THE grand opening of Joe the Quilter’s cottage has been celebrated – the first building in the £18million Remaking Beamish project.

The heather-thatched cottage at Beamish Museum, near Stanley, is a recreation of the “lost” home of renowned Georgian quilter Joseph Hedley, who was murdered in 1826, in an appalling crime that shocked the nation.

It features stones from Joe’s original home, including flagstones where he stood 200 years ago.

The remains of Joe’s cottage in Warden, near Hexham, Northumberland, were uncovered during an archaeological dig by Beamish staff and community members.

The exhibit, which tells the story of quilting and the growth of cottage industries in the early 1800s, has been painstakingly recreated by skilled museum staff.

A drawing on a postcard that was produced after Joe’s murder gave valuable details about how his home – which was demolished in 1872 – looked. A crack in the front wall of the original cottage, clearly visible in the 1820s drawing, has even been reproduced.

The Remaking Beamish project is the biggest development in the museum’s 48-year history and also includes a 1950s Town, 1950s Farm and Georgian coaching inn, where visitors can stay overnight.

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

Richard Evans, Beamish’s Director, said: “This is a really exciting moment for us all at Beamish. After years of planning we are finally opening the first of many new exhibits that are part of Remaking Beamish, a major £18million development that is currently underway at the museum.

“This beautifully-crafted, heather-thatched cottage gives us a rare chance to understand what everyday life was like in the North East during the early part of the 19th century.

“The quality of this latest addition to Beamish is outstanding – the result of many years of research, painstaking craftsmanship and the involvement of local community groups and schools. It is a real credit to the dedication and talent of our staff and volunteers, who have created this fascinating new experience for our visitors.”

The opening was performed by Beamish director Richard Evans, head of Heritage Lottery Fund North-East, Ivor Crowther, and and community volunteer Richard Young.