Christmas Day this year marked 250 years since the birth of Dorothy Wordsworth, the sister of William.
A fine poet, author and diarist herself, her talent and her reputation are being recognised increasingly now, critical scholars appreciating that she had a strong literary voice of her own.
She was William’s inseparable companion, after they had been forced to live apart from one another in childhood after the death of their father. Once re-united, they remained living together even after the marriage of William to Mary Hutchinson and Dorothy outlived her brother by five years; she died at Rydal in 1855.
William acknowledged Dorothy in his own work, perhaps most famously in Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey:
Of this fair river; thou my dearest Friend, My dear, dear Friend; and in thy voice I catch The language of my former heart, and read My former pleasures in the shooting lights Of thy wild eyes … My dear, dear Sister!
Our friend Muriel Strachan, who has studied the Wordsworths, and the children of William and Mary, says that Dorothy loved the children as if they were her own. Delightful details about Dorothy’s relationship with her nephews and nieces are described by Muriel in this reading which we commissioned to be filmed specially to mark the special anniversary.
We are very pleased to have a new curator here at Rydal Mount, Leo Finighan.
Leo has taken up duties at our historic house and has begun his role in caring for the building and grounds that so inspired William Wordsworth when he lived here.
Leo studied for an MA in Literature, Romanticism and the English Lake District at the Univeristy of Cumbria’s Ambleside campus, just a mile along the road from Rydal Mount.
It was the place ‘loved best’ by Wordsworth’s family and home from 1813 up until his death in 1850. The estate is owned by descendants and Christopher Wordsworth Andrew welcomed Leo’s appointment, describing him as a ‘breath of fresh air’.
He added: “Leo not only loves Wordsworth, but knows a lot more about him than the family! He brings an enthusiasm to launch us out of Covid in a very positive state of mind.”
From Richmond, in North Yorkshire, Leo wanted to study at Ambleside so he could be in the heart of the Romantic-era literature and landscapes that galvanised the movement.
His private sitting room in Rydal Mount is where Wordsworth’s clerk, John Carter, copied out the penultimate edition of The Prelude, one of the most important poems ever written, and etched his name on to a window pane.
Leo says: “It is the dream job and I’m only here because my lecturer, Associate Professor Penny Bradshaw, not only introduced me to the Romantics but was a significant influence when it came to applying to be curator. Saying she is inspiring is an understatement.
“This is a very special place and where Wordsworth produced his incredibly influential Illustrated Guide to the Lakes, prefaced with the River Duddon Sonnets. In his time here, he saw his beloved Lake District become a tourist destination, but that is another story.
“I’m most excited to be securing funding from projects ranging from replacing the roof to cataloguing Rydal Mount’s collection. I’ve already starting on the library and some 400 books owned by the great man.
“It’s a treasure trove. I’ve discovered many first editions, letters, notes and memorabilia, slipped between pages from two centuries ago, which makes the lives of those who lived here so much more real.”
Dr Bradshaw said she was delighted by Leo’s success, adding the house and grounds, which attract tens of thousands of visitors a year, had a very able and scholarly custodian.
“That Leo was appointed as a result of his studies with us is a source of great pride and we wish him every success.”
William Wordsworth’s home at Rydal Mount near Ambleside has been given a further grant from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund. It is among 925 recipients to benefit from the latest round of awards from the fund.
More than £100 million has been awarded to hundreds of cultural organisations across the country, including Rydal Mount, in the latest round of funding, ensuring they can thrive in better times ahead.
The Culture Recovery Fund supports arts and cultural organisations so they can continue to bring culture to communities the length and breadth of the country, supporting jobs, boosting local economies and inspiring people.
Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the great great great great grandson of the poet, whose family still own Rydal Mount, said: “We are very pleased to receive this grant because it has helped us to make the necessary adjustments and improvements to keep Rydal Mount open for visitors during these very difficult times. This house is a treasure for the nation, as the home of our most loved poet, and it is so important to keep his memory and his legacy intact.”
One of the innovations has been a series of garden gazebos to enable safe outdoor afternoon teas, lunches and special events at the house.
The hugely successful evening of poetry, with members of the Wordsworth family reading work by the great poet, is to be staged again at Rydal Mount.
Christopher Andrew, and Simon Bennie, who are the great great great great grandsons of the poet William Wordsworth, will be reading some poetry to guests at the exclusive event at the end of this month (Oct 29).
The Wordsworth family still own the house where the poet lived for much of his life, and from where he wrote most of his greatest work. This summer there has been work on the house itself, decorating, adding new items of historic interest.
In the gardens, work continues to develop the different areas of lawn, woodland, shrubs and borders as planned originally by Wordsworth himself.
Christopher said: “We are starting a little earlier, (5pm) so that people can see the garden in the light. For those who would like to come again we cannot promise 100% new poems – but we will be mixing it up a bit.”
A Christmas gifts and craft fair will be held in Wordsworth’s home at Rydal Mount in December.
The two-day event will feature some of the county’s best artists and makers of glass, ceramics and jewellery along with cards and prints.
Copies of poetry and other books signed by members of the Wordsworth family will also be on sale.
The fair – on the weekend of Saturday and Sunday December 11 and 12 – will have live music, mulled wine and mince pies in the tea-room, and it’s hoped that craft workshops will be staged in the garden gazebos.
Among those signed up to take part are Jane Exley of the Woolly Rug co, Letty Ashworth of Lakeland Stitch, and Sally Anne Lambert of Moongazer Cards.
The great-great-great-great grandsons of William Wordsworth, Christopher Andrew and Simon Bennie, are organising the fair. Christopher said: “The house and gardens are the perfect setting for a Christmas celebration.”
An evening of poetry at Rydal Mount promises a rare chance to hear Wordsworths reading Wordsworth.
Christopher Andrew, and Simon Bennie, who are the great great great great grandsons of the poet William Wordsworth, will be reading some poetry to guests at the exclusive event next month.
The Wordsworth family still own the house where the poet lived for much of his life, and from where he wrote most of his greatest work. This summer there has been work on the house itself, decorating, adding new items of historic interest, and there is an ongoing exhibition in the attic study of the paintings of Hideyuki Sobue, a Japanese artist resident in the UK.
In the gardens, work continues to develop the different areas of lawn, woodland, shrubs and borders as planned originally by Wordsworth himself.
The event, on Friday September 17, will include a tour of the house and gardens, a glass of wine, and Grasmere gingerbread. A limited number of tickets is now on sale, at £25 per head, via this link:
A fascinating new exhibition highlighting two key figures in the Lake District has opened here at Rydal Mount.
The exhibition of paintings by Hideyuki Sobue features two men who championed natural beauty in the Lakes, Wordsworth himself, and Canon Harwicke Rawnsley, one of the founders of the National Trust – who was born a year after the death of Wordsworth.
Two big portraits of each figure in the double-vision style are accompanied by a number of smaller paintings by Hideyuki, who is the leading Japanese artist based in the UK.
The new works were commissioned last year in the 250th anniversary of Wordsworth’s birth, supported by the Arts Council England. Hideyuki has produced a series of small nature-themed works linking to the project, using the line-hatching method.
It’s a welcome return to Rydal Mount, near Ambleside, for the artist whose epic new portrait of Wordsworth was unveiled there six years ago. That portrait was one of a series of works on the theme of I wandered, to mark the 200th anniversary of William Wordsworth’s Daffodils, said to be the world’s most famous poem.
Wordsworth had a great impact on Hideyuki. “Since moving to this beautiful corner of England, I’ve learned how this natural environment, preserved as it is, was not because it has been kept itself but because of great human endeavour to conserve this natural beauty since the beginning of industrial revolution. Wordsworth was the first and foremost campaigner to raise the voice. Without his passion for the beauty of the Lake District, I believe ThePrelude and many other precious poems might not exist; without his endeavour the Lake District might not exist as it is. That’s why I attempted to deliver my art projects more focused on this side of the great poet, increasingly relevant to the contemporary world facing a global ecological crisis.”
Hideyuki told guests at the exhibition opening that the project had developed during the “challenging times” of the pandemic, and perhaps because of them. His work, he says, asks the question, what does it mean to be human in the age of artificial intelligence?
“I portray Hardwicke Rawnsley when he first met the young Beatrix Potter at Wray in 1882 while he was working as a vicar of the St Margaret of Antioch parish church in Wray Castle (near Ambleside), passionately talking to her about the importance of conservation. And I portray William Wordsworth in his late 20s when he and his sister Dorothy settled at Dove Cottage, when he started to write his autobiographical poem The Prelude,” Hideyuki says.
“By carefully determining the distance between the two images, I promote a visual illusion so that each portrait can be seen as a single image in another dimension, emerging from the surface of the supports. It is a paradoxical approach, achieved by stimulating a visual illusion.
“I aimed to portray them as the spiritual guardians of Lakeland and beyond in a period of ecological and existential crisis. I have produced two portraits and two drawings, depicting them with contrary lighting conditions, so as to create the installation to look as if the light projects and radiates out from the centre above the artworks. “
Hideyuki completed the works (apart from the drawings) with his unique brush hatching technique using Japanese sumi ink and acrylic, which he created and has developed over the past 15 years. “This method is inspired by the concept of designo, which was established in the Florentine School during the Renaissance, combined with neurological studies, one of which revealed that the human visual brain perceives objects predominantly by oriented lines.
“I completed all works with the gold background using acrylic gold paint inspired by the Japanese traditional painting style, such as Fusuma-e (sliding door painting) and Byōbu-e (folding screen painting) for exploring my cultural roots. In this way, I made my utmost effort to pay homage to these important historical figures of the Lake District, in a way that is appropriate to their memory, despite, or even because of these challenging times.”
Hideyuki created another new portrait of William Wordsworth which was unveiled for just one night in the Lake District at Rydal Mount before heading for a major exhibition in Japan four years ago. The painting of Wordsworth with the Japanese poet Basho was commissioned by the Kakimori Bunko Museum in Japan.
Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the great great great great grandson of the poet, whose family own Rydal Mount, said that Hideyuki’s exhibition was one of the art highlights of the year in Cumbria. “We are very proud to have this strong connection with one of our leading painters who has such a talented devotion to Wordsworth, and whose work always excites and challenges.”
The exhibition will run until the end of September.
New work by the artist in residence at Rydal Mount will be going on display soon.
Clara Li-Dunne is aiming to capture the romantic atmosphere at Rydal Mount’s house and garden where Wordsworth nurtured his poetic works and published a great many masterpieces.
Now her first series of work at the house describes how nature changes in four seasons, “and to find romance, the audience will find a heart shape within the painting, for which I used a heart shape stone that I found outside the tearoom of Rydal Mount.”
Clara is more familiar than most with Wordsworth, his life and work, and the beautiful house near Ambleside, having worked there as a guide for the past nine years. Originally from Hong Kong, she has a degree in fine art and is a qualified teacher.
Clara became interested in ‘camera-less photography’ while studying for her BA (Hons) and MA in Fine Art in the 1990s, and was inspired to develop her current practice in painting.
‘I was always fascinated by how nature evolves in its own time; and also the unnoticeable mutation within nature,’ she says. ‘The creations of the images of abstract landscape were from my memories of colours and shapes while out walking, hiking or cycling.’
She uses pigment powders, graphite and sand to build up layers of the mediums like the formation in nature. ‘A subtle change of the perspective caused by the refraction of light between the colours symbolises the mutation of nature. I also photograph shapes and forms created by natural light to create a new landscape.’
Clara follows in the footsteps of Helen Johnson, from Alston, who was artist in residence at Rydal last year. A former head teacher who is now a full-time artist, Helen produced pieces of work on five themes which match the writing and ideas of Wordsworth: spirituality, family and relationships, emotions, nature, and excursions.
Curator at Rydal Mount Emily Heath said that Clara’s work as an artist brought a new dimension to the place. “Clara’s art is really beautiful and she has some fascinating ideas. And of course, she is a true expert on Wordsworth and his work.”
The garden at Rydal Mount will represent the Lake District in an exciting new interactive online exhibition.
Rydal Mount near Ambleside, along with another home of William Wordsworth, Dove Cottage at Grasmere, has collaborated with Google Arts and Culture to feature in Gardens United, a new project which has just launched.
The exhibition aims to help visitors be inspired by the breadth and wonder of green spaces around the UK.
It’s an interactive online resource celebrating gardens around the UK, which is the result of a collaboration between Rydal Mount and more than 30 cultural partners around the country.
They include Alexandra Palace Gardens, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, the Alnwick Garden, the University of Oxford Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum, and Blenheim Palace Gardens in Oxfordshire.
“From archives, museums, botanic gardens and heritage bodies, this enables you to learn from leading experts and community gardeners about topics ranging from health and wellbeing, food growing, urban gardening and much more,” said Amit Sood, Director of Google Arts and Culture. “Gardens United gives everyone, everywhere an opportunity to explore, learn and discover gardens through a new lens.”
In more than 150 curated online exhibitions, Gardens United presents an enormous archive of over 4,000 items including photos, videos, ASMR tours and Google Street View tours. These show how gardens have always held a special place in our lives, how important they are for our health and wellbeing, what gardening can do to help support the planet and look back through botanical history from Darwin’s garden to royal landscapes.
Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the great great great great grandson of William Wordsworth, whose family still own Rydal Mount, said that the project was a magnificent opportunity to show the world the wonders of the garden originally planned and designed by the poet.
“We are thrilled to be part of this ground-breaking new exhibition which features the best of everything that’s special about gardens in the UK. The visitors who come here invariably fall in love with the place but we want to be able to tell the story of this wonderful garden to a wider audience.”
Said Amit Sood: “Everyone around the world can find joy in exploring a garden, and through this program we wanted to celebrate this as well as inspire audiences to seek out new gardening experiences. From botanical art to urban gardening, thanks to our incredible partners, Gardens United has something for everyone – even if you are only looking to plan your next staycation itinerary.”
Explore Gardens United on the Google Arts & Culture app on iOS or Android or online viag.co/GardensUnited