Tucked away in a quiet corner of rural Derbyshire, a rich and fascinating history is unfolding as Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s Aqueduct Cottage, a 19th century lock-keeper’s situated on the banks of the Cromford Canal reaches another milestone in its restoration with the addition of a new roof.
Built in 1802, the cottage has withstood two world wars and two pandemics – this month the much-loved cottage moves an important step closer to completion. Despite delays caused by the Covid lockdowns, the restoration team has made good progress and they are optimistic the cottage will be open to the public later this year.
The cottage will be an important gateway to Lea Wood Nature Reserve and the wider Derwent landscape. As well as the restoration work on the cottage, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust together with dedicated volunteers are working on access improvements to the Lea Wood Nature Reserve, immediately behind the cottage.
Rebuilding the cottage roof has proved to be one of the project’s biggest challenges. Due to the remoteness of the location, the large roof timbers had to be transported to the cottage in the same manner as the original timbers over two hundred years, along the canal from Cromford Wharf to Lea Wood Pump House.
Local joiner, PT Joinery Services, started work on the timber roof frame in November 2020 by fitting the first rafters, however construction was delayed to allow for additional support to be provided to the front wall before the heavy roof structure was built. The stone tiles on the front section of the roof weigh over 4 tonnes.
Steel RSJ’s were fitted and the first floor, which had been missing for 40 years, was installed and bolted to the walls. The new floor also transformed the look of the cottage, creating rooms downstairs and upstairs, and it enabled the project to move onto the building of the new roof with more ease.
Project Architect, James Boon commented:
“Plans for the cottage needed to meet the brief from Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and include an open-plan activity room on the first floor. In order to create a light, workable space the design included two windows overlooking the canal at the front, and 4 roof lights to the rear providing lots of natural light. The oak floor and large exposed beams will create a stunning character-filled room.”
In January this year, work restarted on the construction of the roof frame. The design consisted of a central truss and 4 purlins each of which consisted of 3 large beams bolted together. The individual beams are 5 metres long and weigh around 70 kilos.
The composite design was a practical solution to enable the heavier sections of the roof frame to be cut and assembled on site.
In February, a team of volunteers transported the tonnes of roof tiles along the canal towpath to the cottage. Restoration specialist Andrew Churchman Ltd then took over the next stage of construction.
The chimneys were rebuilt, using lime mortar and reclaimed bricks to match the originals, the heritage Velux windows were installed and the challenging tasks of tiling commenced.
In keeping with the original cottage, the rear section of the roof will have slate tiles, and the front will be adorned with stone tiles with the traditional reducing courses to the ridge. The goal is to complete the roof and have a “topping out” ceremony in the coming months.
Ron Common, who is a Derbyshire Wildlife Trust volunteer helping to co-ordinate the restoration project, commented:
“This stage of the restoration has been long-awaited and is one of the most exciting. It’s been a long road to get to this point and although the lockdowns have created additional challenges, to see our craftsmen builders working on the roof is a fantastic achievement.
Aqueduct Cottage is totally unique and a key piece of Derbyshire’s canal heritage. To see it restored will not only enhance the aesthetics of the local landscape, but it will also give visitors an opportunity to learn about the region’s colourful history and create an enticing gateway to Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s beautiful Lea Wood Nature Reserve.
We look forward to the completion of the restoration project later this year, and thank all of our volunteers, suppliers and members of the public for their on-going support and commitment to creating a new future for Aqueduct Cottage.”
Find out more at www.derbyshirewildlifetrust.org.uk