Arts Derbyshire


Lubrizol volunteers uncover more centuries of history near picturesque Aqueduct Cottage

More pieces of the historical jigsaw near beautiful Aqueduct Cottage in Derbyshire have been uncovered by hard-working volunteers from a local science company.

Employees at Lubrizol science company based at Hazelwood swapped their normal jobs for a day of hard graft at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s Lea Wood Nature Reserve near Cromford, site of the peaceful Aqueduct Cottage which has recently been opened to the public following years of painstaking restoration by volunteers.

The cottage, which enjoys a tranquil setting next to the Cromford Canal, has fascinating connections with Florence Nightingale whose great, great-uncle Peter owned Lea Wood and built the cottage to house a lock keeper.

Peter Nightingale had created a new ‘arm’ of the Cromford Canal to service his factories in the area, and needed a lock keeper to manage it. Florence would have been a regular visitor to Lea Wood when she lived at Lea Hurst, Holloway, the Nightingale family home.

Employees at Lubrizol have in the past volunteered their time to clear years of undergrowth from the “Leawood arm” so it can be enjoyed by visitors.

This time around Lubrizol employees were helping uncover a different aspect of the site, dating back to pre-Industrial Revolution times, when they hacked back many years of vegetation covering up fascinating “Q Pits” that are also an important part of the area’s history.

The group from Lubrizol cleared three important sites: a ‘Q-pit’, a charcoal platform and a circular water trough.

From the Middle Ages right up to around 1740 – just before the Industrial Revolution – Q-pits were dug and used to produce a substance known as ‘white coal’. This was kiln-dried wood used as a fuel for ore hearth lead smelting, an industry of which there is known to have been a works in the area.

Ron Common, a volunteer with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust who spearheaded the restoration of Aqueduct Cottage, explained that the presence of Q pits on the site had been revealed by archaeological research supported by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and conducted by members of the Dethick, Lea and Holloway Historical Society and Archaeological Research Services Ltd with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The research, done in 2012, revealed that the site was home to around 40 of these distinctively shaped pits.

Ron said: “Employees from Lubrizol always have such enthusiasm for what we are doing. It was great to have them on-site and they have done a brilliant job for us.”

Lubrizol were at the site as part of the company’s ‘Building Global Bonds Day’ – a day of volunteering conducted by the company’s employees all around the world.

A group of volunteers chose to work in Lea Wood through the company’s corporate partnership with the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, which owns and runs the estate.

Claire Hollingshurst, who was part of the volunteering group and sits on Lubrizol’s charities and communities committee, said: “We had a great time at Aqueduct Cottage in Lea Wood and it was fascinating to be given the opportunity to uncover another piece of history.

“Volunteering is very important to us at Lubrizol and we have been following the progress of Aqueduct Cottage for a couple of years now. Volunteers there have spent years doing an absolutely incredible job to restore this beautiful old cottage and we are pleased to have played our own part in helping tell the story of Derbyshire’s industrial past through coming on to site on days like this.”

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