An authentic 19th century Farm Labourer's Cottage, as featured in BBC TV's Victorian Farm, has been carefully restored to reinstate its original conditions and is now receiving its first guests as a unique Victorian holiday cottage.
Set in a picturesque landscape, unchanged for more than two centuries on the Acton Scott Estate in South Shropshire, Henley Cottage offers the rare opportunity to enjoy the modest comforts of an old way of life and escape from modernity.
Rupert Acton, who manages the estate and inspired the idea, said: "Henley Cottage will appeal to those who would like a bit of an adventure and are in search of something a bit more grounding! With none of the benefits, or plagues, of modern living - no washing machine, gas or electricity and no flush lavatories. We are developing a traditional 19th century vegetable and herb patch and I hope adults and children alike will enjoy participating and learning from their holiday experience.'
Because Henley Cottage was never modernised, it is a rare example of the 19th century rural vernacular and its humble origins are much in evidence. Restored using traditional methods, period features include simple lime-wash, quarry tiles and original oak doors, fresh water drawn from a well, and smooth cobbled paths. The heart of the three-storey property is the kitchen parlour, installed with cast-iron range, state-of-the-art in 1888, in perfect working order.
Upon arrival, holiday guests are greeted by a guide who explains how to heat water and cook on the range or light the oil-lamp sconces. Sleeping up to five, bedsteads are wrought-iron, with comfortable horsehair mattresses, linen sheets, and blankets of pure wool, whilst huckaback towels are used after a dip in the fire side hip bath. For the faint hearted, the only concession to 21st century living is a modern shower and loo, hidden away in an outhouse.
Rupert Acton explains: 'This is a simple country cottage that has been left free of decorative embellishment. Nothing is straight and the materials that make up the building, from the worn oak floorboards to the wonky exterior chimney flue, are very much in evidence. And I think Henley Cottage is the more charming for it.'
The first holiday makers to stay at Henley Cottage were Kathy and Derek Stephenson who travelled from Larbert in Stirlingshire, and Mark and Julie Hingston, of Dartmoor, Devon. Inspired by the BBC TV series, they booked the property for a week in mid-April (2009).
Kathy Stephenson said: 'We were so looking forward to our Victorian experience at Henley Cottage and it has been fantastic, just what we were expecting. We were transported back to the 19th century, cooking on the range, the evenings lit by oil and candlelight. The Historic Working Farm was well worth seeing and all in all this was a holiday with a real difference.'
Rupert Acton added: 'It may sound rather too good to be true, but Acton Scott is uniquely placed to provide the opportunity to connect with our fast disappearing rural heritage. Moreover, I believe in the need to keep alive traditional skills, conserve historic buildings and preserve the natural landscape. The restoration of Henley Cottage has provided these opportunities.'
Victorian Farm in which Henley Cottage features is published by Pavilion.
A DVD of the television series in which Henley Cottage features is also available.