‘Fair seed-time had my soul, and I grew up
Foster’d alike by beauty and by fear;
Much favour’d in my birthplace…’
The poet William Wordsworth, who wrote these lines (from The Prelude, 1805), was born in a fairly substantial house in Cockermouth, in what is now Cumbria, in 1770.
William was the second child of John and Ann Wordsworth. John was the agent for Sir James Lowther’s Cumberland estates. The house was owned by the estate and was ‘tied’ to the agent’s position. For a number of years it must have been filled with the sounds of the growing brood of Wordsworth children, five in all.
Tragedy struck in 1778 when Ann Wordsworth died, and John died five years later, with the children having to be sent into the care of relatives elsewhere. But the period in Cockermouth seems to have been a particularly formative experience for William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy, as it imbued them with a sense of the beauty of the Cumbrian landscape.
The house was given to the National Trust by the Wordsworth Memorial Fund in 1938. By that time there had been a number of subsequent owners, and no furniture or other objects remained from the Wordsworths’ time. In 2004 the National Trust instigated a restoration project to bring the house’s appearance back to what it may have looked like in the 1760s and 1770s.