I was a bit surprised when I read the April edition of the Felpham freebie magazine to find that the editor had given someone (unnamed so I can’t tell you who) from the Felpham Village Conservation Society a free platform from which to inform the village that everything with Blake’s Cottage is perfectly all right. The FVCS has ‘created a working group to liaise with the owners,’ he wrote. And a little further down the page he reported the BCT ‘has now secured a donation that at last lets them appoint architects.’ It must be a very large donation, I thought, to cover the £50,000 fee that Tim Heath wrote about on the BCT website. And I wondered why the news hadn’t been noised abroad in the local papers.
So I asked around and discovered that the reporter at the Observer hadn’t heard about it. Then I wrote – twice – to Mr Johns but he didn’t answer, which was odd. So I tried a few of the Trustees of the Blake Society to see if they’d heard of it and they hadn’t. Curioser and curioser.
However being told that the BCT were expected a large donation is nothing new. On June 16th 2016 the Bognor Observer reported that the cottage ‘is to be fully restored after a £500,000 investment was pledged this week’ and Mr Johns was quoted as saying ‘the Trust hopes to have permission to start work on the roof within days.’ But nothing was done, as we all know, and we heard no more about the investment, which didn’t surprise me a bit. I have to say I don’t think we shall hear any more about the new ‘Donation’ that has been ‘secured’.either. Such an odd word to use. If you’ve been given a donation you usually say just that.
So the next thing I did was to ring up the editor of Felpham in Focus and ask if I could write an answer to the article. She said I could but was plainly nervous and stressed that she could only let me have 200 words and I wasn’t to say anything critical about the FVCS so I agreed that I would make it as anodyne as possible.
I wrote a list of events in chronological order so that the working group would at least know the history of what has been going on before they liaise with the owners. But she was horrified by it and said she couldn’t possibly published it. It is now obvious that I am not going to be allowed to tell anyone in the FVCS what has actually been going on. As you might remember I wrote to the Chairman of the Society and offered to talk to the Society so that could have a better idea of what has been happening. But he turned me down flat. Now two doors have been shut in my face. It’s horribly discouraging.
However I let her have my anodyne 200 words. So I thought I’d let you see them too.
When Blake was put on trial for sedition the locals went to the court in Chichester and perjured themselves to get him off. It was a very brave act because it could have got them into serious trouble.
Now the locals, some of them descendants of Blake’s villagers, are concerned about the state of his cottage. To give them a chance to voice their concern I set up a petition on September 12th 2016. It said ‘William Blake’s cottage in Felpham was bought by funds from public subscriptions and a charitable donation of £400,000. It is seriously in need of repair having stood empty for three years but nothing is being done. We the undersigned require immediate action to save this hugely significant building before it is too late and we lose the birthplace of ‘Jerusalem’ ‘
Over 500 Felpham people signed it. May I use this magazine to thank them publicly?
And may I say to any of them who are reading this, could you spread the word that I will enlighten any of the members of the FVCS and anyone else in the village who would like to know what is really going on. I am still here and still available to them. All they have to do is answer this blog.