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'. It was built 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.
Opening times 2008- 12 March - 1 November, 11.00am - 4.30pm (last entry 4pm) daily except Sunday
Photo by Jon Sharp
Aerial photos by Simon Ledingham.
Interior photos by Judith Lightfoot.
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