The Blackden Trust is a small registered charitable trust founded to preserve, explore and share a very special piece of history unique to an acre of land in the Parish of Goostrey that has been occupied for 10,000 years. The most recent buildings are the Mediaeval Toad Hall, home to Alan and Griselda Garner, and the Tudor Old Medicine House, home to The Blackden Trust.
“In a normal year, there are two distinct phases to our activities, which are run almost entirely by volunteers.
From April until the end of September, we are open to the public. We give guided tours of the Old Medicine House and garden; run hands-on workshops for schools and for adults; and organise arts events. The central chimney is used as the stage for concerts and storytelling evenings; and the house is the venue for various activities including art exhibitions. The place is full of people.
During the winter we maintain the fabric of the house; catalogue recent archaeological finds; do the research that underpins our summer activities; organise and update our resources; develop new workshops; and train volunteers. There are fewer people around, but usually there are one or two Sixth Formers doing work experience with us here every Wednesday afternoon. In some ways this teaching and research is the most rewarding and important work we do. As the year progresses, students become work colleagues.
That all happened in what we knew as a normal year, but on 16th March 2020, along with other heritage organisations, we had to close the site. Nobody has been here since. The two regular self-employed administrators have worked from home. We communicate by email and phone. Our Board Meetings are on Zoom.
The Old Medicine House may be empty, but its fabric has to be maintained. Since I live on site, I’m the caretaker. Once a week, I turn on the taps to keep the water clean, and walk through the house checking for any potential problems. There have been some that needed dealing with, but the quiet uncrowded house has also revealed more of its subtle secrets. I have seen architectural and historical details that I’ve not noticed before. These and other lockdown discoveries will be incorporated into our guided tours and workshops, when we open again.
Until the Covid 19 pandemic is under control, we won’t know what activities will be possible and what form they will take. Lockdown restrictions have stimulated the development of virtual communications, and these will feed into our work in the future. We are already developing events that combine real and virtual experiences. An added advantage of a virtual event is that its audience is worldwide, as many organisations in Goostrey have discovered.
We shall be welcoming new volunteers and advertising our events on our website. Goostrey residents will be especially welcome”.