Georgian quilter’s lost cottage recreated at Beamish

October 13th 2017

Original stones from the lost cottage of a Georgian quilter have been laid by community volunteers in a recreation of the building at Beamish Museum.

Joseph Hedley, known as “Joe the Quilter”, was murdered nearly 200 years ago and his home, which stood in Warden, near Hexham, Northumberland, will be replicated at the museum as part of the £18million Remaking Beamish project.

An archaeological dig by Beamish staff and community volunteers uncovered the remains of Joe’s original cottage, including the base of walls, flagstone floor, pottery, buttons and a coin.

Volunteers from Warden, who have helped with the project, came to Beamish to lay the first original stones, which will form part of the recreated building in the museum’s 1820s landscape. They have been involved in the excavation, gathering heather for the roof, moving stone and thatching.

Philip Straker, who owns the land where the cottage once stood, laid the first original stone, along with Beamish’s Deputy Director Rhiannon Hiles.

Rhiannon said: “It’s really exciting to be starting Joe the Quilter’s cottage and the whole Remaking Beamish project. It was a real honour to be laying the first stones with the community who have been working on this with us.”

Philip said it felt “amazing” to be laying the first original stones in the cottage. He said: “It’s a great honour to be here. I feel very privileged to be part of it. Beamish is a great organisation.”

Elderly widower Joe was killed in January 1826 in an unsolved crime that made national headlines and his humble home was demolished in 1872.

The cottage will be built by the museum’s Buildings Team with help from members of the community.  Like the original, it will have a traditional heather-thatched roof. The heather has been sourced from near Rothbury, Northumberland, with Beamish staff and volunteers learning the traditional craft from a master thatcher.

Geraldine Straker, Remaking Beamish Community Participation Officer, said: “It’s great to be working with community members who are so enthusiastic about the project and want to be involved in such a hands-on way to record their heritage at the museum.

“It’s fantastic to be celebrating Joe’s life and work as a quilter and sharing his story.

“We’re looking forward to working with even more people from the community during this amazing project.”

Beamish has an original Joseph Hedley quilt in its collection and volunteers Aidan and Margaret Nichol and Linda Durant, have created a replica which will be used to help demonstrate Joe’s craft. The museum is working with the Quilters’ Guild as part of the project.

Thanks to the money raised by National Lottery players, the Remaking Beamish project has been awarded £10.9million by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The project – the biggest in Beamish’s history – will also feature a 1950s Town, including a cinema, being moved from Sunderland; homes; shops; community centre; cafe; fish and chip shop and bowling green. Aged miners’ homes will provide a pioneering centre for older people, including those living with dementia.

The expansion of the 1820s Landscape will include a coaching inn, where visitors can stay overnight, as well as Joe’s cottage and other examples of early industry.

The museum has been working with local groups and schools on the Joe the Quilter project. Community organisations in Northumberland who would like to find out more about the project can contact Geraldine Straker, tel, 0191 370 4060 or email