Paradise Regained At John Milton's Cottage In Buckinghamshire

by Emily Sands | 12 July 2005
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Photo shows how the view of the cottage looks now, after restoration work has been done.

Restoration work has been taking place to recapture the view of the cottage as seen in Thomas Jones' painting. © 24 Hour Museum.

Quill in hand, 24 Hour Museum Renaissance Student Journalist in the South East, Emily Sands ventured into rural Buckinghamshire for a view of John Milton's Cottage.

A view of the cottage where John Milton wrote Paradise Lost is being restored to how it appeared in a famous 18th century painting thanks to a grant from Awards for All, a lottery grants scheme aimed at local communities.

Built in 1580, the house in Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire has inspired many artists to set up their easels in the surrounding fields, but a painting by Thomas Jones is the basis for field clearance to recreate the famous vantage point.

Photo of Thomas Jones' painting of Milton's Cottage.

Thomas Jones was a great Milton admirer and painted this landscape in 1774.© 24 Hour Museum.

Ed Dawson, curator at the cottage, said: “We are very lucky that Jones painted the cottage in 1774, exactly 100 years after Milton’s death.

“We have a copy of the painting here at the house, but the view it shows hasn’t existed for a long time because it's been so over-grown. The grant has helped us to clear the field of rubbish and neglected hedges to conserve the outlook.”

Thomas Jones is often referred to as ‘the John Constable of Wales’ and was a great Milton admirer. But ironically, the view he painted cannot be reproduced in full because of an important Mulberry tree planted 60 years ago that obscures some of the façade of the cottage.

The tree was grown from a cutting of a Mulberry that Milton himself planted as an undergraduate at Christ’s College, Cambridge.

Photo shows Milton's Cottage and some of its garden.

The cottage was built in the 16th century and has the only Grade 1 listed garden of its period in the area. © 24 Hour Museum.

“Mulberries are very much a Milton symbol,” said Ed Dawson. “Although the tree wasn’t there in Jones’ day, the grant will still give people an idea of how things looked in that time.”

The cottage attracts an average of 750 visitors a month. American tourists often make the poet’s home their first stop from Heathrow and it regularly receives enquiries and study visits from scholars and education groups all over the world.

Photograph shows the table and chair where Milton wrote Paradise Lost.

The chair where Milton wrote Paradise Lost. © 24 Hour Museum.

For the benefit of visitors and the collections, Milton’s Cottage has also been given a Museum Development Service grant for conservation lighting and disabled access – two essential improvements to an historic property.

Ramps are to be made for the entrance and thresholds, helping wheelchairs pass more easily through the cottage.

The photograph shows cabinets containing rare first editions of Milton's books.

A Museum Development Service grant has helped rare first editions of Milton's books to be conserved properly. © 24 Hour Museum.

New cooler light bulbs have been installed into cabinets that house rare 17th century first editions of Milton’s books to prevent discolouration. One book is from 1649 and was the poet’s own copy.

The grant comes as part of Renaissance in the Regions, a scheme that aims to give extra funding to regional museums.

Ed Dawson said: “Education was one of Milton’s great interests and so it’s fitting that visitors can now learn more about his life and times.”

Shows the Renaissance in the Regions logo.

Emily Sands is the 24 Hour Museum Renaissance Student Writer in the South Eastern region. Renaissance is the groundbreaking initiative to transform England's regional museums, led by MLA, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.

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