August 2019 Update: Introducing our team…

L to R Nicki Jarvis, Sally Bird, Michelle Tasker, Emma Clark

North Kesteven District Council have been successful in securing Stage 2 Heritage Lottery Funding! This means that work will be commencing shortly and will run throughout the rest of  2019.

Our Artist in Residence Nicki Jarvis has now started working on the project, come along to meet her and have a chat at The Cliff Carnival on September 21st at The Venue, Navenby.

Keep a look out on this page, our Instagram and Twitter feeds and the council media feeds to learn more as the project moves forward. We are hoping to get people involved in the project as it is delivered so will publicise opportunities as they arise.

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 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.

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 late 2019 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:


September 2019 Update

Here at Mrs Smith’s Cottage we are preparing for a very busy month!

We are very excited to announce that after a lengthy process of planning and preparation the renovation works will be starting at Mrs Smith’s Cottage. The roof works will commence on the 9th of September 2019. This is the first of our three schemes of building work which will see repairs done to the roof and the structure of the building allowing the removal of scaffolding.

The initial phase of repairs will be followed by work to the cottage interior and to 3 Blacksmith Mews (3BSM), allowing us to expand our visitor offer with new exhibition and learning spaces. All building work is expected to be completed by the end of December 2019.

From December we will be busy recruiting volunteers, working on interpreting the cottage and setting up a learning programme. So that by the time we are fully open in the summer of 2020 we can provide visitors with an enjoyable experience, sharing our passion for the cottage and the stories told through Mrs Smith’s life.

In the mean time we will be running a range of event days at the cottage and popping at larger events in the area. Keep up to date through the event section of our website or on twitter!

If you want to find out more, and meet the team, our Heritage Open Days events are a great way to connect with the project. We will be running Hard Hat tours from 12 to 3pm on the 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th of September. To book a place either call 01522 811 469 or email [email protected] . Along side this Nicki Jarvis, our artist in residence, will  be running drop in craft activities at the cottage from 12 to 4pm on Saturday the 14th and Sunday the 15th of September.

Radio Lincolnshire’s Melvyn Prior drops in to meet Nicki and Sally.

Melvyn Prior host of Radio Lincolnshire’s ‘Melvyn in the morning’ called in to see us recently to meet our newly appointed Artist in Residence Nicki Jarvis and project support officer Sally Bird. Please click here to listen to the show. The interview with Nicki and Sally starts at 1:43:50

Artist Nicki Jarvis wins Mrs Smith’s Cottage Residency

Design NationDesign-Nation member Nicki Jarvis has been selected by North Kesteven District Council (NKDC) as artist in residency at the historic Mrs Smith’s Cottage in Navenby. Nicki started work last month and will continue on the project until June 2021. The Cottage is owned by NKDC and was operated as a visitor attraction by them for a number of years until remedial building work required its closure. Now, with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Council is undertaking major renovation work as well as developing a new visitor centre and garden in an adjacent property.

Nicki says, “I am completely thrilled to have been selected. The house is a really interesting traditional Lincolnshire cottage, special because Mrs Hilda Smith (who lived until she was 102) maintained a very traditional lifestyle there. Mrs Smith kept a daily diary and so we can ‘hear’ a personal narrative of her daily life at the same time as experiencing the frugal yet wholesome world she made for herself.”

As Artist in Residence Nicki Jarvis will make connections between Mrs Smith, the Cottage and her lifestyle that are relevant for the present day. Over the next two years she will work on a range of community projects with local people, including the creation of a Village Trail, and culminating in the production of a series of permanent artworks for the property. She says, “In addition to formal craft-making sessions and special events at the Cottage and beyond, I will be simply present in the community getting on with domestic tasks such as mending and embroidery.”

Emma Clark, NKDC’s Visitor Economy Project and Funding Officer, congratulated Nicki on winning this commission. She says “The NKDC project team are mindful of the opportunity to celebrate and promote sustainability, as practiced by Mrs Smith, and we will be looking for lots of ways to build this in to the future development of the Cottage as a visitor attraction.”

Nicki Jarvis has been a member of Design-Nation’s portfolio of contemporary craft and design practitioners since early 2018. Programme Manager Hayley Banks says, “We are delighted that Nicki Jarvis will be ‘in residence’ at Navenby. This project is an excellent example of how Design-Nation’s contemporary makers are equiped with the skills and knowledge to celebrate tradition and heritage, developing new exciting work and events for the 21st century. We look forward to seeing how Nicki brings Mrs Smith’s story to life over the next two years.”


2019 Events:

Heritage Open Days – Hard Hat Tours

14th and 15th of September – Call in to see us between 12noon and 4pm to enjoy some free craft activities for adults and children and meet our artist in residence Nicki Jarvis.

‘Hard Hat Tours’ of the cottage taking place from 12noon till 3pm. See below for booking details.

17th and 18th of September – ‘Hard Hat Tours’ of the cottage taking place from 12noon till 3pm. See below for booking details.

Please ring Emma on 01529 308207 or Sally on 01522 811469 to book onto one of our ‘Hard Hat Tours’ of the cottage which are being run on the hour between 12noon and 3pm.


 Cliff Villages Carnival

21st of September – We are bringing Mrs Smith’s Cottage garden to The Venue in Navenby as part of the Cliff Villages Carnival, join us to sow a seed for the garden, meet our Artist in residence Nicki Jarvis or simply chat to us about the project.

We are planning many more events for 2019 and 2020, we will publish these on here and our Twitter feed which is shown below.

Looking for a way to fill your Sunday? then look no further! We're running a #free craft activity 12-4 @JarvisNicki will also be available if you just fancy a chat about the plans for her residency at the cottage. #sewing #lavenderbags @heartoflincs @NorthKestevenDC @LincsLive

Drop-in for a chat or to make lavender bags from 12 until 4 with @JarvisNicki our artist in residence. A chance to learn more about our @HeritageFundM_E project and enjoy a @heritageopenday event.

This week in 1951 Mrs Smith
"Cleaned thro' at home then helped to scrub the Chapel"
Following in her footsteps we have been scrubbing out our visitor centre ready for our @heritageopendays this weekend
Pop in and have a go at making a lavender bag with @JarvisNicki 12-4pm


Preparing for our @heritageopenday events. The visitor center is clean and ready for our drop-in craft sessions. 12 to 4 on the 14th and 15th of September. #cleaningday #crafts @HeritageLincs @HeritageFundM_E

It's a busy Monday here today with our building works starting with @stoneedgeuk and @HeritageLincs @heritageopenday planning with @JarvisNicki #getthekettleon

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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]