How Wordsworth House was saved

Odille Ellis and her mother Gabrielle in the greenhouse in the 1930s

The Wordsworths weren’t the only family to leave their mark on this house. The Ellises, who lived here in the 1930s, were almost responsible for its destruction.

William Wordsworth’s birthplace nearly burned down on several occasions while GP Edward Ellis, his wife Gabrielle and their children Odille and Bill were in residence.

One night when Edward and Gabrielle were having a dinner party, Odille was reading in her room when she heard footsteps on the stairs. Unsure who was approaching, she panicked.

She later remembered: ‘I wasn’t supposed to read in bed and we only had gas lights. Someone was coming up the stairs, so I pulled my curtains around the gas light and set them on fire!’

The family’s Christmas tree also caught light more than once, thanks to their habit of decorating it with cotton wool balls and real candles.

The brink of disaster

In 1937, Edward and Gabrielle decided to divorce. So they could split their assets, they sold Wordsworth House to local transport company Cumberland Motor Services, which was looking for a site to build a bus garage.
When the people of Cockermouth heard it was about to be demolished, they formed a committee and raised money from around the world.
They bought back William Wordsworth’s childhood home for just £1,625, handed it over to the National Trust and we’ve kept it safe ever since.
Our audio tour, costing £1.50 per person, includes more of Odille's memories of living here in the 1930s. Why not hire a copy when you come to visit?