Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Wordsworth House

We had a really nice day out on Saturday, visiting Wordsworth House in Cockermouth.  This is a National Trust property, but not one we'd ever been to before.  In fact, we'd only ever been to the town once, years ago before the devastating floods, on a terribly wet day which we spent mostly doing a tour of Jennings Brewery to get out of the rain!

Going back was great.  The town has recovered from the 2009 deluge remarkably well and looked lively and buzzing, full of attractive independent shops, antiques centres, cafes and galleries.  We mooched up and down the main drag, had a coffee, mooched some more, poked about in the antique shops, had lunch, and finally headed for Wordsworth.

The poet lived in this house before moving to its more famous counterparts, Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount.  He and his family were tenants of his employer, the Earl of Lowther, who may even have partly furnished the property to show off his own wealth to their visitors.

The National Trust have done a super job with the place.  Where Dove Cottage is all about Wordsworth the word-smith, this is far more about his life as a family man, and as an employee.  I hadn't even realised that he was employed as Lowther's estate manager - and, judging by the tone of various letters scattered about, very much at the Earl's beck and call.  "You will receive this letter on Monday and will travel to Millom on Tuesday..." without so much as a please or thank you.

The house, although one of the larger properties on the High Street, was by no means a stately home and the interior room sizes and furnishings seem to have been relatively basic.  Ann, Wordsworth's wife, apparently didn't even have a cook or housekeeper, just a single live-in servant, which was surprising for that age.  It all built up into a fascinating portrait of a man who was by no means a 'gentleman of leisure' and had to work hard for his living - not at all the impression you tend to get of one of our most famous poets these days.

The garden was also a delight, with lots of fruit trees, hidden corners, old state roof tiles with bits of Wordsworth's poems scribbled on them, and even some chickens!

Personally I got rather put off Wordsworth by having to wade through 'Michael' at school, but this is still definitely recommended as a day out, whether you're 'into' his poetry or not.

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