The 19th century cottage that time forgot

Croft Cottage in Haddenham in 1976
Croft Cottage in Haddenham in 1976

Building a house can be quite time consuming – just ask John Hyde-Trutch, who has spent the past three decades working on one.

Way back in 1977, the Chiltern Open Air Museum, of which Mr Hyde Trutch is the buildings manager, dismantled an early 19th century cottage in Haddenham, with the aim of reassembling it as an attraction at their site.

Haddenham Croft Cottage at Chiltern Open Air Museum - pictured is buildings manager John Hyde-Trutch

Haddenham Croft Cottage at Chiltern Open Air Museum - pictured is buildings manager John Hyde-Trutch

Number 8, The Croft, is steeped in history itself, particularly because the wychert clay it is made from is unique to the area.

Mr Hyde-Trutch has been part of the job since day one. However, building work only began on the house in 2008.

“Hopefully they will let me go home soon,” said Mr Hyde-Trutch.

“By the time you finish you know exactly what you are doing. You just wish you had known that from the start.”

The original target was to complete the house by summer 2010 and after missing that date the museum aimed to finish this summer.

However, the goalposts have moved again after a combination of poor weather and a lack of funding meaning next summer is now the target.

All of the volunteers are untrained in building work. However, they have overcome a number of difficulties.

“They have learned to do the job just as I have,” said Mr Hyde-Trutch.

Volunteer, John Crossby, 80, who has been on the building team at the museum for 20 years, said: “It’s got to be a good relationship. We rib each other all the time.”

The house contains six rooms, three of which are bedrooms, reflecting different time periods associated with the house.

The first bedroom will be furnished as if it was 1837, the approximate year the house was originally built. The next bedroom will represent 1910, when the first ever photo of the house was taken.

The last bedroom will be furnished in the style of 1977, the year the house was dismantled.

Mr Hyde-Trutch said he knew he had done a good job, when he spoke to Paul Simon, who dismantled the original house.

“I sent an email to people, saying we’re almost there, and Paul responded saying, ‘I recognise it’. So it’s got to be right.”