Thursday, 15 September 2011

Heritage Open Days at Cotesbach

Last weekend was the Heritage Open Days weekend. Marea and I did a short stint on Sunday at Cotesbach Educational Trust.

Entrance to the Cotesbach Estate

The project involves the restoration and adaptation of three outbuildings on the Cotesbach Estate. The buildings will provide the setting for activities of the Cotesbach Educational Trust. The Cotesbach Estate is the nucleus of a larger estate, which has been in the ownership of the Marriott family for over 250 years and as a consequence has survived as a remarkable example of architectural and social history. The Trust has a 50 year lease on the buildings which stand in the centre of the Estate.

The 18th century Schoolhouse - the windows are original

The Schoolhouse, separately listed Grade II, is reputedly one of the first of its kind in the country. It was purpose built in the late 18th century, by Rev. Robert Marriott, for the education of the children of Cotesbach and the surrounding villages;

The Stick House, an old milking parlour of a similar date; and the mid Victorian Coach House

The Coach House

All three buildings are located in the curtilage of Cotesbach Hall, which is listed Grade II, Queen Anne, Georgian and Victorian. Together these buildings provide a significant heritage focus for Cotesbach; and an example of very local history, unique to the village but which contributes to a larger national social change.

The project seeks to retain the historic fabric of these ancient buildings; introduce new elements which protect the historic setting and sustain the site and its long term viability

The restored Schoolhouse will accommodate 30 children at a time, whether visiting for a study day or for field studies to support a set of work they might be engaged in at school. The Coach House will include an archive repository viewing space and artefact display case. The Coach House will be extended to provide additional teaching space and to accommodate a café area, selling seasonal produce sourced mainly on the Estate, with opening doors to extend the space into an external seating area. It will include kitchen facilities and be used for cookery demonstrations for up to 15 people. There will be a cloakroom and toilets as well as flexible mixed use space for an arrival point, reception/office, space to form an exhibition and a second teaching area with a kitchen store.

The trust is working towards raising £750,000 to restore the buidings and for funding for the delivery of community based programmes. To date a grant of £570,000 has been secured from the Heritage Lottery Fund along with grants from The Architectural Heritage Fund, The Ernest Cook Trust, Harborough Estate.

The Hall

The Trust has become the guardian of the Marriott family archive, much of which has survived intact at the Hall, a happy consequence of the long term ownership of one family.

Sophy Newton, family member and tour guide

Part of the archive

1874 map of the Cotebach and Shawell Estate drawn on linen.

The earliest document, recording a land transaction in Cotesbach, dates from the time of Henry VI, a Plantagenet (1422-1461) and as such is a gem of local history. The collection covers the 15th to the 20th century and includes deeds and papers relating to the Estate, substantial family correspondence and papers, and important groups of sermons and religious papers (of particular value for the study of Anglican sensibilities and practice in the late 18th and early 19th century.

Our 'reverend' John Denny delivers a 200 year old sermon

The archive will be on permanent loan to the CET and is to be housed in the Coach House which is to be specially converted for archive storage to national standards, with public viewing space.

In addition there are small collections of artefacts, such as a toy collection (late 18th century to the present) which will be made accessible for the CET to use as educational resource material.

Pressing apples for juice - hard work!

Marea and I spent our time greeting and orienting visitors; this was a steep learning curve for us as I've only just joined the Trustees and am still feeling my way.

Merlin Spitfire engine, fired during the open day; very noisy!

We had a good turnout and some visitors came from as far away as Cheshire. What was gratifying, however, was that many visitors were more local and this will halp to spread the word about the project and the Trust throughout Leicestershire.

Cotesbach was also the scene in 1607 of riots against the enclosures - the greatest single crime purpetrated by the 'landowners' against the common people of England.

Reputedly, 5000 people took part - the largest gathering there had ever been. At any rate the situation in Cotesbach prompted a huge gathering which represented the peak of non-violent protest by the peasant community, marking the final episode in a struggle over land which stretched back to medieval times: a week later, the gallows in Leicester having been erected by the so-called Earl of Huntingdon, torn down again by the mob, and re-erected on 10th June, when the threat of social and political unrest became too great, the final uprising that took place in Newton near Geddington in Northamptonshire was dealt with by force, and things changed for ever. (

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