Go-ahead for visitor centre for Mrs Smith’s Cottage visitor centre in Navenby

Mrs Smith's Cottage in Navenby, to get new visitor centre. EMN-180315-112021001
Mrs Smith's Cottage in Navenby, to get new visitor centre. EMN-180315-112021001

Councillors have enthusiastically given the go-ahead to plans to turn a house into a visitor centre for a village heritage attraction.

Members of North Kesteven District Council’s Planning Sub-Committee approved proposals for the centre at 3 Blacksmith Mews in Navenby, with 17 voting in favour and just two abstaining.

The property neighbours Mrs Smith’s Cottage, which closed in early 2013 after structural faults were identified.

The cottage is named after Hilda Smith who lived there for seven decades until she died in 1995, aged 102.

It is a preserved example of a simple, early Victorian, Lincolnshire cottage offering a glimpse into a bygone era, with walls only a single brick thick and the only modern innovations an inside toilet, cold water tap and electricity.

North Kesteven District Council successfully applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund, with almost £600,000 being awarded to repair the building in 2016.

The venue should reopen in 2019.

At the meeting in Sleaford on Tuesday, March 13, ward member Coun Marianne Overton spoke in glowing terms about the project.

Coun Overton, a Lincolnshire Independent, said: “This is an extension of the flagship Mrs Smith’s Cottage project which has improved the reputation of the district.

“Parking is limited as the cottage can only take five cars at a time due to its listed status.

“We will need to find long-term solutions for parking in Navenby in the future.”

Fellow Lincolnshire Independent for the Cliff Villages Coun Catherine Mills proposed the motion supporting the plans, pointing to how the closure of the cottage had been felt keenly by both residents and businesses.

Coun Mills said: “The opportunity to purchase Blacksmith Mews will definitely enhance the museum experience.

“I definitely support the proposals.”

Before the vote, committee chairman Coun Pat Woodman told councillors: “I really hope you wouldn’t dream of refusing the application. Mrs Smith’s Cottage is a jewel in our crown.”

North Kesteven District Council will submit Stage 2 of the project to the Heritage Lottery Fund in the spring, which will outline the delivery phase and begin to bring the site to life once more: improving the project’s offering and securing its longevity.

Council Leader, Coun Richard Wright said after the decision: “We are thrilled that we can progress with this project through 2018. The future sustainability of the attraction is at the forefront of the plans to rescue Mrs Smith’s Cottage and reopen it to visitors.

“Heritage Lottery Fund, without whom none of this work would be possible, have remained supportive throughout and are keen to see the project succeed. Our thanks goes out to them.”

New plans now focus on how to make use of the limited space, but interpret a big story. Mrs Smith’s diaries tell more about her day-to-day life, her involvement in the local community and with the local church. Thanks to these, visitors will be able to immerse themselves into the cottage, and fully experience the day-to-day life of Mrs Smith through the people she knew and the possessions she had.

Jeffery Kenyon, NKDC’s Principal Economic Development Officer said: “The district council is keen that people take away something from the experience.

Plans for a dedicated learning space will enable visitors to engage in tasks that Mrs Smith would have done; such as baking, sewing and reading. It will also allow artefacts to be displayed that will further enhance the visitor experience.

“We do hope this hands-on experience will appeal to a wider range of people and encourage school and group visits”.

The project will also place the cottage into the village life of Navenby and encourage visitors to use the services in the village and the attractions around it – highlighting where Mrs Smith shopped and visited.

To follow the progress of the Mrs Smith’s Cottage refurbishment visit www.mrssmithscottage.com