The Weavers’ Cottages, 20, 21 & 22 Horsefair, Kidderminster
For more than a generation this terrace of three cottages on the Horsefair in Kidderminster stood empty and neglected and was considered an eyesore by many in the town. But for the interest of the Kidderminster Civic Society these shabby little buildings may well have been swept away for new development. But, those in the know recognised that these buildings were a unique survivor of a trade in the town that pre-dated the much better known carpet weaving industry.
Research had revealed that the oldest cottage of the group, which dates from the first half of the 1700s, was built as an artisan dwelling with a workshop on the top floor for the weaving of bombazine, a dress fabric woven with silk and wool. In February 2000 the three cottages were listed grade II by English Heritage giving them protection from demolition.
By this time the cottages were in a very poor state and the cost of repairing them and bringing them back into use would far exceed their end market value. To lose the cottages at this stage would have been a tragedy for Kidderminster’s heritage, so the Worcestershire Building Preservation Trust stepped in to find a way of saving them.
The Trust commissioned conservation architects to design a scheme for the cottages to show that they could be sensitively repaired and converted for use as homes. Planning permission and listed building consent were granted and over £1million in grants and loans were raised including £730,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Building works commenced in February 2016. Roofs were stripped and old tiles salvaged for re-use on no 22 and ugly 20th century render was removed from the front elevation to reveal the original brickwork. Removal of the render revealed an old painted ‘ghost’ sign on the front of no 21- ‘A Wakefield High Class Confectioner’. New bathroom and kitchen extensions have been added to the rear, hence preserving the historic plan of the 18th century buildings, including their twisting staircases. The houses were sold in February 2018 and are now in residential use.