Structure of famous Blake’s Cottage ‘now secure’

Ross Fisher looks at the roof supports at Blake's Cottage
Ross Fisher looks at the roof supports at Blake's Cottage
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The deteriorating structure of Blake’s Cottage ‘is now secure for the foreseeable future’, the trust managing the historic building in Felpham has said.

Some 20 large metal supports have been put in place to hold up the collapsing thatched roof and broken wooden beams, following detailed instructions from a structural engineer.

The Blake Cottage Trust has issued an update on the restoration of the famous cottage where poet William Blake lived from 1800-1803 and penned the words which later became the hymn Jerusalem.

“Over the past 20 years the fabric of the cottage has been allowed to deteriorate and so our first concern has been to safeguard the structure of the building while we move towards a full and complete restoration,” the trust said in a statement.

“Three structural surveys of the building have been carried out - one with a firm of surveyors who have an expertise in historic buildings, the second with an experienced thatcher, and the third with a structural engineer.”

It said the thatch on the roof is ‘deep and weatherproof’ but if short-term problems arise it would address them as necessary.

The trust said it had been in touch with Historic England, who confirmed it had not been placed on its At Risk Register.

The cottage was purchased last November for around £500,000, with money raised by local people adding to around £400,000 which came from an undisclosed benefactor.

Buying the cottage completed stage one, the trust said, but similar funds now being sought for stage two, the restoration.

The trust said: “The financial target for stage one was reached but not exceeded and so there are no funds available to commence the restoration work.

“We are now actively seeking funds for stage two and we are advised that around £500,000 will be needed.

“We are working hard to raise these monies. It took several years to raise the initial funds to purchase the cottage and we can expect a similar time frame to raise the monies for stage two. Once we have the funds in place then the restoration process can confidently begin.”

The trust added that once stage two had begun it could commence stage three, the creation of a new visitor centre within in the cottage grounds.

Reflecting on its long-term plans for the cottage, the trust said: “There has been a lot of speculation about the ultimate use of the cottage and its accessibility by the local community.

“Our plans are, firstly, to encourage local people to visit the cottage on open days and experience the working of an exact replica of Blake’s original 18th Century wooden rolling press.

“Secondly, we want to be able to invite artists and poets to visit, stay, be inspired by, and work in the cottage. It is also intended to use the new visitor centre for public events, workshops and exhibitions.”

The statement, signed by the three Blake Cottage Trust trustees Peter Johns, Michael Phillips and Tim Heath, added that it was important for them that the cottage gardens were open to the local community on a regular basis, adding that the cottage was too small to cater for large numbers of people.

Anyone who wants to donate to the restoration of Blake’s Cottage should visit http://www.blakecottage.org/donate/

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