The Final Leg
Witnessing the installation of the new window frames in the cottage, back in June 2021 was a high point in the project. To my mind, this was the actual moment we “saved” Aqueduct Cottage. The building was watertight, safe and secure. I believe we also achieved a good likeness to the original cottage too.
However, few would be aware that it was also the moment when the project temporarily ran out of money. Covid and unexpected technical issues with the building increased costs which meant DWT needed to raise more funds to finish the interior.
Once again, we reached out to the Friends of Aqueduct Cottage community. DWT needed to raise £2000 matched funding for a £20,000 grant application to the Tarmac Landfill Communities Fund.
We had a brilliant response to the Crowdfunder campaign which raised £2600 pounds within a fortnight! This allowed DWT to submit their application and at the end of September 2021, Tarmac confirmed that it had been successful! We could now press on with the final leg of the restoration.
September was also the month we started planting the north garden, at the cottage. Rosie Stewart, one of our volunteer team, designed the planting scheme which was approved by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. All the plants were donated by members of the public, some of whom helped out with the planting.
As some were having fun in the garden, other volunteers received training on lime-motoring from Andy Lawson of Limecraft. This enabled us to tackle the pointing of the walls in the activity room.
Originally, we had intended to plaster these walls, but having raked out the old mortar, we notice how attractive the original stonework was and decided to leave it un-plastered.
The revised plan is to point and paint three walls (to lighten the room) and leave one wall unpainted as a feature wall, to show the colour of the original stone.
Using the skills learned, our volunteers also took on the re-building of the wash house (the small outbuilding next to the cottage). Over the winter, the team made great progress in both areas.
Also in September 2021, two (of the original 4) volunteer artists, who produced the paintings for the cottage in 2017, Ruth Gray and Mandy Ahlfors, organised an Artist’s painting day. It was a fun re-union and Ruth (on the right in the photo) hopes to organise another plein-air painting event in the Summer.
The paintings were put into their original positions during the event to get a photo -
November brought the snow which provided an ideal opportunity to photograph the cottage, with its refurbished exterior, in a winter scene. We hope to use the best of the photos as prints for Christmas cards later in the year.
On the 8th of December, 2021, the “ Friends of Aqueduct Cottage” Facebook group reached its 5th anniversary. The page was originally set up in response to the many visitors we had asking about the cottage as we were clearing the trees, back in November 2016.
Today, there are over 3400 members following the project from 40 countries around the world. The community has raised over £28,000 pounds towards the restoration and there have been numerous donations of materials, services, and expertise thanks to the reach of the FB page.
Skipping forward to January 2022, the 1921 Census was published. (Records from 100 years ago are published every 10 years).
The Census confirmed that Ann Eaton and members of her family were still living at the cottage in 1921. We now have the Census records of the cottage’s occupants from 1851 to 1921. We also know, from the 1946 sale particulars of the cottage, that the Eaton family we're still tenants in 1946.
Recently, I received a letter from one of the family descendants who confirmed that Selena Eaton and her new husband moved into the cottage with her parents, Anne and Joseph Eaton, in 1883.
We still need to confirm the occupants between 1921 and 1936, but the indications are that the Eaton family lived there for over 60 years, the longest of any family during the cottage’s 170 occupancy.
It's sometime said that Aqueduct Cottage is the most photographed building on the Cromford Canal. Many have painted it too and it was great to see the latest of these from Mike Kelly. It was posted on the FoAC Facebook page at the end of January 2022.
Mike’s brilliant creation (and the many others I ‘ve come across) are a testament to the artistic appeal of the cottage.
Also, in January we had an attractive Victorian fire grate donated for the cottage. Although in need of a slight repair, this has now been done by one of our volunteers and we look forward to installing it in the parlour when the floor repairs are completed.
We are currently looking for a cast iron range for the kitchen fireplace. The intention is to fit a working range which can be used in the colder months, once the cottage is opened. We have a description of the original range from Fay Bark, who lived at the cottage in the 1950s.
The work in progress during February 2022, included obtaining quotes for the supply and installation of the staircase, plus repairing the parlour floor using stone flags which have been donated. The repairs involve filling holes created by tree root damage.
We are also in discussion with John Barker regarding the installation of new handrails on the concrete footbridge, next to the cottage. I would be interested to know if anyone can remember when they were last there!
Work has also started on landscaping the front yard which will have a mixture of York stone pavers and gravel. In April, we hope to plaster the ground floor walls, and then paint throughout.
Some big jobs still remain, such as the pointing of the outside walls and re-building of the lean-to pantry, but these are all scheduled to take place during late Spring.
We have a busy few months ahead but, with a bit of luck, we will manage to get them all done to enable DWT to open the cottage to the public by the end of July/early August. Fingers crossed!