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The Museum

John Milton The Museum

Milton’s Cottage was built in the late 16th century for the estate manager of The Vache – a nearby country house once owned by George Fleetwood, one of the people who signed the death warrant of Charles I.  

Fleeing the outbreak of the Bubonic plague in London, Milton came to Chalfont St. Giles in 1665, where a house had been secured for his family by Milton’s friend and former pupil, Thomas Ellwood – who famously referred to it as “that pretty box in St Giles Chalfonte.”

Although he lived here for less than 2 years, Milton’s Cottage was an important place in the writer’s life.  It was here that he completed Paradise Lost and was inspired to write its sequel, Paradise Regained – the late, great works that ensured his enduring poetic legacy, and universal recognition as one of the world’s greatest writers.

Milton’s Cottage was secured for the nation after a public appeal to prevent it being dismantled and moved to the USA.  Queen Victoria opened the subscription list to purchase of Milton’s Cottage in 1887 and it has been open to the public ever since – making it one of the oldest writer’s house museums in the world.

Discover Milton’s extraordinary story

John Milton

John Milton was born in 1608 to a century of revolution — in religions, politics, print, science and the arts.  By the time he died, in 1674, Britain had experienced the rule of three Stuart monarchs, a few short-lived experiments in republican government, the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell – as well as civil war.

Unusually for a writer, Milton was at the centre of this turbulent period.  Having postponed his early poetic ambitions to support the republican cause, he served as Cromwell’s Secretary for Foreign Tongues (and unofficial spin doctor).

The political pamphlets he wrote during these years have had a strong influence on our current parliamentary documentary – as well as providing inspiration to the Founding Fathers of America and for the French Revolution.

After the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, now blind, politically exiled – and lucky to escape with his life – Milton returned to his first love, poetry.  His greatest work, Paradise Lost, was published in 1667 and immediately hailed by the poet John Dryden, as “one of the most sublime poems this age or nation has produced.”

The Collection

The Milton Collection

John Milton wrote far more than Paradise Lost.

Visit Milton’s Cottage and you’ll discover how much more.  Our collection celebrates the extraordinary breadth of his writing, from his early poetic works – including Lycidas and the collected poems of 1645 – to his iconic pamphlets on social, religious, political and press freedoms.

As well as rare and first editions of his best-known poetic works, including Paradise Lost, you’ll find a treasure trove of paintings, prints and artefacts.

From the Milton family chair to a lock of his hair, pikes to a royal proclamation, our collection gives a unique insight into Milton’s extraordinary story.

The Garden

Milton's Garden

“Laurel and Myrtle and what higher grew
Of firm and fragrant leaf: on either side
Acanthus, and each odourous bushy shrub
Fenc’d up the verdant wall, each beauteous flower,
Iris all hues, Roses and Jessamine
Reard high their flourish’d heads between, and wrought
Mosaic.”

Paradise Lost, Book 4, Line 694

Milton’s Cottage is home to a unique literary garden, planted with trees, flowers and fruits that are referenced in his poetry.  

Milton himself was a keen botanist (the poet Emily Dickinson called him “The Great Florist”) and few artists have been more influential on the development of the English garden aesthetic.  

His descriptions of the Garden of Eden in Paradise Lost helped shape our informal gardening style.  Horace Walpole, in On Modern Gardening (1770) said: “He seems with a prophetic eye of taste to have conceived, to have foreseen, modern gardening.”

Reflecting this, the garden at Milton’s Cottage has been laid out as a traditional English cottage garden – the only one in the Chilterns listed by English Heritage as a Grade II Registered Historic Garden.

Milton’s Cottage Trust (CIO)

About Milton's Cottage Trust

This registered charity has been set up to protect and preserve Milton’s Cottage for future generations.  As part of this process, the trustees are committed to engaging new audiences with Milton’s extraordinary legacy and ensuring it is accessible and available to everyone.

Our Team

Trustees

S Avery                           Chairman
H Brown                        Museum Mentor
T Butcher                       Nominated by Buckinghamshire Council
J Dugdale Bradley        Finance and Fundraising
J Freemantle                 Secretary and Governance
D Hicks-Beach              Nominated by The Mercers’ Company
J Ryman                         Nominated by Chalfont St Giles Parish Council
T Simmons                    Infrastructure and Publicity
A Still                             Garden and Horticulture
Mrs K Welch                 Museum and Collection

Honorary Trustee

F Nolan                           Heritage

Officers and Advisers

Secretary                                 J Freemantle
Honorary Solicitor                BWK Solicitors, Chalfont St Giles
Honorary Treasurer              J Dugdale Bradley
Independent Examiner        P Lea-Wilson