top of page


Originally built in the 17th century, The Cottage was presented to English historian Joseph Spence in 1728, around the same time he was elected unanimously to Professorship of Poetry at Oxford.

During his time at Birchanger, Joseph Spence was able to practice the landscape and gardening techniques he was learning from Alexander Pope and others in his circle. Spence wrote an essay on Pope's translation of Homer's Odyssey in 1726 which gave rise to a friendship between Spence and Pope. 

Among his papers was a neatly executed plan of the Birchanger garden [see below]. His time for gardening here was limited by his Oxford duties and trips abroad. Nevertheless, from his letters to his mother we learn that his thoughts kept turning to the garden [see below]. In 1742 Joseph Spence gave up his Birchanger living.


King, R. W. (1978). Joseph Spence of Byfleet, Part I. Garden History, 6(3), 38–64.

Joseph Spence
Joseph Spence's drawing of his plans for the garden at Birchanger
bottom of page