Learn about the life of William Wordsworth in the Lake District31 March 2017
World Heritage Blog post courtesy of holidaycottages.co.uk
Although the beauty and the scenic landscapes of the Lake District have inspired several writers over the centuries, the one that has become synonymous with the National Park is William Wordsworth, one of the country’s best-loved poets.
Born in Cockermouth, Wordsworth spent the vast majority of his life in the Lake District. Visitors can learn all about the life and works of Wordsworth, as many of his former residences have been opened to the public, as well as other notable places dedicated to his memory. During a stay in the Lake District, you can visit each of these places and take a journey through Wordsworth’s life.
Wordsworth House is the birthplace and childhood home of William Wordsworth, as well as his siblings. Now cared for by the National Trust, visitors can experience a glimpse of how life was for them growing up in this house in the 1770s. Among the places on display are a working 18th-century kitchen, the children’s bedroom, full of toys and dressing-up clothes, and the garden, overlooking the River Derwent. Opposite the house, you can also find a memorial to Wordsworth, unveiled in 1970, on the bicentenary of his birth.
Founded in 1585, this former grammar school is where William, along with his brother John, completed his studies, and even the old desks remain in the ground floor classroom, covering in carvings they etched in. Upstairs, you can see the headmaster’s study, as well as another classroom, which features an exhibition on the school’s history, its founder, and Wordsworth, its most famous pupil.
Located in Grasmere, Wordsworth lived in Dove Cottage from 1799 until 1808, where he wrote much of his popular poetry, and his sister, Dorothy, also kept her journals. Built in the 17th century, the cottage was an inn before the Wordsworths moved in. In 1802, William married Mary Hutchinson, meaning that she also lived here, as did their three oldest children: John, Dora and Thomas. The cottage also had many visitors from literary circles, including Walter Scott, Thomas de Quincey and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Visitors can explore all the rooms of the house, including William’s study, while the Jerwood Centre contains a vast collection relating to Romantic literature. The garden and orchard, which much of their lives centred around, are also open to explore.
A spectacular Georgian villa, which Wordsworth in fact once regarded as an eyesore, became William and Mary’s home in 1808 when Dove Cottage became too small for the family and the friends who also lived with them. During the two years that they lived here, the couple also had another two children: Catherine and William.
Allan Bank was opened to the public in 2011, having undergone an extensive restoration. This is different to Wordsworth’s other residences, as it acts as a blank canvas, encouraging visitors to harness the creativity the house inspires, by taking part in the interactive activities, providing artwork and even planting flowers in the gardens.
Rydal Mount was where Wordsworth spent the remainder of his life, living there until he passed away at the age of 80 in 1850. The house still belongs to his descendants, and visitors can see the family bedrooms as well as the attic study, where Wordsworth worked during his time as Poet Laureate. Portraits, personal possessions and first editions of Wordsworth’s work can be seen throughout the property. Also, worth seeing is the four-acre garden, which remains much as he designed it, with rare shrubs, lawns, rock pools, and an ancient mound, dating from the ninth century.
Found in Rydal next to St Mary’s Church, this rash field and area of semi-open woodland was initially bought by Wordsworth to build a house on. This never materialised, however, and instead, following the death of his daughter Dora in 1847, he planted hundreds of daffodils here in her memory.
Dora’s Field is now looked after by the National Trust, and visitors can walk along the paths through the field, taking in the views created to remember a much-loved daughter.
Thousands of people come to Wordsworth’s grave every year to pay tribute to his life and work. Following his death in 1850, he was buried with a simple tombstone in the churchyard of St Oswald’s Church, along with Mary, who died nine years later. While he was still alive, he planted eight yew trees in the churchyard, with one of them marking his grave. Also buried in this churchyard are his sister Dorothy as well as four of his children.