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Credit - The Blake Cottage Trust
Credit - The Blake Cottage Trust

‘A beautiful cottage [where] I might write all these visions…’: Restoration of Sussex cottage to celebrate the life of William Blake

18 November 2021
England

One of the only two surviving homes of visionary artist and poet William Blake, Blake’s Cottage is a Grade II*-listed building situated in the conservation area of Felpham, West Sussex. The Cottage was recently added onto the Heritage at Risk register due to its deteriorating condition. Significantly, the 17th-century Cottage was home to Blake when he began writing his epic poem Milton, the beginning of which is best remembered as the lyrics to the hymn, ‘Jerusalem’.

Recognising that artist’s homes can provide a unique insight into their lives and works, this week the Architectural Heritage Fund awarded a Project Viability Grant to The Blake Cottage Trust to kickstart the process of conserving the Cottage, and transforming the site into a heritage and arts centre dedicated to Blake and his circle. This grant was funded through Historic Assets moving into Community Ownership, a programme supported by Historic England.

The grant is among 12 awards the AHF made this month, with projects ranging geographically from Surrey to Orkney and funding totalling £112,220. 

The Blake Cottage Trust was formed to promote, encourage, and advance the education of the public life and work of William Blake. To fulfill this purpose, the group also intends to acquire the working replica of Blake's copper plate rolling press and to install this in one of the ground floor rooms in the Cottage, which will be developed as a 'museum-style' working exhibit, with the ability to reproduce accurate copies of some of the artist’s most well-known images. Other plans for the building include a modern-style gallery, with a spring and summer artist residency, and classroom space. The hope is that the Cottage will be reopened in 2025, two years before the 200th anniversary of Blake’s death.

The AHF grant will fund fees for a conservation plan to be carried out at the Cottage, including a summary of the site, assessment of its significance, and an analysis of conservation needs. This support will allow the Blake Cottage Trust to proceed with their project, confident that plans in development are appropriate to the site, and will help secure this ancient Cottage for future generations of poets, artists, and other dreamers.

Kelcey Wilson-Lee, Head of Programmes & Impact at the AHF, said:

"The buildings we occupy and live among are so much more than backdrops to our lives – they shape our world, offering inspiration and connection to the past that are irretrievable once lost. That’s why we are delighted to support the Blake Cottage Trust in their ambition to secure the Felpham site for future generations."