History of the Cottage Tea-room
From its life as a gamekeeper's lodge to a homely tea-room, the cottage has an intriguing history.
It was built around 1690, using abandoned stone from the garden lodge. Some of the corner stones are engraved with letters believed to have been intended for the frieze above the first floor of the lodge, which bears Latin inscriptions taken from the Vulgate.
A sketch of the garden lodge, dated 1721, shows the cottage with a thatched roof and dormer windows. Later, a slate roof was added and the dormer windows removed.
The cottage was possibly built as 'the Verderer's House', home to the keeper of the nearby Royal Hunting Forest of Rockingham. However, historic records mainly refer to the 'head of household' as 'shepherd', 'grazier', or 'farmer'.
" A neat cottage, the only dwelling for some distance, stands near the ruins..."
The Smith family are thought to have lived in the cottage from around the time it was built until 1876. George Smith was the last of the family to reside at the cottage. George was the only son of Joseph and Anne Smith. His father died at Lyveden as result of an accident. The farm tenancy could not be given to a woman or George, then aged only 12 years old, so they had to leave the place that had been their family home for generations.
After 1876, a number of other families lived in the cottage, employed mainly as gamekeepers to the Fermyn Woods Estate. But by the 1950s the cottage lay empty and in a derelict state. The National Trust renovated the cottage but still without mains water or electricity. In fact the Trust then specifically advertised for a hermit tenant! The Trust received 123 applicants. Not much is known about the cottage or its occupants in the following decades.
" The National Trust invites applications from hermits for the occupancy, rent and rate free, of a remote, primitive and romantic cottage in Northamptonshire. Well water and no electricity. Sole duty custodianship of a 17th century ruin built to symbolise the Passion - reply in writing. "
In 1995, the Trust's part-time custodian announced that he was to retire. The Trust decided to make the new appointment a full-time post from 1998. This period saw the start of a major restoration project at Lyveden to uncover Tresham's garden.
The last custodians moved out of the cottage in 2010. The cottage opened as a tea-room in 2013 and has been serving delicious treats ever since. With the completion of the Lyveden Reconnected project, the main catering outlet will move down to the manor.
The cottage is a grade II listed building.