The Folk Buildings Collection Betlém is a unique urban unit containing timber houses situated in the town centre. It was started in the first half of the 18th centurytogether with the spread of crafts. People could move thanks to the Tolerance Patent of Joseph II. signed in 1781. Rychnburk nobility offered a place on the right bank of Chrudimka river, former grazing land. Craftsmen, potters and weavers, started to build their homes there. The place was called Betlém (Bethlehem). In 1731 there were only two houses and herds of cattle. In the course of the century it was built up completely, with narrow streets among houses.
People built small houses of wood that was easy to get and use. Bricks were used only around fireplaces. Ground timber houses with saddle roofs used to have one large sitting-room, a hall with so called black kitchen and a closet, sometimes also a pig-sty.Gradually there appeared sheds and barns as the demands of the families were increasing.The first roofing was shingle (hand-made spruce, service life 30 years). From the 19th century it was covered with tar-paper and painted over with tar every year. There was a big cauldron for tar on the ground. From 1930s there started to appear fibrocement stencils on the roofs and gables. There were simple planked gables with little poppy-heads (clay, wooden, metal). The only decorations were inscriptions on the capsule planks and wings (planks covering the roof on slanting sides of the gable). There was variety of colours on window and door frames. In the second half of the 19th century houses used to have uncovered timbering and crevices were greased and whitened. From the end of the 19th century there was used colourful lime painting, from white to blue, green or pink.
In Betlém there lived families of craftsmen, mostly potters. After clay exhaustion in 1870 weaving craft spread. It was possible to hear the looms in almost every house. This craft was used in textile industry in the 19th century. There started to live factory workers in Betlém. In the 20th century there was a darker part of the history. Houses were devastated, inhabitants moved to modern buildings. People who care of the monuments were pointing out the great value of the buildings until the end of 1990s. In 1989 it was agreed to save the central part of Betlém and in 1995 it was proclaimed urban conservation area. The saving was carried out by Vysočina Folk Buildings Collection on behalf of Conservation Institution in Pardubice. Finally there should be 12 historical buildings (now there are 9). It'll be possible to see the way of life, traditional crafts and workshops. Some of the buildings will be inhabited.