A bridge to the past in Uckfield

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Uckfield’s landmark Bridge Cottage displayed its sparkling new facelift when it was formally opened on Saturday.

A spectacular makeover has given Uckfield a town ‘gateway’ to be proud of. While the building has been substantially strengthened and improved, work has not obliterated the Cottage’s essential character. In fact it reveals fine timber and plasterwork, an elegant outdoor terrace with brick paved ‘knot-garden’ and enticing spaces indoors for people to meet, socialise and even get married!

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The project to restore the 15th century Bridge Cottage began when it was saved from demolition by the Uckfield and District Preservation Society and Uckfield Town Council in 1983. Thanks to a £1-million-plus Lottery grant and £250,000 from the Town Council, a scheme to transform it into a heritage centre was initiated and has now been completed with discretion and expertise. Allied to the use of original materials such as wattle and daub and limewash go innovations to keep the building comfortable and practical. A ground sourced heat pump ensures warm winter and cool summer days. There’s a modern kitchen, essential flood protection and a new staircase to the first floor with its arched, beamed ceiling. A planter garden contains lavender and rosemary beloved of medieaval householders.

The Society’s vision as Uckfield grows is to ensure people ‘understands and appreciates their heritage through events and activities held at the Cottage.’ It will also grow as a unique, riverside community facility in the heart of the town.

Built as a grand house, Society chairman Mick Harker explained people lived there until the 1970s. In six centuries three bridges were built over the Uck, the railway arrived and the Cottage endured floods and war.

An education programme starts geared to curriculum-linked key stages ranging from the life of a Victorian household to food and clothing through the ages. And a monthly series of talks begins with Mick Harker telling the Bridge Cottage story on May 5. Volunteers are being sought to meet visitors, help with education and catalogue archives. Contact education@bridgecottageuckfield.co.uk.

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