On every day except Thursdays or Fridays, the day starts with a scenic drive to your first location, Greta Hall in Keswick.
On a Thursday or Friday, because Wordsworth House is closed, we begin the tour with a visit to the medieval village of Hawkshead. The journey there takes you along narrow, winding woodland roads through undulating fields filled with Herdwick sheep and rocky outcrops. Relax and admire the picturesque farms, barns and houses made from local Lakeland slate and stone. Your entrance to Hawkshead Grammar School is included in your tour. Here you will be able to see where William Wordsworth was educated and the desk where he carved his signature as a boy. Your guide will also take you on a short guided walk around the village pointing out all of the places of interest and then you move on to the next location, Greta Hall in Keswick.
Greta Hall is now privately owned but we pause at the bottom of the driveway for a brief look at the building. It was built about 1800 and was the former home of the romantic poets Robert Southey and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Southey, who was Poet Laureate from 1813 to 1843, lived here for 40 years. Many famous literary personalities visited Greta Hall including the Wordsworths, the essayist, poet and antiquarian Charles Lamb and his sister Mary. William Hazlitt the English essayist, drama and literary critic, painter, social commentator and philosopher was also a guest as was the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and the poet and novelist Sir Walter Scott. From here we travel to the beautiful and tranquil St. Kentigern's Church at Crossthwaite.
Situated on the outskirts of Keswick, Crossthwaite Parish Church is dedicated to St. Kentigern who came to Keswick in 553 AD. There has been a church on this site ever since. The present church was built in 1181 with alterations and enlargements in the 16th Century and extensive restoration in 1844 by Sir George Gilbert Scott who was a leading architect of the Gothic revival style. Your guide will take you to see the grave of Robert Southey in the churchyard and then into the church to see the splendid memorial to him. The epitaph and memorial were written by William Wordsworth who succeeded him in the post of Poet Laureate.
After our visit to St. Kentigern's Church, on every day except Friday, we travel on to Wordsworth House in Cockermouth. On a Friday we leave St. Kentigern's and go to our lunch stop near Grasmere.
Wordsworth House in Cockermouth is a lovely Georgian townhouse, the birthplace and childhood home of romantic poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy. The house is presented as it would have been when they lived there with their parents, three brothers and household servants. Here you can experience life in the 1770s with real food on the dining table, a fire burning in the kitchen grate 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 harpsicord. After a quick 'hello' to the small flock of heritage chickens in the garden, we move on to our lunch stop near Grasmere.
The location for our lunch (not included) has many stories to tell, not to mention a never-ending list of visitors including many writers, painters and explorers. It was here, whilst visiting their dear friend Elizabeth Fletcher, that William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy would stroll around the grounds pausing only for Dorothy to note down William's words. Their favourite places, such as Dorothy's Seat and Wordsworth's Well, are dotted around the 30 acres of grounds.
Having enjoyed lunch we take a short drive into the picturesque village of Grasmere. Your guide will take you on a short walk to see the Rectory where the Wordsworths lived for two years; the school where William and Dorothy taught and which is now where the famous Grasmere Gingerbread is made; Church Style, the former inn where William Wordsworth and Coleridge stayed during their walking tour of 1799; views of the Wordsworth's home of Allan Bank perched high on the hill over the village. St. Oswald's Church, cradled in its sublime Lakeland setting, is where William Wordsworth chose as his last resting place rather than at Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey.
After enjoying Grasmere Village, we now move on to Dove Cottage, the home where William Wordsworth with his sister Dorothy lived in from December 1799 to May 1808. There is major development work happening at the Wordsworth Museum during 2020 and it will not be open until mid year. The tour includes a guided visit to Dove Cottage .
We now drive from Dove Cottage to your next location at Rydal Mount. After the death of two of their children, the Wordsworth family felt that they had to move away from Grasmere Rectory with its constant view of the graveyard where they were buried. In 1813, they moved to Rydal Mount. This was William Wordsworth's best loved family home for the greater part of his life from 1813 to his death in 1850 at the age of 80. The house with its beautiful gardens were a focus for romantic literature. They continue to be owned by descendants of William Wordsworth and retain the feel of a lived in family home. The house dates from the 16th century and was enlarged over the intervening centuries, and also by William Wordsworth himself. It contains a selection of the family's prized possessions and portraits. William Wordsworth was a keen landscape gardener and the five acre garden remains very much as he designed it. It consists of fell-side terraces, rock pools and an ancient mound. Entry to Rydal Mount is included in the price of this tour.
Near to Rydal Mount is Rydal Church. The chapel of St Mary was built by Lady le Fleming, of Rydal Hall in 1824. William Wordsworth helped to choose the site, which was originally an orchard. The Wordsworth family and the family of the English poet Matthew Arnold, from nearby Fox How, worshipped here. Their family pews are on each side of the aisle at the front of the church. William Wordsworth was church warden from 1833-1834, and there is a memorial plaque to him.
The Rash field next to the churchyard is a plot of land which was bought by William Wordsworth who originally intended to build on it. The house never materialised. After his daughter Dora died in 1847, William went down to this field, and together with his wife and gardener, planted hundreds of daffodils as a memorial to Dora.
Entrance to Wordsworth House is included in this tour except on a Friday when it is closed.
William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy were born in this attractive Georgian house on Cockermouth High Street. The house is presented to visitors as it would have looked in the 1770s when the pair lived here with their parents and three brothers.
The house was built in 1690 by William Bird, and it initially housed agents of wealthy local landowners. Around 1740 it was purchased by the Sheriff of Cumberland, Joshua Lucock, who remodelled it in Georgian style with sash windows, wooden paneling, and a neo-classical entrance porch.
William Wordsworth was born here in 1770 to a lawyer named John Wordsworth, and his wife Ann. John Wordsworth served as an agent for Sir James Lowther, who owned the house, and Lowther allowed the family to live here without rent. Detailed records kept by John Wordsworth give a fascinating glimpse into the Wordsworth's lifestyle and that of his employer. John Wordsworth died in 1783, and the family were forced to leave. The children were sent to live with relatives.
The house passed through numerous hands until 1937, when the owner, Dr Edward Ellis, agreed to sell the property to Cumberland Motor Services, who planned to tear down the Georgian house and erect a bus garage. Local groups became alarmed at the prospect of losing the house. They raised 1,625 pounds to purchase the property and granted it to the National Trust.
The Trust has painstakingly recreated what the house might have looked like when William and Dorothy were growing up here. Layers of wall covering have been analysed to come up with a paint scheme that is, as far as we know, accurate to the late 18th-century look of each room.
The 'best' rooms, at the front of the house, have been furnished with authentic 18th-century furniture, which, though not specifically related to the Wordsworth family, at least give a good idea of how they would have lived. There are a few items owned by the Wordsworths, however, so all is not hypothesis! Outside the house are lovely gardens, where the Wordsworth children would have played.
Hawkshead is a picturesque old medieval village on Esthwaite Water, set midway between Ambleside and Coniston. There are whitewashed cottages around the central square of the village, and many narrow, cobbled alleys and archways running between the various properties. The lack of street signs can be rather confusing but you will have a short walking tour with your guide when you arrive to help you find your way among the labyrinth of alleyways and ginnels. Many of the buildings have decorative features, ranging from pretty window boxes to carved gargoyles in the eaves of some of the cottages. Known as the "Prettiest village in the Lake district".
The church of St Michael, which overlooks the village, has an interesting 16th Century altar tomb. It also has illustrated versions of some of the psalms and other quotations painted on the walls during the 17th and 18th Centuries.
William Wordsworth lodged in the village and attended the Grammar School here between 1778 and 1783. Your entrance to Hawkshead Grammar School is included in your tour on Fridays. The old school is open to visitors and there is a desk on which the young vandal carved his initials. Apparently, the punishment for such misdeeds was a birching whilst suspended from a pulley system in the centre of the room. We can only surmise that William Wordsworth received the punishment as his crime is still evident.
Grasmere is probably Cumbria's most popular village, thanks to William Wordsworth (1770-1850). Most of the buildings date from the 19th or early 20th Century, though the farms around Grasmere are much older. The Church dates from the 13th Century.
William and his sister Dorothy moved into Dove Cottage, in 1799 and they stayed here until 1808 as the cottage had became inadequate. They moved to Allan Bank, a large house that William had condemned as an eyesore when it was being built. They lived here for two years, with poet and friend Coleridge. They then moved to the Old Rectory, opposite St. Oswald's Church, a cold and damp house where his two youngest children died. In 1813 they moved to Rydal Mount. In 1850 William caught a cold while out walking and later died. He and his wife Mary, who died 9 years later, have a simple tombstone in the churchyard of St Oswald's Church, now one of the most visited literary shrines in the world. The Church stands on the bank of the River Rothay, along whose banks pleasant walks can be made.
Every year on the Saturday nearest St. Oswald's Day (5 Aug), Grasmere celebrates its Rushbearing Festival. This custom dates back to the days when the earthen floor of the church was strewn with rushes for warmth and cleanliness.
Grasmere at 1 mile long, half a mile wide and 75 feet deep, would be an attractive and popular tourist area even without its Wordsworth connections. 'The loveliest spot than man hath ever found' was William Wordsworth's famous quote describing the area of Lakeland that he most loved. The small island in the middle of the lake was his favourite destination while he was living at nearby Dove Cottage.
It was in this little cottage, at times 'crammed edge full' with people, in the heart of the remote Lake District, that William Wordsworth wrote some of the greatest poetry in the English language and Dorothy kept her famous 'Grasmere Journal', now on display in the Museum.
William came across his first Grasmere home by chance as he and his brother John walked along this lane with his fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in late 1799. He and his sister Dorothy moved in just a few weeks later. The cottage had once been an inn, the 'Dove and Olive Bough'. It was now to be the Wordsworths' home for the next eight years. In 1802 William married Mary Hutchinson and three of their five children were born here.
It was here that William, Dorothy, their brother John and many of their friends walked in the surrounding hills and around the lake itself.
Many of the places mentioned by Dorothy in her Grasmere Journal can still be visited and at the western end of the lake, steps lead to Wordsworth's Seat, which is believed to have been William Wordsworth's favourite viewpoint.
White Moss House, at the northern end of the lake, is thought to be the only house that William Wordsworth ever bought. He purchased it for his son Willie and the family lived there until the 1930s. Nab Cottage overlooks the lake and was once home to Thomas de Quincey and Hartley Coleridge, the son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Rydal Mount, in the heart of the English Lake District, lies between Ambleside and Grasmere and commands glorious views of Windermere, Rydal Water and the surrounding fells. This was William Wordsworth's best loved family home for the greater part of his life from 1813 to his death in 1850 at the age of 80. The house, which was a focus for romantic literature, continues to be owned by the Wordsworth family and retains the feel of a lived in family home.
The house dates from the 16th century, although was enlarged over the intervening centuries, and even by William Wordsworth himself. It contains a selection of the family's prized possessions and portraits.
William Wordsworth was a keen landscape gardener and the five acre garden remains very much as he designed it. It consists of fell-side terraces, rock pools and an ancient mound.
The chapel of St Mary was built by Lady le Fleming, of Rydal Hall in 1824. William Wordsworth helped to choose the site, which was originally an orchard. The gallery in the church was reserved for the private use of the le Fleming family.
William Wordsworth and his family, who lived at nearby Rydal Mount, and the Arnold Family from Fox How, worshipped here. Dr Thomas Arnold was the famed headmaster of Rugby school and the father of the poet Matthew Arnold. Their family pews are on each side of the aisle at the front of the church. William Wordsworth was church warden from 1833-1834, and there is a memorial plaque to him.
Inside there are many memorials and plaques to people with local connections. The four stained glass windows are memorials, and are worth studying. One of the South windows is by Henry Holiday (1891), and commemorates the two Quillinan step-daughters of Dora Wordsworth. St Mary's is built on rocky ground, beneath Nab Scar, so there are no burials at Rydal.
In April there is a Wordsworth Memorial Lecture in the Church, the texts of which are available in the Church as booklets. They are also available at the Armitt Library & Museum in Ambleside. The poet's birthday (April 7th) is also commemorated.
The Rash field next to the churchyard was bought by William Wordsworth originally to build a house. The house never materialised. After his daughter Dora died in 1847, William went down to the field between Rydal Mount and the main road, and together with his wife, sister and gardener, planted hundreds of daffodils as a memorial to Dora. Dora's Field now belongs to the National Trust.
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