A little bit of Wordsworth in your home

19 June 2012, Arts, events and places, Would you like to leave a comment?

William Wordsworth was born in 1770. He lived for eighty years, produced some of English poetry’s greatest works and influenced future generations of poets.

Most of his life was spent in the Lake District. He was born on the 7th April in a fine Georgian house in Cockermouth, now called Wordsworth House. His father John was an estate agent to Sir James Lowther, who owned the house. The garden at the back, with the River Derwent flowing past, was a place of magic and adventure for the young William.

Cumbria was where he spent most of his life, where he was schooled, raised his own family, wrote much of his poetry and where he died in 1850 at his last home, Rydal Mount. Though William would spend time away from the area at various points throughout his life, he would never be away from the Lakes for long. William had a special affinity with the Lake District, which is evident throughout the thousands of lines of his poetry.

I wandered lonely as a cloud; That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd, A host of golden daffodils;

The family home in Cockermouth remained a private house until the 1930’s but almost faced disaster when the local bus company bought it with the intention of demolishing it to make way for a new bus station! This made the national papers and enough money was raised for the town to buy it back. On 3rd June 1939 it opened as a Wordsworth memorial and became a grade 1 listed building. In 2003, after a long period of research, the National Trust subjected it to a £1m revamp in order to return it to a more authentic 18th century setting.

The floods

On the afternoon of November 19th 2009 both the rivers Derwent and Cocker broke their banks and the waters swept through thousands of homes and businesses throughout the town. Heavy rainfall was the main cause but rivers had been un-dredged for years and a relief archway (added after an earlier traumatic flood) was partially silted up when the floods struck.

Although Wordsworth House escaped by inches much of the garden's brick walls which have survived since the 1690s, collapsed under the force of the rushing water.

The terrace, where William played as a boy with his sister Dorothy and contemplated the river - remembered in his autobiographical poem, The Prelude, has also been swept away. The rear of the terrace was lined with some magnificent beech trees, believed to have been growing up with William, some 240+ years ago. These too where tragically uprooted in the devastation.

Wordsworth house flood damage

Wordsworth house flood damage before and after

Wordsworth beech

The following spring, whilst restoration of the house was underway, I was approached by the National Trust and asked to do something special with these trees. The wood has been seasoning from 2009 and I have since created a range of pieces. Local interest was immense with most of these going before entering the newly refurbished shop! A second and final collection of primarily natural edge bowls will be avilable through Wordsworth House from the 16th July. These would look great on the coffee table or bookcase, perhaps next to a copy of his work?

Wordsworth beech wooden bowl

Wordsworth beech bowls will be very similar the above cherry bowl

If you interested in one of these pieces please contact Wordsworth House directly.

Wordsworth House
Telephone: 01900 824805
Email: wordsworthhouse@nationaltrust.org.uk

I do however, have a hand full of larger pieces which I plan to turn into fruit bowls, possibly with carved and textured edges. If you're interested in one of these or would like something specific from this very special wood, just let me know.

Jonathan Leech

Written by Jonathan Leech

Jonathan Leech is a woodturner working and living in Cumbria. He specialises in making bowls, dishes and platters from local sustainably sourced timber. Read more or about Jonathan or see a selection of his work.

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  • Hi Chris,
    It's great you've got some yew coming in - as you can probably…
    - Jonathan Leech