A GROUND-BREAKING ceremony was held at Bromsgrove’s Avoncroft Museum on Monday (July 3) to mark the start of the venue’s latest project – the reconstruction of a nailer’s cottage.
The Standard reported back in June last year how the building, on Birmingham Road, Lickey End, had been saved by the museum and now work has begun on putting it in its new home. This will be the first full-scale building to be reconstructed at Avoncroft since the 1990s.
Thanks to the press coverage on the cottage last year, Joyce Rea, nee Homer, who was born in the house in 1925, got in touch with Avoncroft to share her memories of living there in the 1930s.
Joyce has recorded a series of interviews, recalling her family life, the room layouts and personal stories based on her vivid memories.
She said she remembered hearing pigs in the garden squeal when the butcher arrived and watching the nail makers working further down the road.
“We used to go dandelion picking for my dad, he used to have barrels and barrels of wine that he used to make in his shed.
“We used to go into the fields with baskets and our fingers got stained from the dandelions.
“He used to bring people round from the pub, get them in there and get them drunk.
“There was a rain tub underneath the spouting and they used to walk past there and the one time the one fell in the water… I can picture them now.” she said.
Museum director Simon Carter said: “Since the story broke last year, we have had a positive response from a lot of people in Bromsgrove and the surrounding areas.
“Many said it was great we were preserving an important part of the area’s heritage which would otherwise have been lost.”
With regard to the cottage, it is thought it was built in the 1840s and it appears in the 1851 census.
At Avoncroft, the cottage will show the harsh living and working conditions of the people who, over a period of 300 years, helped make Bromsgrove the ‘nailmaking capital of the world’.
A good nailer could produce 24,000 nails per week but the trade was badly rewarded.
Whole families took part in the trade and, according to the 1861 census, nailmaking accounted for a quarter of the child labour in England and Wales. In the mid-1800s it was estimated that 10,300 people in Bromsgrove were working in the trade – and there were as many female nail-makers as there were men.
Avoncroft will be running nailmaking courses and helping local people trace online whether their ancestors were engaged in nailmaking.
This first phase of the reconstruction of the nailer’s cottage – the rebuilding of the outside – will take around five weeks.
Funds are still being sought to complete the second phase – tcompleting the interior and landscaping its gardens.
Anyone who support the project should email Rachel Shepherd, development manager, at email@example.com or call 01527 831363.