Historic cottage in Piccotts End looks to be entering last chapter

Medieval Wall Paintings

Medieval Wall Paintings - Credit: Archant

Boasting a fascinating back-story, the tale of this Grade I listed Hertfordshire property is facing a not-so-happy ending...

The doors to a Grade I listed cottage in Piccotts End, Herts, were potentially closed to the public for good on Sunday as National Heritage Weekend came to an end.

The cottage is believed to have been used as a half-way house for those on pilgrimage between Ashridge and St Albans Abbey, pre-1700. After the Reformation, the building was converted into one large house in the early 18th Century, before eventually being split into four individual cottages. It is home to a set of rare murals, painted around 1470, depicting such religious scenes as the baptism of Christ. They were forgotten about for centuries until being unearthed in 1953 by the owner of the house at the time. They were recently filmed by Simon Schama for part of a BBC2 series on “The Face of Britain”.

Current co-owner Karen Murphy bought the cottage and the neighbouring property (now connected, once two separate homes) in 2011 as a way to bring the paintings into public ownership and to help the Dacorum Heritage Trust in their 20 year plight to obtain the building and its historic contents.

Around £240,000 is needed, but the trust are still £200,000 short - which means that Ms. Murphy will potentially need to alter the cottage’s status to residential, essentially withdrawing it from public interest.

The trust has appealed to Dacorum Borough Council for the funds. Although the council has contributed a £58,000 annual grant to the cause, a spokesman told the BBC that there had been “no requests or applications for any further grants”.

The hope was to retain the property as a full-time visitor centre, to showcase its rich history. Further notable facts about the cottage include that it is believed to have been used by George IV’s surgeon as England’s “first cottage hospital” for the poor, and that a former residents include master dyer Josian Wright - the man credited with stopping the assassination attempt on Queen Victoria in 1842.