Still More Wordsworth Places in the Lake District

by David Murray on 3 January 2012

in Cumbria, Historic Houses, Lake District General, William Wordsworth

Recently I’ve written several times about Lake District places associated with William Wordsworth, the great nineteenth century romantic poet. In addition to describing a visit to Wordsworth House in Cockermouth and seeing the tremendous work that has been done to recover from the devastating floods of November 2009, I posted a further article summarising the Wordsworth houses currently open to the public.

Hawkshead Grammar School - Wordsworth's school

Hawkshead Grammar School

The lives of Wordsworth, his family and his friends were so bound up with the places of the Lake District that it is difficult to think of anywhere with no connection. His poetry takes us out from Grasmere and Rydal, west to the Duddon, north to the Derwent and over more mountains than we can name. Actually, though, I was thinking chiefly of buildings and it occurrs to me that I ought to mention properties in two more Cumbrian towns, Hawkshead and Penrith, with strong Wordsworth connections.

Wordsworth in Hawkshead

In the first of these there is the Hawkshead Grammar School. After the death of their mother William and his brother Richard attended the school here between 1779 and 1787. Ann Tyson’s cottage where they lodged survives, now used as a holiday cottage. The school ceased operating as such more than century ago. It is owned by a charitable trust and is open to the public. You can even see William’s name carved with a penknife, as was schoolboy practice, in the wood of a schoolroom desk.

Wordsworth and Penrith

Penrith was the home town of both the poet’s parents. His father John Wordsworth was the son of a lawyer and land agent who also farmed at nearby Sockbridge. John followed in his father’s footsteps (without the farming) and as quite a young man was appointed as Sir James Lowther’s agent in West Cumberland and so occupied the Lowther-owned house in Cockermouth, which in time became William’s birthplace as well as that of his sister Dorothy and their brothers. William’s mother, Anne Cookson, often brought her children from Cockermouth to stay with their grandparents William and Dorothy Cookson in their home on Borrowgate, sometimes for long periods, and some of the children’s early schooling was here. After Anne’s early death at the age of only thirty it was to Penrith that William would travel from Hawkshead to spend the school holidays, and later from Cambridge.

These two towns may be less associated with Wordsworth’s poetry than the later homes at Grasmere and Rydal, but nevertheless they form an important part of his early story.

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