This seaside cottage in southern England was the home of poet William Blake between 1800 and 1803. Though he lived here for just three short years, it was under this “thatched roof of rusted gold” that he penned the first line of the famous Hymn “Jerusalem” from his epic “Milton”: “And did those feet in ancient time / Walk upon England’s mountains green?”
Blake was particularly taken with the cottage, writing that “no other house can please me so well, nor shall I ever be persuaded, I believe, that it can ever be improved in beauty or use.” The poet’s delight in the village of Felpham, where the house is located, was also evident in his letters. He wrote, “The villagers here are not mere rustics; they are polite and modest… Meat is cheaper than in London; but the sweet air and the voices of winds, trees, and birds, and the odours of the happy ground, make it a dwelling for immortals. Work will go on here with God-speed.”
Just across the road from the cottage is the Fox Inn, a local watering-hole that Blake frequented. One evening at the Fox he became embroiled in a drunken row with a soldier that resulted in the writer’s arrest. The soldier later told authorities that Blake had shouted remarks amounting to treason. Blake’s reported outburst —“Damn the King. The soldiers are all slaves!”—saw him put on trial in the local city of Chichester. He was later cleared of the charges, but nevertheless, the incident soured Blake’s life in Felpham. He returned to London in 1803, and lived out the rest of his life there.
Know Before You Go
The nicest way to access the cottage is to walk down the seafront from nearby Bognor Regis and turn left just before Felpham Sailing Club onto Blake's road. The cottage is on the right-hand side. The Fox Inn where Blake was arrested is still open for business just a minute walk further down the road from the cottage. The cottage is currently closed to the public, although the William Blake trust that owns the cottage plan to open it as a visitor centre sometime in the future.