The late C19 or early C20 terraced garden of a timber-framed cottage, with adjacent field, the house of John Milton in 1665, where he completed Paradise Lost and may have begun Paradise Regained.
In the spring of 1665 John Milton (1608-74) moved from Bunhill Fields in London to a cottage at Chalfont St Giles for six months, while the Plague was at its height in London. His friend and pupil Thomas Ellwood had taken the cottage for Milton, who by this time was blind, as a refuge from the Plague. Milton had begun to write his epic poem Paradise Lost in 1642, but had laid it aside to pursue the Parliamentary cause during the Civil War and Protectorate, becoming Latin Secretary to Oliver Cromwell. During his six months at Chalfont St Giles, living in the late C16 cottage which later came to be known as Milton's Cottage, he completed Paradise Lost and may have begun Paradise Regained. Milton returned to London once the worst of the Plague had died down.
In 1887 the cottage was bought and dedicated to the memory of John Milton. The garden may have been remodelled at this time. The Cottage remains in the hands of the Milton's Cottage Trust and is now (2000) a museum to John Milton.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING
Milton's Cottage stands south-west of the centre of the Chiltern village of Chalfont St Giles, on the south side of Dean Way. The c 1.5ha site is bounded to the north by Dean Way, to the south and east by fields, to the north-east by the adjoining Hampden Cottage and its garden, and to the west by C20 houses and their gardens. The ground slopes gently up to the south. The setting is that of a Chiltern village with C20 development close by.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES
The garden is entered off Dean Way to the north via a pedestrian gate, several metres west of the Cottage. A short path leads up to the front door on the west front of the Cottage.
Milton¿s Cottage (late C16/early C17, restored C18, listed grade I) occupies the north-east corner of the site and stands adjacent to Dean Way. It is a small, two-storey timber-framed cottage with red-brick infill and a tile roof. A two-storey C18 wing extends south at right angles and outbuildings extend south from the main building. This is the only surviving house in which Milton lived.
GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS
The site is divided into the garden immediately surrounding the cottage, and the paddock to the west and south.
The garden slopes up to the south from the garden gate on the north boundary in a series of low terraced compartments, with the Cottage standing occupying the eastern half of the lowest, north compartment. The terraces dividing the garden are emphasized by trellis and pergola. The southernmost compartment is laid mainly to soft fruit and vegetables on sloping ground. The central area, separating the southernmost compartment from the Cottage, is laid mainly to lawn. The north compartment, to the west of the Cottage, is divided formally between areas of lawn and herbaceous border. A quickset hedge runs along along the west side of garden, with C19 railings on the outer side, dividing the garden from the adjacent paddock.
The date of the original garden is uncertain but the present form may date from the late C19. The garden has been energetically restored since 1975 and most flowers and shrubs date from this period.
P W Phipps, Chalfont St Giles, past and present (1893), pp 45-9
H Allingham, Cottages in England (1923)
Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire III, (1925), p 185
C Birch, Chalfont St Giles in Camera (1985), pp 51-2
John Milton's Cottage, guidebook, (Milton's Cottage Trust, nd)
N Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire (1994 edn), p 217
OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1883
2nd edition published 1900
3rd edition published 1926
OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1881-2
2nd edition published 1898
Description written: October 2000
Register Inspector: SR
Edited: January 2005