The Cottage, believed to have been built in two stages in the mid 1800's, is a simple building with walls only a single brick thick. It is typical of many other Lincolnshire homes built at the same time but few remain to tell the tale. However, due to Hilda Craven, born in Navenby on October 28th 1892, a unique lady, who resisted what she believed to be unnecessary change, we have inherited a remarkable time capsule of a bygone age.
Spending her childhood in Navenby, Hilda left school at 13 and worked for several local families. With one family, she moved out of the county, but returned to purchase and live in the cottage in the 1920's. She named it Craven Cottage and lived here for 73 years, until she died at the age of 102 in 1995. Hilda married and became Mrs Smith only in 1956 at the age of 64. Her husband, Joseph, moved into the cottage and together they renovated the 'Best Room' to a typical 50's style. Sadly, Joe died less than 4 years later.
Hilda was an accomplished bookkeeper and earned a living working for several local businesses. She was a staunch Methodist and a keen gardener - maintaining an allotment further down East Road. Hilda also kept a diary - making daily entries from simple comments on the garden to tales of trips out shopping.
The Cottage still retains her original furniture and effects. Her rocking chair and shawl still remain in her favourite place by the range and her many pictures all help to tell the story of this remarkable lady.
Electricity arrived in the 1930's with a single overhead light and two switches. When new building codes came into effect, the Council proposed to condemn the cottage in the late 1970's and move Hilda to a new bungalow. She resisted and was allowed to remain in the cottage with a few changes - a single cold water tap, but no sink, and a small toilet inside the house. At some point, a new window was added in her bedroom large enough for a fireman to rescue her if necessary. However, the original small windows, outside privy and wash-house can still be viewed along with the pretty, Victorian style cottage garden.
The old pig sty and storage shed, sadly beyond repair, were demolished and many of the materials used to construct a purpose built Visitor Centre. This houses exhibitions on the life of Mrs Smith in the cliff-side village of Navenby, together with other exhibitions of local interest.