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New concerns over cottage

A WILLIAM BLAKE enthusiast has called for one final effort to save the famous poet’s Felpham cottage.


Author Beryl Kingston said she feared for the long-term future of the building if its condition was left untouched.


She was among the visitors who went along to the cottage where Blake wrote the words for what became Jerusalem at one of the open days being held to co-incide with a major exhibition about him at Petworth House.


Beryl said she feared the Blake Cottage Trust, which has owned the cottage for almost 18 months ago, was unable to save it.


“I will say as loud and as clear as I can that the cottage is no longer saleable. No potential buyer would touch it with a barge pole. It will cost several million pounds to repair it.


“Those of us who care about the place have been asking them repeatedly to start repairing it,” she said. “Nothing has been done.


“Over 500 of us signed a petition urging that money should not be wasted on architects’ plans and drawings but spent to start work on repairing the cottage.


“The architects have been hired and paid. Nothing has been done to the cottage.”


Since then, she said her visit showed more rafters had been broken and broken rafters and thatch had fallen into the upstairs bedrooms.


The damp walls were covered in mould and she believed there was evidence of an insect infectation.


“This is a very serious state of affairs,” she said. “If it is left to go on much longer, the cottage will be condemned as dangerous and pulled down.


“And that is something that none of us who is concerned about it would want to see.”


Beryl said she believed only the National Trust could restore the cottage with its funds and historical know-how.


She has suggested another petition to the National Trust to ask it to take the cottage over and repair it.


The cottage, where Blake lived from 1800-1803, is a Grade II-listed building which was privately owned until the trust bought it in September, 2016.


The trust has plans to renovate and restore it and put these on show last summer. These consist of ridding the building of its modern extensions and building a multi-functional centre in the grounds.


Peter Johns, one of the trustees of the Blake Cottage Trust, said the building was safe. “The cottage is stable,” he said.


“It has not deteriorated at all during the winter, which was exactly to be expected.


“The architects finalised their plans at the beginning of this month just in time for the model of them to go on show at the William Blake exhibition by the National Trust at Petworth House.


“Now the plans have been finalised, we can go to potential funders to show them that this is a real project and that is what we intend to do.”


He said the work was estimated to cost £3.3m. Of that, £750,000 needed to be spent on replacing the entire thatched roof and making the building safe for visitors. The rest would go on the planned visitor centre, the garden and improving access.


The open days held to tie-in with the exhibition had been a success and fully booked with 30 visitors a time, he added.

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