2020 at Wordsworth House and Garden

A portrait of William Wordsworth in middle age

Wild child, disillusioned radical, impoverished artist, disciplinarian patriarch, environmentalist or elder statesman: which was the real William Wordsworth?

2020 marks 250 years since the birth of the boy who grew up to be one of the world’s best-loved nature poets and a pivotal figure behind the creation of the National Trust and the global conservation movement.

As the birthplace and childhood home he shared with his parents, brothers and sister Dorothy, Wordsworth House and Garden has a year of special events planned.

An emotive exhibition, ‘The Child is Father of the Man’, explores how William was shaped by his wild, outdoor upbringing and the trauma that all-too-soon shattered this idyllic life.

It includes Dorothy’s tiny bonnet, which was painstakingly hand sewn – most likely by their mother Ann – in anticipation of Dorothy’s birth on Christmas Day 1771. It is the sole item to remain from the siblings’ childhood, making it especially precious.

No one knows how this fragile artefact survived Ann and her husband John’s early deaths and came to be passed down for almost 250 years into the safe hands of its current owners, the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, but it appears that Ann may still be taking an interest in it.

When our normally down-to-earth seamstress was stitching a handling replica in her work room at home recently, she says William’s mother appeared in front of her!

Alongside insights from renowned Wordsworth expert Kathleen Jones and multi-award-winning poet Helen Mort, evocative photographs by Simon Mooney focus on the ephemeral nature of childhood objects and what their loss or preservation means to us in the modern world.

‘The Child is Father of the Man’ is open daily except Friday from 14 March–8 November, 11am–4pm – admission free with entry to the house and garden.

Warts and all

Visit on a Wednesday afternoon in term-time to hear the maid-of-all-work give a new talk entitled ‘William warts and all’. Discover – and make up your own mind about – the husband, brother, father and hypochondriac behind some of our best remembered poems.

We also have some very special evening talks:

Sister of my soul

Thursday 23 April, 7.30pm 
Torn apart as children, when William Wordsworth was reunited with his sister Dorothy, she became the centre of his world. Wordsworth expert Kathleen Jones discusses the unique sibling relationship that shaped the poet and the man. £10 including glass of wine. 

Loved and lost

Thursday 21 May, 7.30pm
Simon Mooney, whose photographs are at the heart of our exhibition, ‘The Child is Father of the Man’, talks about visiting the places that were special to Wordsworth and creating artwork to evoke the emotional power of childhood objects. £5 including coffee and cake. 

He gave us eyes

Thursday 25 June, 7.30pm 
Jeff Cowton and Michael McGregor, from the Wordsworth Trust, explore the relevance of the poet 250 years after his birth and how this has shaped their new museum and the Reimagining Wordsworth project. £5 including coffee and cake. 

In Wordsworth’s footsteps

Thursday 17 September, 7.30pm
Award-winning poet and novelist Helen Mort talks about William Wordsworth, walking and creativity and reads from her own work.  £10 including glass of wine. 

Walking like Wordsworth

Thursday 15 October, 7.30pm
Door-to-door poet Rowan McCabe shares work created during his 2020 residency at Wordsworth House and Garden and inspired by the lives of ordinary people. 

Book your talk tickets here. A booking fee of 5 per cent will be applied to all tickets.

Wordsworth House's poet in residence, Rowan McCabe
A man with a briefcase walks past a wall
Wordsworth House's poet in residence, Rowan McCabe