Today saw me and Pui going to Dove Cottage, just outside Grasmere village to meet Paul, the head of marketing of this fabulous literary shrine to William Wordsworth, one of the most famous of the Romantic poets. Paul is a fount of information and entertained us royally with little anecdotes and details of Wordsworth’s life and times – snippets that a student does not always come across when studying this poet and his works. Certainly, when I was reading Wordsworth at school, I was never told any of these wonderful tales by my teacher.
I have been to Dove Cottage in the past but had forgotten how dark the little cottage is, particularly in the rooms downstairs. Dove Cottage used to be a public house and therefore boasts dark oak panelling to disguise the stains of smoke from its fireplaces and tobacco as well as cleanable flagstone floors rather than straw-covered earthen floors, which could get very muddy, soggy and slippery from patrons’ wet boots and coats during rainy Lakeland weather. Low ceilings, small proportions, and the natural darkish colours of interior building materials combine with smallish windows to give these rooms on the ground floor a cosy – albeit dimly lit – ambience.
Two things struck me as I wandered through the little house that Wordsworth lived in. First, I noticed that all the doors between the rooms were shut, thus creating a boxed-in atmosphere. Secondly, I noted that a reception room could immediately lead into a private bedroom. For example, the entrance hall was literally adjacent to Dorothy Wordsworth’s bedroom. This seemed rather strange to me until I learnt from Paul that at any one time, up to 12 people could have been living at Dove Cottage, including good friends on long visits. No wonder they were all squashed up!
Wordsworth’s possessions take pride of place in Dove Cottage, many of which are in excellent condition. There is a smallish 4-poster bed on which lay the poet’s battered suitcase – tiny by modern standards. In fact, I wondered out loud about this and was told that he would have travelled with a spare item of each piece of clothing, thus the case did not need to be particularly large. Wordsworth’s passport, unfolded and written out in French, is displayed with a translation on the wall next to the bed.
The rooms upstairs are much lighter in decor and the fact that they are one floor up attracts more natural light. Wordsworth wrote much of his poetry in a lovely light-filled study graced by a window seat. However, there is no desk in this room, as our wordsmith detested desks and preferred to write on one arm of a cutlass chair which takes pride of place in the room.
Wordsworth and his family lived in Dove Cottage from 1799 to 1808. The situation of the house, its pretty garden which the poet cultivated, the views of Grasmere Lake which he enjoyed from his study, and his thinking arbour at the top of his cottage garden, helped to inspire some of his best work. Dove Cottage was first opened to the public in 1891. ‘Explaining the aims and ideals of the first board of trustees, responsible for opening Dove Cottage to the public, Stopford Brooke wrote, in 1890:
‘There is no place, … which has so many thoughts and memories as this belonging to our poetry; none at least in which they are so closely bound up with the poet and the poems … In every part of this little place [Wordsworth] has walked with his sister and wife or talked with Coleridge. And it is almost untouched. Why should we not try and secure it, … for the eternal possession of those who love English poetry all over the world.’
For guests staying at Blenheim Lodge, we are now able to offer an exclusive discount off the ticketed entry price in conjunction with the Wordsworth Trust. The ticket includes admission to the Wordsworth Museum and Art Gallery as well as Dove Cottage. Visiting Dove Cottage is particularly interesting as knowledgeable guides await to lead visitors through the house, after which one can wander at will.
Blenheim Lodge is located in Bowness-on-Windermere, about 10 miles from Dove Cottage, which is around a 20-minute drive and easily reachable by bus or car. Why not combine your visit to Dove Cottage with a walk around Grasmere Lake and village? Make a day of it; we are sure you will have a wonderful time!
Blenheim Lodge . . . panoramic Lake views, peace and tranquillity, nestled against acres of beautiful fields and woodlands, in the heart of the English Lake District National Park.’
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