Life at No. 10 - Through the keyhole of an 18th-century terraced house in Cromford
PUBLISHED: 00:00 05 June 2019
Catherine Roth has a look round the Landmark Trust's holiday cottage on North Street in Cromford.
Walking along North Street in Cromford with its 18th-century terraced houses, then stepping through the doorway of No. 10 is not only a trip back in time but one that promises a holiday with a difference.
No. 10 North Street is owned by the Landmark Trust, a building preservation charity that rescues historic buildings at risk and brings them back into use, predominantly as holiday lets. North Street is one of the earliest examples of industrial housing and as such is of historical importance. When Richard Arkwright decided to build his cotton spinning mill at Cromford he realised he would need a workforce greater than the local population could provide so he built North Street and named it after Lord North, the prime minister from 1770 to 1782 who led Britain during the American War of Independence.
The houses were well built, with impressive sash windows and almost classical door frames, which makes them superior to similar dwellings that workers of the time would have inhabited. This was in order to attract skilled workers and their families to Cromford who might not otherwise have come. The houses even came with a small garden.
Today holidaymakers can spend time in one of these former millworkers' houses and imagine what life was like nearly 250 years ago, albeit with the conveniences of modern living.
The accommodation is arranged over three floors. The ground floor living and dining room is in what was originally the kitchen and still retains the old range and fireplace. From here, a narrow flight of steep wooden stairs leads to the first floor bedroom with its original fireplace and wooden flooring. Ascending more stairs that become even steeper, the second bedroom is reached. It is flooded with natural light with windows on opposite sides that run the length of the room - unlike many of the houses on North Street where the windows on one side have been blocked up. This room, as with all the ones on North Street, was originally built as a workshop with space for a loom or framework knitting machine.
Heading back downstairs a later extension provides a small but well-equipped, modern bespoke kitchen. Just as with the kitchens in all Landmark Trust properties, it has been designed and handmade by craftsman Mark Smitten with the in-house team in Landmark's Cotswolds workshop. Mark's often creative use of spaces ensures a well-equipped kitchen that perfectly fits the space and didn't require any alterations to the fabric of the building.
The extension also includes a bathroom complete with bath and separate shower. When the house was first built an earth closet would have stood behind the house and water would have been collected from the well at the end of the street; the well is still there to this day and can be seen from the living room window.
Linda Houghton, a retired primary school teacher, has been the housekeeper at the property for 10 years. Not only does she ensure the house is clean and tidy for each party of guests arriving but she also keeps an eye on the historic features of the property and reports if anything needs checking such as crumbling plasterwork or damaged stonework.
Cleaning a remarkable house like No. 10 requires a different approach due to its historic nature. Linda says, 'We don't wax the floors here because of the risk of skidding. We also try not to carry heavy things up the stairwell so there is a cupboard in each room to store linen as well as a hoover on each floor that's hidden away!'
The Landmark Trust is also very strict as to which cleaning products should be used in order to avoid damaging the fabric of the building. This presented a challenge in the bathroom when mildew began appearing on the mullions around the window.
Linda says, 'We had to find a way to clean it without chemicals and the only things we found that wouldn't start dissolving the stone were luke warm water and Fairy Liquid!'
Paying such close attention to the house, Linda has uncovered more of its history. She says, 'Originally the ceiling would just have been beams. The boarding would have been taken up to get things upstairs like the looms and you can still see where they were nailed back down. In the attic - which I was able to look into when the architects needed access - the beams are such that they resemble a real tree. We also found patterns on some of the walls so presume the people who lived here had a go at some sort of decorating.'
The authenticity of every Landmark property is retained as much as possible in the décor and furnishings. At No. 10 the walls are painted with traditional lime plaster that allows the stone to breathe and when historical features have to be replaced, any new additions are designed to be obvious so guests can appreciate the orginal features all the more.
Whilst the furniture in the house is not of the period it is nevertheless in keeping with the age of the property. John Evetts, Furnishings Manager, is responsible for the interior design of every building. He sources many items from auction sites and antique fairs but also handcrafts some pieces in the workshop, including lampstand bases that are made from old table legs. The furnishings in every Landmark Trust house are all alike although each property retains its own identity.
Fiona Bullock, Properties Assistant, says, 'John also likes to put a little bit of humour into each house, particularly when hanging pictures. There is always one that's a bit whimsical and lightens the touch. We don't want the house to be stuffy but to be homely, lived in, enjoyed and experienced.'
It's what a stay at No. 10 North Street promises to be as holiday makers can leave the busy world behind them for a few days and step back in time to another era.
For details of how to stay at No. 10 North Street or other Landmark Trust properties see landmarktrust.org.uk