After an international campaign, the Cottage of William Blake was successfully purchased and placed into trust on 21 September 2015 and the Blake Cottage Trust is now planning the next stage – the renovation and restoration of the Cottage.
Our initial intent is to remove the later extensions to the Cottage and bring it back to a state that William and Catherine Blake would have recognised when they lived and worked their between 1800 and 1803. In the liberated space we hope to build a new multifunctional building that will be an architectural jewel in its own right and will draw people to the village of Felpham just to see it.
The Renovation of the Cottage is the first step in a much more ambitious project where the Trust acquires the second and only other surviving house that Blake lived in during his lifetime, at No 17 South Molton Street. This second home is in the heart of London’s West End. Our hope is to join these two houses together through an axis of creativity that will link the city to the sea, the urban to the rural, and the past to the future. In joining the two locations artists and writers will be able to research Blake’s life in London, reflect and create during periods of respite in the Cottage, and then have the opportunity to present their work either in Felpham or at the heart of one of the world’s great capital cities.
The Cottage will never cater for large numbers of people – the Cottage is just too small. But more fundamental than size is our aspiration not to be measured by the numbers who come in through the front door, though these are important, but rather by the measure of what comes out of that door – a stream of creativity, prophecy and imagination.
The public will have 3 forms of access: Firstly, People can visit the Cottage on open days and experience the working of an exact replica of Blake’s Eighteenth Century Wooden Rolling Press – an Engraver’s Copper-plate Press. Secondly, invited guests can stay and sleep in the Cottage over a short weekend or a longer week. And thirdly, they can elect to become Friends of the Cottage and thereby receive the gifts that will be made by the resident artists (writers, musicians, painters, printmakers, &c) who will find refuge or respite in the Cottage.
The new building will be multifunctional, having a secure space for small but important exhibitions, space for conferences, alternate space for a second residence, as well as office and administrative space.
It is our vision to create an axis of imagination between the two poles of the project, the Cottage and the House. Our world turns on the inequality in commerce and spins on war. Yet William Blake saw that the mind-forged manacles are everywhere and war is energy enslaved. In offering an alternative axis to our globe, an axis of creativity and wonder, we hope the planet will begin to turn more justly. For everything that lives is holy.