Tomorrow, I'm going to be at the Celebrating Lightmoor Village event, launching a new project to create a sculpture at Lightmoor's Squatters Cottage.
The Squatters Cottage was built in 1794/5 by local workers on unregulated wasteland. They had to pay an annual fine of thirty shillings from the court for their illegal dwelling, but after 60 years, the house would then officially be theirs.
The Grade II listed Squatters Cottage in Lightmooor is the only complete example of a once important and common type of building in the area. Many families were forced to build their own homes and put up with the annual fines so that they could live close enough to the factories and coalmines where they were employed.
The last occupant of the Squatters Cottage left in 1963, and the building was subsequently bought by the Dawley Development Corporation. It was surveyed and listed in 1992 by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.
Bournville Village Trust later acquired the building, and refurbished it in 2019 in partnership with Shropshire Wildlife Trust with funding from Veolia. Many of the original features of the cottage have been preserved, and it provides a remarkable picture of what life used to be like for the workers and residents of Lightmoor.
I visited the Squatters Cottage earlier on in the summer, and it left such an impression on me. Its tucked away in the most unexpected of places. You can still see the line of the old canal which runs alongside the bottom of its garden. Inside, there are original tiles on the floor, and the white washed walls and little log burner make it feel such a cosy and peaceful retreat.
The Squatters Cottage is now becoming a valued resource for the local community. Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Small Woods Association use the cottage and surrounding land and woodland for outdoor playgroups and social forestry sessions with Armed Forces Veterans. There are future plans for creative projects, and a new garden so it can benefit yet more people.
I've been commissioned by Bournville Village Trust to develop a sculpture for the Squatters Cottage with funding from Telford and Wrekin Council's Coronation Celebration Fund. I will be at the Celebrating Lightmoor Village event tomorrow to launch the project, and to speak to local residents and community groups about their views and ideas. It looks like a great event, and everyone will have a chance to visit the Squatters Cottage with me and have a look around themselves.