A Georgian cottage belonging to a quilter who was brutally murdered in 1826 has been lovingly rebuilt brick by brick and is now open to the public for the first time in almost 200 years.
The ramshackle home once owned by Joseph Hedley, or “Joe the Quilter”, was the scene of his grisly end when he was stabbed to death in an unsolved crime which shook the nation.
The widower’s heather-thatched house has now been rebuilt at the Beamish Open Air Museum in County Durham after detailed records from the time of the murder enabled staff to produce an exact replica.
Richard Evans, Beamish’s Director, said: “This is a really exciting moment for us all at Beamish.
“After years of planning we are finally opening the first of many new exhibits that are part of Remaking Beamish, a major £18 million development that is currently underway at the museum.
“This beautifully-crafted, heather-thatched cottage gives us a rare chance to understand what everyday life was like in the North East during the early part of the 19th century.
“The quality of this latest addition to Beamish is outstanding – the result of many years of research, painstaking craftsmanship and the involvement of local community groups and schools.
“It is a real credit to the dedication and talent of our staff and volunteers, who have created this fascinating new experience for our visitors.”
The grand opening of the cottage took place yesterday and forms part of the museum’s 1820s landscape.
The building features stones from Joe’s original home and includes the very flagstones he would have stood upon two centuries ago.
The remains of his cottage in Warden, near Hexham, Northumberland, were uncovered during an archaeological dig by Beamish staff and community members.
The exhibit, which tells the story of quilting and the growth of cottage industries in the early 1800s, has been painstakingly recreated by the skilled museum staff.
A drawing on a postcard produced after Joe’s murder gave valuable details about how his home – which was demolished in 1872 – looked.
A crack in the front wall of the original cottage, clearly visible in the 1820s drawing, has even been reproduced.
A poem written by A. Wright the year he murdered describes how his cottage was visited by many passersby who loved to talk to “canny” Joe.
It is thought Joe, who was also born in the cottage, had a wife who was much older than he was and bedridden for the last eight years of her life.
The poem also contains the verse: “He was her housewife, doctor, nurse/ But still the poor old soul grew worse/ And she was lifted to her hearse/ By weeping Joe the Quilter.”
Joe was well known and loved in the community and after his death King George IV himself pledged a 100 guineas reward for information leafing to the arrest of the culprit.
The motive for his murder is not know but it has been suggested that due to his hospitality a rumour had been spread he was a rich man, when the truth was he was of humble means.
The cottage was built by Beamish with traditional techniques and skills and using local materials.
Around 1,400 bales of heather were sourced sustainably from near Rothbury, Northumberland, and a master thatcher taught his craft to museum staff and volunteers.
Stone dating back over 200 years, and 23 tonnes of oak for the roof frame also came from Northumberland, near where the cottage once stood.
One of Beamish’s blacksmiths made objects using traditional methods, including door locks, hinges and candlesticks and the door and windows were also made by the museum team.
Volunteers created a replica of Joe’s quilt from Beamish’s collection, which took more than 700 hours to complete.