The Historic Building

The Cottage in 2021

Old postcard of the Cottage

Blake's Cottage is a small 17th Century cottage with 18th Century, 19th Century and 20th Century alterations. At its heart though it is a typical Sussex agricultural labourer’s cottage built of flint and stone cobbles with red brick chimney stacks, quoins and window surrounds and a thatched roof on a timber frame - a traditional vernacular style which continued in rural areas in this part of England through to the end of the 19th Century. It is estimated that the Cottage was built in the late 17th Century, perhaps around 1690, but further research is needed to confirm this.

The original floor plan, which the Blake’s would have occupied, consisted of two rooms with a central stair and a chimney stack at each end of the building, but a later extension to the east in the 19th Century added another room with a third chimney. A further single-story extension to the east, constructed in the 20th Century, will eventually be demolished, as part of the renovation works. 

At some point in its history, the south elevation of the cottage facing the sea, was rendered with a lime-roughcast render as protection from wind and rain. This is visible in early photographs, but Blake’s own sketch of the cottage from 1803 suggests that it may have been rendered even at that time, when the cottage was totally exposed with no protection between it and the shore. More recent photographs show it still rendered in the mid-20th Century.

Originally the roof was simply thatched with a wrap-over ridge finished flush with the roof slope, as in Blake’s sketch of the building. Various phases of re-thatching followed a similar style, but in the late 20th Century the roof was re-thatched and finished with a decorative block-cut ridge. The restored Cottage will have a simpler finish in line with the historical evidence.

Recognised as one of the most important places in English literary history, the Cottage is Listed Grade II*, and the surrounding Garden Wall is Listed Grade II. In 2021, the Trust applied to Historic England requesting that the Cottage be included in the Buildings at Risk Register. Following its inclusion, the Trust applied to the Architectural Heritage Fund for funding to enable the production of a Conservation Plan. This document, developed with advice from Historic England and Arun District Council, provides detailed guidance for the restoration of this nationally important building.