When the Parish Council purchased Chedham’s Yard from Bill Chedham in February 2002 there was no time to do a feasibility study or consider the long-term challenges and costs of restoring this very special historic building with its architectural treasures hidden in the heart of Wellesbourne. They only knew that if they did not purchase it, a precious and unique window on part of the roots of our village would be lost for ever.
The next four years saw slow but steady progress in consulting various bodies and coming to decisions about the future of the yard. A major step forward was taken when Elaine Hughes was appointed Project Officer by the Parish Council in 2005 and PLB were appointed as consultants shortly after.
But the real excitement started and the pace got quicker when it was decided to enter the BBC Restoration Village competition in 2006. For the full story use the timeline below.
Immediately the BBC demanded we hold another Open Day which was held on Sunday 13th August 2006. Again this coincided with the Water Mill being open. Approximately 500 people came – the news was beginning to spread throughout the Midlands. So much so that many people came on the Saturday 12th August thinking it would be open then – members of the friends had to be around all day to look after the constant stream of curious people coming to see round the Yard. Apart from a little rain early on the Sunday the weekend remained dry. Comments in the Visitors book were extremely encouraging and made us feel that we had a worthy place in the final. The Friends worked hard to cope with the huge tide of visitors; marshals were on hand to direct traffic and people. We also had help from the Lions, families of project members, and crafts people. All sorts of memorabilia were available to buy from mugs to wristbands from T-shirts to restoration books. The friends were beginning to raise some money and donations and sales had so far netted £1,628. The press were there in force and wrote some enthusiastic reports following the open day. There were also interviews on the local radio and television with Parish Councillor, David Close, Elaine Hughes the Project Officer, Bill Chedham and also our chief enthusiastic Friend, Iris Herwin.
On Friday 1st September the BBC came again the shoot an extra film for broadcast of Friday 15th September at the current Restoration time slot on BBC2. The programme was the summary of all the eight finalists projects; there was an extra film piece to feature Michelle the blacksmith from Moreton Morrell, Andrew the farrier, and Simon the blacksmith, all of whom attended the previous open day. Members of the Friends and the Parish Council, Bill Chedham, Iris Herwin and Elaine Hughes all attended this filming.
Again the BBC advised us to hold another open day in preparation for another programme on BBC2 on Friday 15th September followed by the final on Sunday 17th September. We planned this for Saturday 9th September between 11.00 and 4pm. We hoped to get as many people voting for us as possible during the final programme and so we needed as much extra press coverage as possible in the week prior to the final. Volunteers were appealed for to act as guides. The Water Mill was not used this time and the crafts people were not asked to attend. Even more people came to this open day than the previous one which was challenging for those managing the traffic and the people, but it was a happy day and we all felt very excited at the prospect of another showing on the Restoration programme.