Historic cottage opens its doors for birthday

A traditional garden party is being held at Wicken Fen on Sunday to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the opening of Fen Cottage following its restoration by the National Trust.

With its low ceilings and uneven floors Fen Cottage may be one of the smallest properties cared for by the National Trust, but it provides a fascinating insight into the social history of the Cambridgeshire Fens.

Constructed in various stages from the late 18th–early 20th Century, Fen Cottage is one of the last surviving dwellings from a tiny hamlet known as ‘The Lode’.

Consisting of around 15 dwellings, their residents typically earned their living from the Fen, harvesting sedge and reed for roofing, cutting peat for fuel, digging clay for brick making, wildfowling, fishing and eel catching.

Originally two separate dwellings, the cottages were knocked into one dwelling in 1925. Records show that from 1841, four generations of the Butcher family lived in the cottage. The last residents were Alice Butcher, and her son Reggie, who lived in Fen Cottage until 1972, when Alice died, aged 93.

The National Trust acquired Fen Cottage in 1974. Restoration began in 1988, and was completed two years later, when the cottage was opened to the public. During restoration, every effort was made to match local materials and building techniques used when the cottages were originally constructed. Inside the cottage has been furnished as it might have been at the start of the 20th Century.

Isobel Sedgwick, visitor experience manager, said: “It’s a real journey down memory lane for many of our older visitors who recognise artefacts that their parents or grandparents had, whilst younger visitors are amazed how the residents survived without electricity or running water, let alone laptops and gaming consoles.”

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The Fen Cottage Garden Party runs from noon to 4.30pm with guided tours of the cottage, displays of traditional Fenland crafts, traditional games, refreshments, and Wicken Brass Band.