A NEW tenant is settling into the smallest and most unusual council house in Britain – Rayleigh’s a 17th-century Dutch Cottage.

The listed building is one of the town’s most famous landmarks and is owned by Rochford District Council.

The council rents out the thatched building for just £75 a week and has been on the lookout for suitable tenant to take over since June.

A board of trustees picked Fay Laflin as the new tenant, after considering 50 applicants, ruling her to be the most suitable to take care of the small-but-perfectly-formed old building.

Miss Laflin, a 33-year-old freelance stage manager, has moved from Eastwood to live in the cottage, which is so compact she had to have a special low bed made to fit in the bedroom.

She said: “I’m still pinching myself as I can’t believe I’m the new tenant and I get to live in such a lovely house. It’s a very beautiful house.”

As part of the deal, tenants are expected to open up the 20-foot-wide cottage, on Crown Hill, one day a week to visitors.

The cottage is believed to have been built by Dutch workers, who came to Essex to work on the sea defences on Canvey and in other low-lying areas of the county.

Miss Laflin added: “I’m looking forward to people coming round and visiting.

“I’ll be a tour guide in my own museum. I’ve had a special bed made up which is lower than a normal bed because of the space in the bedroom.

“Luckily I’m only 5 feet tall. In here, I can touch the ceiling, for the first time in my life!”

The cottage is open to the public for pre-arranged tours only.

Despite its unusual appearance and tiny size, Miss Laflin’s new home has all modern conveniences.

However, it also has a few characteristics which may not suit everyone. The main living space is arranged around a central fireplace – and to reach its one bedroom, in the roof, you have to climb a steep ladder.