A unique window onto the past, the historic Navenby cottage retains the charms of its long-association with Hilda Smith and provides a fascinating insight into traditional domestic life in Lincolnshire.
Closed in 2013 when significant structural issues were identified, through majority-funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and input from North Kesteven District Council and partners, opportunities to re-think the visitor
experience and make it more relevant, interactive and engaging have been maximised.
A four-year programme of works concluded in 2020, with tentative re-opening to appreciative visitors over the summer as Covid-restrictions. This year a full opening and events programme has been possible, leading to garden parties for
both the community and engaged stakeholders to officially mark the re-opening. In total 200 people attended over the two events.
Cutting the ribbon on the brown-painted door with past-chairman of the Friends of Mrs Smith’s Cottage Malcolm Smith, North Kesteven Council Leader Coun Richard Wright said: “From when we had to lock the place up eight years ago and faced an enormous financial and logistical challenge, this day has been a long-time coming.”
“We are enormously grateful to everyone involved in bringing us to this point, not least the National Heritage Lottery Fund without whom we could not have completed the project, to the University of Lincoln conservation unit for help in
preserving distinct heritage assets, and Lindum Group for their attention to detail in fixing up the most inefficient house they will probably ever complete.
“Equally, none of this could have been done without the significant input our creative and dedicated colleagues and the team of 26 volunteers who’ve worked tirelessly in bringing the building back to life. The volunteers deservedly won the 2020 NK Community Champion Award for their extensive endeavours in championing culture through their ongoing contribution and engagement.”
Coun Wright commented: “In initially taking on Mrs Smith’s Cottage, the chance to preserve it and the heritage it represents was something the council very much wanted to do, and as we embark on this new chapter we remain doubly committed to championing the sustainable, low-impact and environmentally-conscious mind-set and activities Mrs Smith’s lifestyle reflects.”
While the principal aims of the project were to make the 19th century simply-built cottage structurally safe, a core element has been in widening opportunities for it to contribute to community life locally, present learning opportunities, skills development and draw out fresh thinking and educational offers for all ages and abilities.
Liz Bates, regional head of investments for the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “It’s wonderful after all this time to have the cottage open, welcoming visitors from a wide area and contributing to community life. There’s something distinct about the cottage and the life of Mrs Smith that really embodies the character of Lincolnshire and a frugal resourcefulness that is just as relevant today as it was for her.
“It’s not just the preservation of the bricks and mortar that we are invested in but the way in which the project has engaged communities and drawn out a broader response and appreciation of a lifestyle that is both within reach of many people’s memory and beyond the comprehension of many others.”
Without a fridge, cooker, washing machine or running hot water, Hilda Smith lived an active and contented life in her basic two-up, two-down cottage, through to 1995 and climbing a ladder to bed, aged 102. It presents a real ‘time capsule’ into a life that remained humble and traditional despite many changes in the outside world.
A new visitor centre, shop and enhanced interpretation complement a unique experience. Open 12pm to 4pm every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Booking, information and a virtual tour at www.mrssmithscottage.com