Save Our Heritage Huts Appeal

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21 October 2012

In the 2009 Journal, Alan Grove wrote:

“It is quite extraordinary that two sheds, used as coracle making workshops by two ‘famous’ coraclemen, should have a question mark hanging over their future existence at precisely the same time. They are namely that of John Christmas Thomas (‘Jack’ Thomas, 1904-1976) of Cenarth and the Rogers family workshop at Ironbridge, Shropshire, last used by the late Eustace Rogers (1915-2003).”

Now that three years have passed since that report, I can advise that some progress has been made - albeit slowly - to secure and preserve these iconic huts for the Nation, to pass on the story about them for future generations to enjoy and to pay tribute to the past coracle makers who have played a significant part in passing on the coracle makers art and tradition. Martin Fowler, the owner of the National Coracle Centre at Cenarth, has been instrumental in securing the Thomas hut completely free of charge from the current owners and carefully dismantled the hut before removal from the site. It is currently stored in pieces in the grounds of Martin’s mill behind the Centre awaiting restoration and re-erection.

The fate of the Rogers hut at Ironbridge is less secure but the initiative taken by Jude Walker, Executive Director of the Small Woods Association at Ironbridge's Green Wood Centre (where Terry Kenny has been teaching coracle making since Moses was discovered in a coracle!) looks very promising. Jude is currently in discussion with the builder who owns the hut and adjoining site next to the old Rogers house and he is quite sympathetic towards the principle of preserving the hut. Some planning issues are presently being addressed but will hopefully be resolved shortly. Jude has already lobbied support from Telford Council’s conservation officer and has had some very encouraging and positive discussions with the Heritage Lottery Fund for the proposed project.

The ultimate aim is to preserve both huts, fit them out internally and install in each a tableau display of the coracle makers working away at their benches with the original tools and coracles, as well as small graphic panels, educating visitors in the art of coracle making as well as the heritage and legacy these coracle makers have bestowed on the country. I hope that we can get both projects off the ground and completed by the end of 2013 if our bids for Lottery funding next spring are accepted.

The appeal

We will of course be expected to put up an element of cash for match funding and to provide some voluntary labour (classified as benefit in kind to secure more funding) to carry out the various tasks to achieve completion. I see this as a unique opportunity for The Coracle Society, its members and colleagues in the coracle fraternity, to raise a targeted amount of money over the next five months, enabling us to apply for matched funding. With this in mind, I am asking for your support in raising £5000 by 1 April 2013. It probably seems an enormous amount of money for us to raise but when you look at it, it equates to less than £50 per head of membership.

Can I please enlist your support to help us to raise this targeted amount and play your part in saving these historic buildings for the future? I know that there is a recession on and money is tight but please be assured all amounts - no matter how small - will be much appreciated. The opportunities of raising funds is endless, from sponsored bag packs in your local supermarket to selling a coracle and donating the proceeds; hosting a sponsored paddle or regatta to asking for a donation from your local Round Table/Lyons/water sports centre, and so on. If your endeavours are successful, why not tell us how you did it and we will publish your ideas on the Society web site for others to try?

We will keep you up to date by publishing regular updates on the progress of the fundraising and once the restorations are complete I will ensure that a list of donors are displayed at each site to acknowledge your help and support for what I think is a very worthwhile project.

Your donations to the appeal can be made to Euan Raffel, our Honorary Treasurer:

  • By bank transfer (please contact the Treasurer for details)
  • Or by cheque made payable to The Coracle Society

You can find the Treasurer’s contact details on the website’s contact page.

Thank you for taking the time to read this appeal. I hope you are able to support this worthy cause and I look forward to hearing from you.

Dave Purvis