Following the Government Advice on Covid – 19 we are sorry to announce the cancellation of all upcoming events at Mrs Smith’s Cottage. Our project team will be working really hard behind the scenes as restoration work continues. We will soon be announcing new ways to keep involved with Mrs Smith’s Cottage and ongoing projects. Please follow our social media pages on Instagram and Twitter for the latest information. Thank you.

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 Cottage

The Cottage is thought to date from the 1830’s, with the section nearest the road added about ten years later. There is a slight change in the colour and texture of the brickwork between the two phases, which is still noticeable from the front. The large window in The Room (on the right of the building) which protrudes into Mrs Smith’s bedroom, is thought to have been installed to let in as much light as possible. It is likely that this part of the Cottage was once used as a shop or workshop.

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 CouncilNorth Kesteven District Council: NKDC is the lead authority for this project which brings together the expertise from a range of internal services including property, visitor economy and planning. The local District Council ward members, as well as the Councils’ Executive Board, have been supportive of the project.

Heritage FundHeritage Lottery Fund: HLF are the main funder of this project and without the help from those who play the National Lottery we would not be able to receive the support and wealth of knowledge needed in the project.

Friends of Mrs Smith’s Cottage: From the inception of the Project the FoMSC have supported both the effort and the fund-raising and made an early donation of funds. They continue to contribute to the conception of our new marketing programme and the restoration projects to bring the Cottage back to life.

Lincoln ConservationLincoln Conservation: The conservation arm of the University of Lincoln have provided advice and support and are assisting with the conservation and research of the decorative scheme of the Cottage.

Navenby Church of England Primary SchoolNavenby Primary School: Working in partnership with us and our consultants on ways in which we can engage with the local community.

Navenby and Cliff Villages Business NetworkNavenby and Cliff Villages Business Network: They have been supportive of the project and we are working together to find ways to all work for the benefit of the community economically and socially.

Want to know more?

There are various ways that you can keep up to date with the project and/or get involved.

Information about the project is available at:

  • The Mrs Smith’s Cottage noticeboard on the High Street in Navenby near the Coop.
  • This website, which will be developed over coming months
  • Information at the site itself, as we start working on it

In addition, drop in events are held at the Project Office periodically. Information about these will be publicised and we encourage you to come along.

In the News section you will be able to see articles that have appeared in the local media.

You can also become more actively involved by volunteering, opportunities for which will be publicised.

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:


Friday Craft Tutorial

We are delighted to bring you our first Friday craft tutorial led by Nicki Jarvis, our artist in residence. This week she is sharing how she makes the small weekly diaries she uses to record her time spent at the cottage.

This craft has been inspired by Mrs Smith’s diaries. She wrote something in her diary everyday, making a note of what she did throughout each day. Including information about who she spoke to, what she ate, what she watch on TV, and what she planted in the gardens.

Below you can find a video and craft sheet, providing clear instructions to help you make your own diary at home. All you will need is a sheet of A4 paper and some scissors!

Weekly Diary Craft Worksheet

A Video Tutorial





We would love to hear your feedback on our craft tutorials, so that we can keep improving the content we are creating, click here to fill in our survey.

Our first digital exhibition

We welcome you on a tour of Mrs Smith’s kitchen from the comfort of you own home.

Inside Mrs Smith's Cottage: The 'kitchen' with the black range

Using photographs, stories from our oral history collection and quotes from Mrs Smith’s diaries, we want to share with you the warmth, care, and knowledge Mrs Smith would have shared with her visitors. 

Click here to start your tour.

We would love to hear your feedback on our exhibition, so that we can keep improving the content we are creating, click here to fill in our survey.

We are recruiting!

We are seeking someone who is responsible, enthusiastic and has a passion for heritage to join our team to work at Mrs Smith’s Cottage as a part time Heritage Officer.

Closing date for applications 12th March 2020

Please click for more details





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.


Our office cat wants to do a twitter takeover. He had to be moved away from the keys, turns out he cannot type. @heartoflincs #CatsOnTwitter #StayHome #workingfromhome

Our learning officer has spent her daily walk filming for an upcoming project, making sure to keep away from people. Now happy to be at #home and safe. @heartoflincs #WednesdayMotivation #SpringTime #StayHome

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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]