GUARDIANS of the most famous building in Felpham have revealed their ideas for the future.
The Blake Cottage Trust’s trustees have compiled a £3.3m blueprint about how best to preserve the building where the well-known poet wrote the words which became Jerusalem.
They have been showing the plans to visitors to the Grade II-listed thatched building at a series of open days linked to a major exhibition about Blake being held at Petworth House by the National Trust.
Peter Johns, one of the trustees, said they were set to start talks with planning experts at Arun District Council about the best way to put their ideas into action.
The trust’s proposals state: “The cottage is at the centre of the proposals and is to be sensitively refurbished.
“The principles of this follow the findings of the archaeological report in terms of historical precedent and significance.
“Whilst the intent is not to return the cottage to one that Blake would have specifically known, we feel – and have demonstrated -there is a scheme that is familiar to the intent that reverses later inappropriate changes, retaining listed structures and enhances the special character, allowing the appreciation of the site and the cottage.”
“We are pragmatic and have prepared an initial business plan that will support this continued work, and bring a sustainable model through the provision of new facilities,” adds the trust.
The proposals suggested by the trust include the removal of the single-storey 1960s additions and alterations, the removal of later windows and the re-instatement of historically sympathetic windows.
Internally, the trust is considering establishing a simple parlour close to the layout known by Blake and his wife, Catherine, when they lived there from 1800-1803. A print studio will contain a replica of Blake’s printing press.
As well as returning the staircase to the original layout, the trust proposes to keep the 19th century extension to enable the two-bedroom cottage to be used as a short-term let. It can be self-contained with another bedroom if the cottage is busy. In the grounds, it is suggesting an improvement to the setting of the cottage with new landscaping, better visibility from the road and the removal of the later additions.
Among this work is the removal of a section of wall in front of the cottage, the removal of fencing and gates and the replacement conservation of the thatched roof. This would open up space around the cottage and, as such, give more prominence to it on the site, pictured right.
“The new single-storey building appears as a garden wall with a simple opening to frame views of the cottage from within,” the trust states.
It will contain a single flexible gallery for exhibitions and events and a classroom space designed for many uses. A new, smaller support building will replace the existing garage.
“The proposals include a discreet access ramp to the raised site, making the cottage accessible for the first time,” says the trust.
The trust bought the cottage, in Blakes Road, in September, 2016, from its previous, private owner.
It has been criticised by Blake fan and novelist Beryl Kingston for failing to start repairs to the building.
But Mr Johns said it was stable and had come through the winter unscathed.
“Our immediate priority is to secure the roof. It will have to be dismantled in order for the centuries of neglect to be addressed,” he added. “As in good conservation practice, our intent is to retain as much of the original fabric as possible, including the wattle and daub finishes.”