The 19th century cottage that time forgot edging closer to completion

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

Haddenham Croft Cottage at Chiltern Open Air Museum

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 posts have again shifted to next year with a combination of poor weather and a lack of funding adding to delays.

It is a mark of the group’s dedication and many of its volunteers’ that they continue with the job some 35 years on.

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

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

Despite numerous setbacks, the team remain upbeat and work well together.

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 photo of the house was ever taken.

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

Mr Hyde-Trutch added: “We’ve had quite a lot of outside interest in how a wychert house is put together.”

That said, one room downstairs will be left incomplete, so people can see how the house was put together.

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 a board of people who had been supporting us, saying we’re almost there, the roof’s finished, the scaffolding is down and Paul responded saying, ‘I recognise it’. So it’s got to be right.”


£53,000 so far. However, Mr Hyde-Trutch estimates it will cost another £20,000 before fully completing the house next year.


35 years and counting if you include the years between dismantling the house and beginning the rebuilding in 2008.


The roof has been a headache for all involved with the project because it was removed from the house before they decided to rebuild it. 
Working from photographs, it has been a process of ‘try, try and try again’ said Mr Hyde-Trutch, with frequent floods occurring. 
The team finally got it right after studying similar houses in the Haddenham area and the indoor showers have stopped.