“A spirit of pleasure and youth’s golden gleam;
And think ye not with radiance more
sublime
For these remembrances, and for the
power
They had left behind.”

  – William Wordsworth, The Prelude, Book 12 lines 262-269

Rydal Mount was the Wordsworth’s family home from 1813 until William’s death in 1850 at the age of 80. Today (7th April 2020) is the 250th anniversary of his birth and it is 50 years since Wordsworth’s descendants (who still own the house) opened the house and gardens to the public.

In September 2019 I organised a five-day tour to the Lake District. Despite a day of torrential rain, we spent a wonderful afternoon at Rydal Mount enjoying a private tour of the house and gardens with the curators of the house, Emily and Matt, who then treated us all (30 people) to a delicious cream tea in Wordsworth’s Drawing Room. I’m delighted to share the following message from Emily on this special 250th anniversary of Wordsworth’s birth:

“As most of us sit in our houses in isolation in order to keep healthy, perhaps now is a time to reflect on how life affirming group gatherings can be. Connecting with others in person can be a source of shared memories and moments. At such a time as this, when we’re separated by quarantine, these memories can sustain us, and also remind us of what we can look forward to once again, when we’re through this experience.

A wonderful memory from the summer of 2019 was when Sue Stamp and her group came to visit Rydal Mount. It was an abysmal afternoon in late summer. Gloomy skies, gusts of chilly wind and vicious daggers of icy rain greeted the group as they arrived.  Some were hardy and went for a soggy, windblown tramp around the garden; others wisely chose to sit that bit out and thaw out in the Drawing Room.

 
Tables were set up in the Drawing Room and we laid on pots of tea, scones, jam and clotted cream. Spirits seemed to rise at this and soon the sound of happy chatter started increasing in volume. 
 
We gave a summary of what to look out for in the house: William Wordsworth’s letter declining the position of Poet Laureate; his brother John’s sword, rescued from the wreck of The Earl of Abergavenny in which John sadly lost his life; the Dining Room chairs embroidered by Dorothy Wordsworth, Mary Wordsworth and Sara, Mary’s sister who also lived in the house.
 
Since this visit, Rydal Mount has received many new Wordsworth treasures from another branch of William’s direct descendants – items that belonged to William while he lived at Rydal Mount and unseen by the public until now. Of note is the Sir William Boxall portrait of the Poet, the study of which is in the National Portrait Gallery, the Wordsworth family bible and many Beaumont paintings (Beaumont was one of the founders of the National Gallery and a patron of Wordsworth).
 
William Wordsworth himself knew the value of connecting with family, community and the wider world at large. Rydal Mount was an open house and the list of visitors he received during his 37 years of living there is long and illustrious (among others: Charles and Mary Lamb, William Wilberforce, Nathanial Hawthorne and Emerson).
 
We are looking forward to re-opening the house and gardens to visitors, and groups, as soon as we’re able, so that they are able to experience the special, creative atmosphere of Rydal Mount for themselves.
 
In the meantime, we will be celebrating the 250th Anniversary of Wordsworth’s birth online. Please keep an eye on our social media (https://www.facebook.com/WordsworthRydalMount/ Instagram @rydalmountwordsworth and twitter @Rydal_Mount to see what we’ll be up to.”    – Emily Heath, Curator

Image credits: Main image of house – taken by Joe Wainwright/ other images by Sue Stamp

Quote: William Wordsworth – The Prelude, Book 12, lines 266-269