As we prepare for the opening of Mrs Smith’s Cottage our website is having a revamp, therefore please follow us on social media to keep up to date with what we are doing or alternatively check out the Heart of Lincs website:

Our long term projects are still open such as the Community Rag Rug project and the House Stories Project.

The House Stories Project is where people from Navenby complete a form that tells us all about their house, this information is then made into a label which is then displayed, either in their window or on their fence. This information is then put onto a map of Navenby and visitors would then follow the map to find the labels and learn about the history of the village and the houses within it. If you would like to get involved all you need to do is download the form, fill it out and send it back to: [email protected]

You can download the form via the link: Local House-Stories proposal form

We would appreciate it if you could take a few moments to evaluate your experience of our digital content. Please click on the link below and give us your feedback so we can improve how we deliver our digital content to you. Thank you!

Mrs Smith’s Cottage in Navenby is a rare time capsule into a bygone era. The Cottage was never designed to stay standing for so long and its largely unaltered state and long-term resident, the eponymous Mrs Smith, together provide a compelling attraction of how people used to live.

Due to structural issues with the Cottage, the museum was closed to visitors and work has been undertaken to reopen it. This resulted in a successful Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) bid in 2016 to ‘Rescue Mrs Smith’s Cottage’, which established the issues with the Cottage and how to resolve these. A submission for the second stage funding was approved by HLF in September 2018, allowing the works to take place. Work has been progressing and the scaffolding that surrounded the cottage was removed in February 2020.

This website provides information about key aspects of the project and how to get involved in the project. We are keen to engage with people who knew Mrs Smith so that we can relaunch the Cottage as a visitor attraction telling new stories.

Below is a brief history of the Cottage and Mrs Smith, information about the project, its partners and how you can become involved and find out more.

Mrs Smith

Hilda Craven was born in Navenby in 28th October 1892. She was orphaned at an early age and brought up in Navenby by her adoptive mother Mary Barrand.

Hilda left school in May 1906, when she was just 13 ½ years old. Her first job was as a ‘day girl’ for Mr Dawson the butcher on the corner of Church Lane, Navenby.

In 1910, when the Methodist minister and his family left the village, she took the opportunity to widen her horizons and went with them to Snaith in Yorkshire. Show more “Mrs Smith”

Mrs Smith in 1927
Mrs Smith in 1927

In 1926 Hilda returned to live in Navenby to care for her elderly mother. In later years Hilda found employment with the Holmes family in Navenby where she kept the books for their joinery and funeral business.

Hilda always called her cottage ‘Craven Cottage’. In 1922, Hilda bough the Cottage for the first time using money from a legacy. It cost her £75 plus legal fees. In 1926 she sold the house to her employer Tom Smith, for £95. In this year the new Methodist Church was built-in Navenby and it is thought that she needed to raise money towards the new building. Interestingly in 1937 Hilda bought the Cottage for the second time, paying just £95. Hilda had now taken up permanent residence in Craven Cottage.

In 1956 Joseph Smith, a widower and Methodist lay preacher and Hilda married. Hilda was 64 years old and Joseph 73. For their honeymoon they spent a week near Matlock in Derbyshire.

Mrs SmithDuring the years of her marriage, a number of improvements were made to the Cottage, including redecoration and new furniture. Sadly, after four years Joseph died in 1960 leaving Hilda once again on her own. She kept busy in her garden and with involvement in village activities.

She lived in the Cottage until just after her 102 birthday when she became too frail to return after a fall. She died in May 1995 at the Holmleigh Retirement Home in Navenby.

The Project

Our project will bring Mrs Smith’s Cottage back into use as a popular heritage attraction. Minimal alterations to the Cottage since its construction in the 1830s means most original features remain intact. The museum was closed in 2012 when serious structural issues and deterioration of the building became apparent. Our project includes urgent repairs and conservation work, reinterpretation of the site, a new learning programme and range of events and activities; restoring the Cottage to its place at the heart of the local community and ensuring its vital contribution to the visitor economy, whilst providing an enjoyable, engaging visitor experience.

Show more “The Project”

Stage 1 – the development phase commenced in September 2016 and included a number of background documents to shape the project:

  • Audience development plan – who are the key audiences we should engage with and how to we attract them
  • Learning Plan – a comprehensive plan of the learning activities we should seek to develop, specifically focussed on learning and education
  • Activity plan – a wider plan looking at activities in and around the Cottage and how people from further away could benefit
  • Interpretation plan – the project is a great opportunity to reinterpret the Cottage and make it into a modern visitor attraction
  • Governance review – how we should run the Cottage

Following the submission of these documents and a whole raft of information to Heritage Lottery Fund, we were successful in receiving the go ahead to undertake the works.

This will involve the following:

  • Essential structural repairs to the building.  Urgent repairs and conservation work to the Cottage including repairs to the roof.
  • Creation of an appropriate museum environment.
  • Developing resources to improve access to the site and collections.
  • Working with the University of Lincoln to conserve, interpret and reproduce the decorative scheme of the Cottage.
  • Reinterpretation of the Cottage, Garden and Visitor Centre.
  • Recruit, develop and support a team of new and existing volunteers.
  • An outreach programme including learning activities and reminiscence sessions.
  • Improve engagement with the Cottage through marketing, promotion and use of social media.

We are aiming to reopen the cottage in the Summer of 2020 but there will be opportunities to get involved in the project sooner. We hope work on site will commence in early 2019 and once we have a more finalised timeline we will hold an event in Navenby to make people aware of what will be happening, when and how to get involved.

North Kesteven District Council Heritage Fund Lincoln Conservation

Volunteer opportunities

If you are looking for an exciting volunteering role then we may have the perfect opportunity for you!

We have a number of volunteer roles that we would like to fill before we open to the public. from collections care and archiving to gardening and maintenance we are looking for enthusiastic people who can volunteer for as many (or as few) hours as you can spare.

To express an interest in volunteering please contact us using our Volunteering Contact Form:


Mrs Smith’s Cottage Garden

As part of the NK Digital Garden Weekend we filmed a short tour of our cottage garden!

We still have a lot of work to do but we are making progress.

Dealing with loneliness; A guide from the experiences of Mrs Smith.

Even when she received multiple visitors most days Mrs Smith often felt lonely.  We know this from letters she wrote, and things said to her very closest friends. These feelings would occur in the evenings when her last visitors had left and she spent another evening by the fire with her TV for company, or worse when she had no visitors at all that day.

Loneliness is a very common feeling, and everyone will experience it at points in their life. The elderly, single parents, people with disabilities, and those who have recently moved to new communities (possibly far away from their old homes) are particularly vulnerable to these feelings which, without support, can lead to depression or anxiety.

Here are some ways you can help those dealing with loneliness, or help yourself if you are experiencing similar feelings:

Show more “Dealing with loneliness; A guide from the experiences of Mrs Smith.”

Join the Age UK Befriending Service [Link Here]

Mrs Smith made sure to befriend newcomers to the village and helped to keep people in the community together through a variety of social clubs.

Write a diary.

Mrs Smith would always keep her diary up to date, creating a document which has given us so much information about everyday life. While Mrs Smith’s diary has little in the way of personal or emotional content, writing down how you are feeling can help you to clear your mind. It can also feel like you have shared a problem with someone else.

Spend some time outdoors.

Mrs Smith could often be found in her garden always ready for a chat over the hedge. Pottering in the garden or going for a walk to a green space is a great way to feel connected to others, or the natural world.

Write to friends and neighbours.

Mrs Smith would write letters to friends she couldn’t visit and reading a letter or long email from a friend helps you to feel connected. A postcard would be a great way to introduce yourself to your neighbours, or you find a penpal/letter writing group online.

Phone people.

Don’t be afraid of ringing people up Mrs Smith certainly wouldn’t have been (not that she had a phone at home, but she would drop in on friends whenever she fancied). Call them online or using an actual phone! Pick a time, have coffee and cake together. Make space in your diary to do the things you would usually do, but from home.

Find an internet forum, or group.

Mrs Smith regularly attend Womens Own meetings, as well as the Darby and Joan Club, which connected her with people who had similar interest or are in similar situations. You can find groups like this online, facebook groups are a great place to start and there some fantastic apps which can connect you to like minded people.


Volunteering is a great way to meet new people and volunteers are a valued part of many museum teams. Even while we are closed we are still accepting volunteer applications, looking to them for support with our online projects and to spring into action as we reopen.

For more advice or support here are some useful resources:

Mind – they have some wonderful resources to support people who are struggling with the negative effects of loneliness.

The Campaign To End Loneliness – resources which explore what loneliness means and who is impacted, with great links to help you find support or to make a difference in your community.

Eden Project Communities – a really empowering site which provides a wide range of resources to help you take action within your community.

Age UK – full of useful resources and links to support services for older people experiencing loneliness, they are also home to the befriending service which is making a difference to the quality of life of many older people.

British Red Cross – they have a useful page, where you can find out how to access support from them for yourself or someone in your community.

National Lottery Community Fund – this site has some great reading about loneliness and the impact of community action, a great way to get inspired with link to resources which will help you to start something in your community.

Partnership NK – an initiative run by North Kesteven District Council to provide people in their communities with the support they need.


Also some great projects to inspire you:

Mrs Smith in 12 Objects

To help visitors understand the character and story of Mrs Smith’s life, we want to select 12 objects which represent her best. We have asked lots of people who knew her to nominate objects and dug through the collection to find those objects that reveal how Mrs Smith lived throughout the year. These will be on display in the Visitor Centre when we reopen spanning the 12 months of the year.

We need your help to select the last object for the month of May.

Vote here for the item you think we should use to represent May

Object 1: Polish and Brushes

Mrs Smith was very house proud, her diaries provides with a record of each bit of cleaning and mending she did. When she got older she got help from friends and a series of Home Help carers. Margaret remember that ‘Every Friday the brasses all had to be cleaned. It was like a ritual.’ What also tells us a lot about Mrs Smith is that she used her old toothbrushes to clean the awkward bits; getting the last bit of use from something that has already served its purpose.





Object 2: Roll of Wallpaper

Mrs Smith was keen to present her home and wasn’t afraid of new styles and fashions, as this striking wallpaper shows us. We still have receipts she kept for decorating work she had done and the renovation. This roll seems to be left over from decorating a room and she probably kept it to line the shelves of her pantry or cupboards; something she did every spring.



Object 3: Glove

This sheepskin glove started life as a smart item that Mrs Smith would have worn out to Chapel in the winter. It appears to have ended its life as the glove she used to grasp the poker for her range. She kept her range burning all through the year providing her with heat, hot water, and a means of cooking.




Vote here for the item you think we should use to represent May



Upcoming  Events:

Heritage Fund


We have postponed our summer events program, however we are working hard to deliver a range of digital events. Allowing us to share the story of Mrs Smith’s Cottage with you from the safety of your own home, and hopefully inspiring you to get creative and continue learning through this difficult time.


For more information please check our social media, come back to our website, or sign up for our digital newsletter using the contact form.


We look forward to sharing our progress with you.


Take a moment to visit the Museum of Kindness, made entirely with thoughtful contributions from Tees Valley pupils ➡

Do you have jam or cream first? @heartoflincs @HeritageFundM_E #MrsSmithsCottage #Navenby #Lincolnshire #AfternoonTea #SocialDistancing #cream #jam

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If you would like to find out more about the project, please contact:

Emma Clark
Visitor Economy Project and Funding Officer
01529 308207
[email protected]