Closed Thursdays and Fridays...Opening hours 11am to 5pm, last entry 4pm
Step back to the 1770s at the birthplace and childhood home of romantic poet William and his sister Dorothy. This lovely Georgian townhouse is presented as it would have been when they lived here with their parents, three brothers and the family's servants in the 1770s. Today, it is peopled by knowledgeable 21st-century guides. Explore the kitchen and other hands-on rooms at your own pace, or take a guided or audio tour “ or join a talk “ to find out more about the happiness and heartache that shaped the original wild children. Discover the weird and wonderful details of Georgian life, from what the Wordsworth family ate to how often they washed. There is real food on the dining table, real fires burning in the grates, and a recipe William and Dorothy might have eaten for you to taste. Ink and quill pens are ready in the clerk's office, and if you play the piano, you might like to try the replica harpsichord. The children's bedroom is full of toys and dressing up clothes, and down in the cellar, the household's ghosts are waiting to tell their stories. There is a daily children's trail, and in the school holidays, a full programme of family activities.
In the Discovery Room, there is a permanent exhibition about William's Lakeland legacy and his key role in the founding of the National Trust, along with family games and art materials.
New for 2018, the evocative Where Poppies Blow exhibition commemorates the end of the First World War in 1918 by telling the stories of a doomed generation, including poet Edward Thomas, author of Adlestrop.
Sir Nikolaus Pevsner described in his book 'The Buildings of England - Cumberland and Westmorland' Wordsworth House as 'quite a swagger house for such a town'.The actual first building date is uncertain but it could have been as early as 1670, with remodelling by Lucock in 1745 for the then High Sheriff of Cumberland, Joshua Lucock. In 1761 Sir James Lowther, son of Sir John Lowther who built Whitehaven and its port, bought the property.
John Wordsworth, the poet's father, moved to Cockermouth as agent to Sir James in 1764, and in 1766 married Anne Cookson and moved rent free into what is now known as Wordsworth House. Here four sons and a daughter were born – Richard (19 August 1768), William (7 April 1770), Dorothy (25 December 1771), John (4 December 1771) and Christopher (9 June 1774). Their mother died on 8 March 1778 when William was eight, and he spent most of his time with relatives in Penrith. His father died in Wordsworth House five years later on 30 December 1783. In 1784 all the children finally left the house to be cared for by relations.
The house was a private dwelling until the 1930's. In 1937 the Cockermouth Library tried to raise the money to buy it, but then the local bus company bought it, with the intention of demolishing it to build a bus station. This gained national press and radio attention, and enough money was donated for the town to buy it back. Cockermouth handed the house to the National Trust in 1938. On June 3rd 1939 it opened as a Wordsworth memorial, becoming a Grade 1 listed building.
In 2003, after a long period of research and planning, the National Trust subjected the house to a £1m revamp in order to return it to a more authentic 18th-century setting.
On 22 June 2004 Wordsworth House reopened, imaginatively presented for the first time as the home of the Wordsworth family in the 1770s. The house offers a lively and participative visit with hands-on activities and costumed living history. Rooms on display include a working 18th-century kitchen, the children’s bedroom, Mr John Wordsworth’s offices and other family rooms. The garden, with terraced walk overlooking the River Derwent, has been attractively restored to its 18th-century appearance as the favourite playground of the young Wordsworths.
Thanks to a bequest of £10,000 plus another £6,450 raised through other means, a harpsichord has been specially made for Wordsworth House. The replica William Smith English single manual harpsichord has been made by Robert Deegan Workshops in Lancaster, and received its first playing to an invited audience in March 2007.
Throughout the house's open season, there will be many chances for visitors to hear the harpsichord, as volunteer musicians will be playing on various days through the year.
Next door to the house is a National Trust gift shop.
Opposite Wordsworth House is a memorial to William Wordsworth unveiled on 7 April 1970, the bicentenery of his birth.
2018 opening times: 10 March to 28 October, Saturday to Thursday, 11am to 5pm, last entry 4pm
Photo by Jon Sharp
Aerial photos by Simon Ledingham.
Interior photos by Judith Lightfoot.
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