derbyshire Freebirch stone tiles.

(The different tiles used match the original roof. We believe that the introduction of Welsh slate on the rear probably came about when the cottage was extended, between 1811 and 1835. Its likely that the stone tiles from the rear of the original cottage were transferred to the front of the new extension to provide a match, then slate used to cover the rear).

Photo courtesy of Andrew Woodward)

We watched in fascination as Andrew skilfully laid out, then measured and trimmed the individual rows of tiles prior to hoisting them up the scaffolding and drilling and pegging each into place.

(Photo courtesy of Becky Coleman)

The largest stone tiles measure 4’ x3’ and weigh over 60 kilos. The smallest are the size of an average paperback book.

(Photo, below, courtesy Beck Coleman)

Finally, on 8th April 2021, the stone ridges were added to complete the roof construction.

What a relief and utter joy it was to view the cottage with its new roof and marvel at the building looking complete again, plus watertight for the first time in 40 years!

The twin chimney stacks, built with reclaimed bricks to match the originals, and the textured, multi-coloured stone tiles looked resplendent in the Spring sunshine.

(Photo courtesy Becky Coleman)

The top half of the newly built gable ends have been pointed and they provide a tantalising glimpse of how the building will look when the rest of the external walls are done. This will have to wait several months, however, because after decades with no roof, the original stonework has become saturated. Hence a decision has been taken to remove the scaffolding at the end of May to allow other work to continue. It will be re-hired when we are ready to complete the pointing.

At the time of writing the guttering is being installed by our volunteer team. The material being fitted is “Alutech” manufactured by Marley. It’s a powder-coated aluminium formed to look like cast iron. Its lighter so easier to fit and should be lower maintenance. Marley has kindly donated all the guttering materials saving the project hundreds of pounds.

Other important work has been undertaking by our volunteers recently. The most significant of these is the completion of the new access into Lea Wood, just behind the cottage.

This herculean task began 17 months ago in November 2019 but was delayed several months by the pandemic.

A total of 47 steps plus several landings (one every 8 steps) have been built up the steep bank replacing the treacherous route used previously. Digging into the 40’ rocky bank was all done by hand by the volunteers and the tons of soil and rocks removed separately bagged and carried down the steps for disposal.

Timber posts for a continuous handrail are currently being installed which will further improve the safety of the new steps.

Completion of the new steps is a massive achievement by our volunteers for which they deserve a huge pat on the back.

The steps will provide improved access to the Nature Reserve for new visitors for many years to come plus a safer, more convenient path for the many locals who use the woods daily. They look rather attractive from the towpath too!

Looking ahead to next month, another exciting development should have taken place – the installation of the new windows and front door (expected early June).

Once fitted, the front of the building will be close to finished, except the pointing. Even without this, it promises to look absolutely stunning and place Aqueduct Cottage firmly back on the map!

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David Pidcock
David Pidcock
May 28, 2021

Called by this cottage yesterday,was very impressed by the work being done by the volunteers. Enjoyed talking to them ad learned a few things I didn't know about the history of the place. I've seen the cottage in various stages over the the last 76 years. It's so nice to see it being brought back to life, My father absolutely loved the canal (he even fished it on the day he got married) so he would have been over the moon to see the work. Good job, keep up the good work.

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