Description: Navvies Cottages Number 2
Date Listed: 13 January 1988
English Heritage Building ID: 355268
OS Grid Reference: SK8507619079
OS Grid Coordinates: 485076, 319079
Latitude/Longitude: 52.7626, -0.7406
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SK 81 NE WYMONDHAM BUTT LANE
7/147B NAVVIES COTTAGES NO.2
Railway navvy's cottage, early 1890s.
MATERIALS: Wood, brick, welsh slate.
PLAN: This is a three bay cottage, rectangular, aligned west-east. It originally had a porch attached to its north elevation where double doors are now.
EXTERIOR: The cottage is timber framed on a brick plinth, the framing infilled with bricks laid on their sides and clad in vertical weather boarding. The roof is covered in Welsh slate, raised slightly over the wide double doors in the central bay of the north elevation. There is a brick chimney between the east and central bay. There are three Yorkshire sliding sash windows in the north elevation, and four in the south, two either side of a centrally placed door.
Attached to the west gable end of the cottage is a small modern stable with corrugated iron roof. This is not regarded as being of special architectural or historical interest.
INTERIOR: The interior was originally subdivided into three rooms, but the partition between the west and central rooms has been removed. The walls and ceiling are lined with planks, and the floor is constructed of planks laid on joists which rest on the ground. In the east wall of the central room is a brick fireplace and chimney breast, with an opening large enough to hold a small stove, although all evidence of the original grate or fire surround has gone. Immediately to the south of the chimney is a door giving access to the east room, which also contains a small fireplace with a mid C20 tiled surround.
HISTORY: The cottage seems to be contemporary with the construction of the Midland and Great Northern Junction railway, opened in 1894 and closed in 1960, and with the station across the road and on the other side of the line. The 1904 OS map shows three buildings arranged in a straight line, with south elevations flush with each other. This cottage is placed between the station master's house to the east and the second cottage, with which it formed a pair. A small porch on the north elevation, shown on the OS map and mentioned in the original list description, no longer survives. The cottage is very similar to those erected for navvies working on the construction of the Great Central Railway between 1894 and 1899, recorded by the photographer S.W.A. Newton.
Until the 1890s railway navvies had a reputation for unruly behaviour, and were notorious for fighting and drunkenness, and for terrorising the countryside around their rudimentary encampments. The practice, begun in the 1890s, of erecting hutted camps either beside contractor's depots or along the route of the railway under construction allowed the workers to live relatively civilised lives with their families; Newton's photographs show rooms made as homely as possible with rugs, ornaments and popular prints on the walls. Although the precise history of the two cottages and station master's house at Wymondham is not known, they may originally have been erected for construction workers and their supervisor, and later used by permanent railway company staff, or have been built specifically for the latter. The cottage was lived in until the 1950s, but was subsequently converted into a garage and storage space. No other examples of this kind of dwelling for railway workers are known to survive in England.
SOURCES: Rolt, L.T.C. 1971. The Making of a Railway.
REASON FOR DESIGNATION DECISION:
The railway navvy's cottage at Wymondham is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* It is a rare and almost intact example of a building of simple batten and board construction, typical of those used by railway companies for lineside huts.
* Available evidence suggests that it may be the only surviving example of this kind of usually temporary structure used to house railway workers and their families.
* It is of historical significance as providing eloquent testimony to the conditions in which the families of railway navvies were housed.
Listing NGR: SK8509319079
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.