A Year in Review

The year of 2020 saw some wonderful groundwork to the Blake Cottage project.

January began with Tate Britain’s Blake show, a once-in-a-generation exhibition that brought together artworks and visitors from around the world. And at the end of the year there was the first ever Conference on William Hayley, Blake’s patron who invited William and Catherine down to the Cottage in Felpham.

Funding for the Cottage proved elusive in this year of Covid when many of the grant making organisations were retrenching and diverting their funds to existing projects in order to keep them alive during this, the most difficult of all years for organisations in the arts and culture.

Happily just before lockdown there was a magnificent funding campaign that offers the Cottage a fine prospect. In just ten weeks a sum of £3.5m was secured for the purchase, renovation and endowment of Derek Jarman’s cottage in Dungeness. A model for Blake’s Cottage itself.

Pace and Purpose are different beasts and during this year we have kept our focus firmly on the grand purpose. To create a home for Blake that celebrates his genius in all its diversity.

To this end we have encouraged visits from individuals involved in fine art, theatre, poetry, ceramics, music, antinomianism and the green movement.

People often treasure the Cottage because it was where Blake wrote the words that became the anthem Jerusalem, while others locate its importance in its challenge to authority, the place where Blake was accused of treason.

But there are a myriad of reasons why the Cottage should open its doors and welcome visitors beneath its roof of rusted gold. One of these minute particulars is the picture known as Newton. There were two executions of this monoprint, the first in 1795 where it formed part of the collection known as the 12 large colour prints. But the version we are most familiar with, and the one shown above, was made after the turn of the century, and perhaps in the very Cottage in Felpham itself, where Blake had the opportunity to explore the ocean pools at low tide.

Of course, with Blake you can never tell the provenance of his imagination. Is the picture that of Newton or an illustration from the Bible?

When he prepared the heavens I was there:

when he set a compass upon the face of the depth

Proverbs 8.27 of the King James Bible

Open Afternoon Sunday 16 Sept 2018

On Sunday 16 September from 2pm to 4pm the Cottage will be open for visitors to see the rooms where Blake lived from 1800 -1803 and discuss the architectural plans for the restoration of the building.

The poet Niall McDevitt will give a talk on ‘The Jerusalem Tradition in English Literature’ and there will be music from Olivia Stevens.

The Event is free and open to all.

Architect’s Plans Published

Plans for the Cottage have now been published by our architects MICA in a booklet that can be downloaded through this link.

The booklet shows several historical photographs of the Cottage together with visualisations of the future as well as detailed plans & drawings.

Petworth House Show

A wonderful show has opened at the National Trust’s Petworth House entitled ‘Blake in Sussex – Visions of Albion’.

Also on display in the Show is a model of the Architect’s initial ideas for the restoration of the Cottage together with two bound books of visualisations.

 

 

 

Summer Fête Open Afternoon

2 pm – 4 pm Saturday 8 July 2017
Blake’s Cottage, 1 Blake’s Road, Felpham, West Sussex PO22 7EB

After four centuries as a private dwelling, Blake’s Cottage was purchased and placed into charitable ownership in 2015. So this summer’s day – the day of the Felpham Village Summer Fête which takes place in the Old Vicarage Gardens beside the Cottage – is a good time to step inside the 17th Century Cottage where William and Catherine lived for three peaceful yet turbulent years between 1800 and 1803.
‘Beneath our thatched roof of rusted gold’ they created some extraordinary works including the visionary encounter with Milton and the words we now sing as ‘Jerusalem’. It was here also that the violent events unfolded that led to the trial for sedition.
The Trustees of the Blake Cottage Trust will be present to show you some initial architectural sketches for the restoration of the Cottage and talk about the plans for its economic independence and visionary intent.

Meet the Architects

You are invited to meet the Architects and hear about the plans for restoring Blake’s Cottage at 11am on Saturday 3rd June at Felpham Village Hall, 17-19 Vicarage Lane, Felpham PO22 7DZ

The Royal Institute of British Architects gladly commended Rick Mather Architects (RMA) to take the lead in the task of restoring the Cottage to the form it once was when William & Catherine lived there from 1800-1803 and help us create in Felpham a world class centre for the study and enjoyment of William Blake’s art, poetry and prophecy.

Stuart Cade of RMA, who led the magnificent restoration of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford as well as many national and international projects, has agreed to address this open public meeting at which you will be free to ask about their approach, suggest ideas and help make it all a great success. He will be accompanied by his assistant James Roach of RMA.

RMA have created some visual boards to visualise the proposals:-

RMA Consultation Boards

Archaeological Survey

At the beginning of April 2017 an initial archaeological survey was made of the Cottage. Historic buildings are an important source of information about architectural, engineering and building crafts, as well as social and economic history. We expect the Cottage to prove as complex and multi-layered as Blake himself.

The survey was done by Archaeology South-East who are a commercial consultancy spinning out of the archaeology department at University College London and have been offering their insights into the historic environment for over forty years.

 

Amy and Hannah from Archaeology South-East

A map of 1876

James Roach of RMA at the garden gate

And here is the full report:

HistoricBuildingAssessment

Architectural Survey

Richard & Callum of CSL Surveying the Cottage, March 2017

In March 2017 the Cottage was digitally surveyed by one of the leading firms of architectural surveyors CSL.  This will enable accurate plans for any future options for the Cottage to be drawn up and then exhibited for public consultation and advice, which we hope will be announced soon and to take place in the Summer.

A Visit from Historic England

Samantha Johnson, Inspector of Historic Buildings in Sussex for Historic England came to see the Cottage on 15 December 2016. She was accompanied by the Senior Historic Buildings Adviser for Chichester District Council and the Principal Conservation Officer of Arun District Council.

Following the visit, Historic England issued the following Press Release:

‘We have met with The Blake Cottage Trust and we are encouraged by their clear enthusiasm for the grade II* listed building, as well as their commitment to finding long term uses for it. The building is now structurally secure and we look forward to a constructive working partnership with The Trust, Arun District Council and local people to help secure a sustainable long term future for Blake’s cottage.’

Note: Historic England is the public body that looks after England’s historic environment. They champion and protect historic places, helping people understand, value and care for them.

Blakeonomics

The economics of Blake’s Cottage is an integral part of the restoration project. Without an economic plan, the future of the Cottage would neither be secure nor viable.

So let us jump forward into the future and pre-suppose the restoration of the building is complete and the Cottage is now open to the public. Where is the revenue to come from in order to cover the running costs?

Heating and electricity, insurance, rates, gardening, maintenance, administration, and then there are the costs of the staff to welcome, inform and supervise the visitors as they wander upstairs and downstairs through the rooms of the Cottage …

The current cutbacks in government & council funding means there is no public money available for the running costs of such a project, and similarly, recurrent revenue funding is all but impossible to obtain from grant making trusts.

So the Cottage itself has to be independent and self-sufficient with its revenue equalling its costs.

Children and young people will be especially welcome at the Cottage, but no net income can be projected from such a source as the costs of supervision far outweigh any monies levied from a child’s entrance fee.

But there is tea & cakes and the sale of postcards & trinklets, I hear someone say, but is this to be Blake’s legacy – our nation’s greatest poet, artist and prophet reduced to petty penury?

To appoint a Director would give leadership & vision to the Cottage. Yet the director would need a wage and to make such an appointment meaningful she would need a budget at least equal to her salary. So immediately another £60k of running costs is added to the budget.

j-e-p1-300The answer to this economic challenge is to be found in a ‘visitors centre’ which could be funded successfully from a capital appeal and once built would give a broad economic grounding to the project – a versatile architecture for seminars, a gallery, a shop, a library, a cafe, an office for the director and accommodation for visitors to stay.

A Visitors Centre with a visionary architecture will draw people to the Cottage, to Blake and his Printing Press, and to the arts of the imagination. All these elements will give the Cottage an economic engine and an international fame – and most importantly for Blake, an independence.

No one will forget that Blake was accused of Sedition here in Sussex, so the Cottage needs an independent voice. The Cottage could then call upon local residents to give their time as volunteers for a nobler cause. Together here in Felpham we can create an economics of vision, a lighthouse to the world that will continue Blake’s pursuit of vision, truth and justice – a Blakeonomics.