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The Guardian: ‘England hath need of thee’: appeal to save Milton’s Paradise Lost cottage

MAKING SENSE OF MILTON’S LONDON: a multi-sensory programme of events at Milton’s Cottage

From scratch-and-sniff cards to drawing-in-the-dark, Milton’s Cottage is offering literature lovers a feast for all the senses this season – providing immersive opportunities to experience the museum through touch, taste, sound and scent as well as sight.

Reflecting the fact that Milton was blind when he lived here, and wrote his best-known work Paradise Lost, Milton’s Cottage is working with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and a range of sensory experts – from master chocolatiers to professional perfumers – to change the way people interact with the museum and its collection.

Launching with a 17th-century-themed chocolate-making workshop, and culminating in a multi-sensory reading of Paradise Lost, Making Sense of Milton will also make sighted tours a regular feature of the museum’s programme.  Taking place on the first Thursday of every month, these tours are free of charge to people with vision impairment as well as their sighted guides.

“Our programme is designed to complement Milton’s remarkably multi-sensory poetry and explore the history of the 17th century in new ways,” says Simon Avery, Chairman of Milton’s Cottage.  “Milton lived at a time when English people had the chance to drink tea, coffee and chocolate for the first time and we want to give our visitors a taste of this fascinating period.”

Taking inspiration from Milton’s own writing, and curated in partnership with local residents who are living with sight loss today, Making Sense of Milton offers a sensational programme of events and participatory workshops that everyone can enjoy.

For more information and images please contact Kelly O’Reilly, Director of Milton’s Cottage, on 01494 872313 or businessdirector@miltonscottage.org

Notes to editors

  1. Milton’s Cottage, in Chalfont St Giles, is the only surviving home of the visionary poet and parliamentarian John Milton. It’s the place where he sought refuge from the Great Plague of 1665 to complete his epic masterpiece, Paradise Lost.
  2. Milton’s Cottage is overseen by Milton’s Cottage Trust (CIO), an independent charity established to preserve Milton’s Cottage, its garden and collection for future generations.
  3. Milton’s Cottage is open from 1st April – 29th October 2023. Opening times are Wednesday to Sunday, from 2 to 5pm (last entry 4.30pm) as well as bank holidays Mondays.  Admission prices are £7 / £6 for concessions / free for children under 16.
  4. Guide Dogs is here to help the two million people in the UK living with sight loss live the life they choose.  Children and adults.  Friends and family.  Their expert staff, volunteers and life-changing dogs are here to help people affected by sight loss live actively, independently and well.  Founded in 1934, following our first partnership in 1931, they are a charity that is almost entirely dependent on donations.  Find out more at www.guidedogs.org.uk
  5. Highlights of our 2023 events programme include:

A Curious Workshop about Chocolate – 5th April, 11am – 1pm: get a taste of the 17th century in this family-friendly chocolate workshop – reflecting the fact that Milton lived at a time when English people tasted chocolate for the first time.  Led by local chocolatier Vicki Prescott, of Prescotts Chocolate, participants will discover the history of this much-loved ingredient as they make their own flavoured chocolate bar and Easter-themed lollipop.  £25 per person.  Free chocolate lollipop making during our regular visitor hours, from 2 – 5pm.

The Wild Escape – 22nd April, 2 – 5pm: to celebrate Earth Day 2023, Milton’s Cottage is working with artists, poets and environmentalists on a multi-sensory exploration of their literary garden.  From tactile origami, based on Milton’s descriptions of wildlife, to taste testing honey made by their resident bees, this event invites visitors to explore the garden and collection at Milton’s Cottage through the prism of the natural world.  It’s part of The Wild Escape – a national project developed by The Art Fund and BBC to explore the UK’s wildlife through museum collections.  Free; donations welcome.

National Biscuit Day – 29th May, 11am – 1pm: continuing their tour of the 17th century through taste, Milton’s Cottage celebrates National Biscuit Day with historian and celebrated biscuit artist Ella Hawkins.  As well as creating her own biscuit art, in response to the museum’s collection, she will lead a family-friendly biscuit decorating workshop during May half-term with the chance to discover 17th century biscuit recipes and ingredients.  Free; donations welcome.

Heaven-Scent – 2nd June, 7 – 10pm: did you know Milton coined the word ‘fragrance’?  It’s just one of the 630 words he brought into the English language – more than anyone, including Shakespeare.  To celebrate, Milton’s Cottage invites you to create your own bespoke fragrance in a workshop led by local perfumer Deborah Skillicorn of Zoe Brown Perfumes and inspired by scents from the garden at Milton’s Cottage.  £50 per person.

Drawing in the Dark – 8th June, 7.30 – 9pm: Draw on your sense of touch and intuition in this experimental drawing workshop led by artist Joanna McCormack.  Workshop materials are provided, and no previous experience is required.  Free; donations welcome.

Chalfont St Giles Open Gardens Day – 11th June, 11am – 5pm: Milton’s Cottage is just one of the many beautiful and interesting gardens you can explore in this attractive Chilterns village.  All proceeds will support local charities.  £6 per person (accompanied children free).

Guide Dogs for the Blind Open Day – 1st July, 11am – 1pm: meet local guide dogs, watch guide dog demonstrations, take a blindfolded tour of Milton’s Cottage and more in this local fundraising event for Guide Dogs for the Blind.  Free; donations welcome.

Paradise Lost shared reading – 20th August, 9am – 9pm: Milton’s Cottage are once again hosting a marathon reading of Milton’s epic masterpiece in the place where it was completed.  This year’s event will include multi-sensory readings developed in partnership with Guide Dogs.  Everyone is invited to experience the fun of reading aloud together.  Free; donations welcome.

Find out more about Milton’s Cottage in our latest newsletter: Milton Messenger_April 2023 (3)