John Milton's Cottage, Buckinghamshire

A delightful timber-framed cottage that would go almost unnoticed in the pretty village street of Chalfont St Giles, were it not for the hanging sign affixed to the prominent brick chimney stack announcing that this was once the home of John Milton. Leaving his London house in 1665 to escape the Plague, John Milton and his wife took up tenancy of the roadside cottage in the summer, and remained there for less than a year. In any other circumstances, such a short period of occupation would infer a very tenuous connection, but Milton established firm roots within the community. Perhaps more importantly, the cottage was where he completed his great poetic masterpiece 'Paradise Lost', and where the seeds were sown for 'Paradise Regained'.

From his early school days, John Milton was recognised as an unusually studious and serious young man with a love for the romantic and artistic works of the world. Known primarily as one of the greatest English poets of all time, John Milton was also a master of languages and an enthusiastic historian. For 20 years he put aside his poetry to take up the Puritan cause during the Civil War, publishing numerous pamphlets about religious and civil liberties, and acting as a government translator of important Latin documents. By the age of 43 John Milton had lost his sight, but continued working with a passion for the Commonwealth. Ten years later, he became a thoroughly disillusioned man, whose relentless work had appeared to be all in vain, suffering blindness, temporary imprisonment and near poverty for his strong beliefs.

Deciding to settle for a more sedentary life, away from the political and religious controversies of the time, John Milton returned to his first love, poetry. It was whilst he was living at the cottage that he completed the epic 'Paradise Lost', and had the idea for the sequel given to him by his former pupil and neighbouring friend, Thomas Ellwood. As the only home of his to survive, and also being the place where his most renowned work was revived, this late 16th century cottage developed an indelible association with John Milton. It is shown today much as it would have appeared over 300 years ago when Milton first arrived, a basic house with few furnishings, but now incorporating a museum to his life and works. This ancient little cottage is delightful enough for its architectural history, but combined with the fact that it now houses some of the world's most profound literary works is quite overwhelming.

To the side and rear of the cottage are surprisingly large gardens, abundantly planted with many varieties of flowers, fruit trees, and herbs referred to in Milton's poems. As the only one in the Chilterns to be listed Grade II, the serenity of this magnificent and fragrant cottage garden, offers the visitor a perfect resting place for contemplating the many facets of John Milton.

Hughenden Manor
Also in the area...
Notable HouseHughenden Manor
read more about this location
The London Pass – find out more here