New 3D images of what a fully restored Blake’s Cottage would look like have been revealed for the first time.
The trustees of the Felpham cottage where William Blake lived will meet with Arun District Council this month ahead of submitting plans, which include building a ‘world-class’ centre to celebrate the poet’s famous work.
And in the wake of renewed local criticism over the handling of the project, trustee Richard Johns insists there is ‘no question’ it will happen, reiterating that the cottage will be handed over to local trustees when it’s complete.
The plans have been developed by Stuart Cade, director at MICA architects, responsible for the £61m renovation of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
Mr Johns said: “Now we have got the final plan the next step is a meeting with Martin White (ADC conservation officer) on March 21 for an informal assessment to get his feedback, see if our ideas are acceptable in general terms or if we are barking up the wrong tree completely.
“We will then be in the place to go to the people who have the money and say this is definite, this is what we are doing, now please open your wallets.”
It was during his stay in Felpham that Blake penned the words that would go to on make the famous hymn Jerusalem.
The project, said to cost more than £3m in total, will be done in two phases:
Renovate the 100-year-old cottage, first restoring the damaged thatched roof, remove the 1970s extension and bring it close to the state it was when William and Catherine Blake occupied it 1800 to 1803.
Then creating a new, multifunctional centre to host exhibitions, talks and educational workshops. The images appear to show it will have modern, part glass roof.
Mr Johns estimates the planning stage could take up around six months, meaning ‘serious’ work wouldn’t start until later this year.
The three trustees of the Blake Cottage Trust have faced continued criticism locally since it was purchased for around £500,000 in 2015.
Mr Johns said: “We are progressing satisfactorily.
“A couple of people have been saying we are taking too long but we have had to go through the architectural stage, which has taken nearly nine months, and now we have to go through the planning stage which could be five to seven months.
“These timescales aren’t set by us.
"But this project is going to be delivered no question.
“The condition of the cottage is stable, the steel beams in the roof aren’t going anywhere but it doesn’t matter how many times you say it is not going to fall down, some don’t appreciate things take time.”
He added: “We are actively looking for additional trustees from the local area.
“Once this project is done us three trustees will hand over to the community trustees and we will disappear.
“It’s got to be for the Felpham and Bognor community, that’s the whole point.
“The only centre in the world that celebrates William Blake is going to be for the Bognor area to enjoy, so it’s got to be good.”
As part of a ‘very good’ collaboration with the current Blake exhibition running at Petworth House, a series of open days have taken place at Blake’s Cottage, the only home he was known to live at outside London and one of only two still standing today.