The Wordsworths' House
Recreating the look and feel of the Wordsworths’ home was an interesting challenge.
Many other people lived in the house after the family moved out in 1783, and there was little trace of how it would have been in their time.
William was one of five children born between 1768 and 1774 to lawyer John Wordsworth and his wife Ann. The Wordsworths didn’t own the house. It belonged to local bigwig Sir James Lowther, who employed John as his agent, and the family were allowed to live in it rent-free. Their household accounts (kept at one of William’s later homes, Dove Cottage in Grasmere) offer fascinating insights into their lifestyle, including who they employed as servants, where they shopped and what they bought. John Wordsworth also kept detailed records on behalf of Sir James, listing where he went, who he met and how much he spent. These helped us to piece together the intriguing jigsaw puzzle of the Wordsworths’ day-to-day life.
To determine how the house itself might have looked, we drew on the skills of a range of historical experts. Paint samples from almost every wall surface were analysed for clues to how the rooms might have been decorated – the colours in most rooms come from this investigation. The types of paint used (such as oil-bound and casein distempers) were chosen to give the finish and texture characteristic of an 18th-century home. The best rooms (at the front of the house) are filled with 18th-century furniture and objects likely to have been owned by families of ‘middling’ status like the Wordsworths. A few items actually belonged to members of the Wordsworth family. Furnishings for the less formal, ‘hands-on’ rooms at the back were copied from 18th-century examples by specialist craftspeople and conservators using traditional techniques and materials. Replica items include furniture crafted by cabinet-makers, kitchen utensils forged by blacksmiths, carpets and fabrics made by weavers, and crockery hand-made by potters.
All this work helps create a vivid sense of what life must have been like in this bustling household.