The life of William Wordsworth’s son

A talk at Rydal Mount will open the pages on the life of William Wordsworth’s oldest child, John Wordsworth.

The world-renowned poet and his wife Mary had five children, two of whom died in infancy. But John, born in 1803, lived to the age of 72, was married four times (after three of his wives died) and was a vicar, latterly at Brigham Church between Keswick and Cockermouth.

It is through John’s line that the current owners of Rydal Mount, Wordsworth’s great-great-great-great grandsons, are descended.

His life has been researched by Muriel Strachan who will present the talk at Rydal Mount on November 14.

garden in autumn

A one-time nurse and midwife who took a degree in later life and graduated at the age of 60, Mrs Strachan developed a fascination with the Wordsworth family when she and her husband Robert, a retired doctor, moved to live in Cumbria.

Her son, Professor John Strachan, the pro-vice-chancellor of Bath Spa university, and a specialist in Romanticism, is working on a book about the Wordsworth family and asked his mother if she would help research the lives of the children.

Mrs Strachan has also researched the lives of the two children who died in childhood, Thomas, and Catherine who, she discovered, is highly likely to have been born with Down’s Syndrome.

“John was a fascinating character,” said Mrs Strachan. “Not a writer, like his father, though he wrote many sermons!

“He married into one of the notable Cumbrian families, Isabel Curwen of Workington Hall, and they had six children. He had a further daughter with his third wife, Mary Dolan.”

The talk is at 2pm on Thursday November 14 at Rydal Mount and entry is free. Booking here:

Rydal Mount joins with Zeffirellis for new film festival

A collaboration between one of the north’s leading independent cinemas and the home of the poet William Wordsworth here at Rydal Mount will bring a new film festival to the Lake District next month.

The Inward Eye festival will be staged at Zeffirellis in Ambleside, with a series of 26 feature films – shorts, new releases and classic movies to be shown over a long weekend.

inward eye 1

The festival has been organised by Zeffirellis MD Dorothy Smith along with film producer Charlotte Wontner of Hopscotch films who is a member of the Wordsworth family – owners of Rydal Mount.

The idea came originally from the actor Brian Cox who visited Rydal Mount three years ago when his film The Carer, produced by Wontner, was given a special screening at Zeffirellis. Cox was so impressed with the award-winning cinema that he offered to be patron of a festival there.

brian cox with chris and lottie

Brian Cox, centre, with Charlotte Wontner and Christopher Wordsworth Andrew

The festival’s title comes from the lines in Wordsworth’s most famous poem, Daffodils

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude

And then my heart with pleasure fills

And dances with the daffodils

“The daffodils are nowhere to be seen at this time of the year but their presence is always with us thanks to Wordsworth, and we wanted to reflect this in our festival,” said Dorothy Smith. “With a nod towards the local artistry of Wordsworth’s works, Inward Eye’s carefully selected films will cover themes of, Love and War, Youth and Fear, and Time and Landscape.”

While some of the films have a nature theme or local location, the festival is aiming to attract a wide audience with an eclectic range of titles. The range from Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet to the Syrian war drama For Sama, and includes the cult favourite Withnail and I which was premiered at Zeffirellis when it was released back in 1987.

Documentaries include Harry Birrell’s Films of Love and War; the most awarded film from this year’s Sundance Festival, Honeyland; and Paul Wright’s Arcadia, a provocative and poetic new film exploring our relationship with the land.

Charlotte Wontner said: “Launching a film festival is like starting an epic journey. We are thrilled to be taking our first Inward Eye steps with the incredible team at Zeffirellis. We have a festival packed with new discoveries and literary and cinematic beauty that will excite and inspire our festival audience. We would love Inward Eye to become an annual event for film fanatics and emerging film talent from near and far.”

The festival runs from November 7 – 9 and full details, and booking, can be found here

Our own artist takes up residence

An artist has taken up “residence” here at Rydal Mount  to help celebrate the life and work of the poet William Wordsworth.

Helen Johnson, from Alston, will work at the house and gardens on a regular basis over the next 12 months, marking the 250th anniversary of the poet’s birth.

artist Helen

A former head teacher who is now a full-time artist, Helen will produce pieces of work on five themes which match the writing and ideas of Wordsworth. They are spirituality, family and relationships, emotions, nature, and excursions.

Helen taught at schools in Canterbury and the north-east before settling in Alston. She has a masters’ degree in art, and was originally an oil painter who now uses a range of materials – including non-recyclable plastic which is melted onto a canvas.

Admitting that Wordsworth’s poetry is a new-found interest, Helen says that she shares his interests in and concerns for the environment and sustainability. She is investigating various sustainable methods of creating works of art including making her own pigments.

Her most recent work shows the trees on the banks of the South Tyne and aims to comment on the crisis we face regarding climate change and the detrimental effects of our consumerism.

Helen said: “This is a wonderful opportunity and the most beautiful place to work.”

The curator of Rydal Mount, Emily Heath, said that she had been attracted initially by Helen’s pictures of red squirrels, which feature on greeting cards sold at the house. “We think that Helen’s work is fascinating, and we are thrilled that she will be working here with us for a year.”

helens squirrels



Screenwriters’ chance to work “with” Wordsworth

A writers’ workshop is to be staged at William Wordsworth’s home near Ambleside to coincide with a new film festival.

The Wordsworth family are inviting 10 screenwriters to a writers’ workshop in the poet’s famous family house at Rydal Mount, on the theme of “literary beauty”.

The workshop will run alongside the first Inward Eye film festival being staged nearby at Zeffirellis cinema.

It is being organised by film producer Charlotte Wontner who is the great great great great grand-daughter of William Wordsworth.

Writers will receive treatment and story feedback and pitching advice – as well as lunches and walks in the beautiful countryside around the house.

Charlotte Wontner of Hopscotch films has worked with the award-winning actor Brian Cox who is to be patron of the film festival.

brian cox with chris and lottie

Brian Cox, centre, with Charlotte Wontner and Christopher Wordsworth Andrew

Dorothy Smith, MD of Zeffirellis, said: “With a nod towards the local artistry of Wordsworth’s works, Inward Eye’s carefully selected films will cover themes of Imagination (the all elusive Inward Eye), Love and War, Youth and Fear, and Time and Landscape. Other thematic areas of focus are farming, LGBTQ+, and BAME story lines. With a focus on local cinematic heritage mixed with inclusivity and literary beauty, Inward Eye’s vision is one we are very excited about hosting.”

Rydal Mount curator Emily Heath said: “We are very pleased to host this exciting new venture. It’s particularly special for us, bringing together the Wordsworth connection, and the new film festival in Ambleside.”

Said Charlotte: “This is an experience designed to help writers develop their ideas in a unique natural environment. Under the guidance of an experienced script editor and industry mentor, writers will have their script ideas developed with a plan for the international film market.”

The workshop will be hosted over three consecutive mornings from Friday 8th to Sunday 10th November. Included in the price are screenings and Q&A tickets, refreshments and lunches, and accommodation near Rydal Mount. To attend the workshop please submit your details and a treatment of your script idea to


For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

(Daffodils, William Wordsworth, 1807)



Dorothy Wordsworth heads to London

An exhibition first shown at Rydal Mount in the Lake District is to be displayed in London this autumn at the Royal Geographical Society.

Dorothy’s Room will be part of the Landlines exhibition, the inaugural show of the Wilderness Art Collective.

Created by the artist and researcher Louise Ann Wilson, Dorothy’s Room gives a new insight into the life of Dorothy Wordsworth. It was first staged last summer in Dorothy’s own bedroom in the house near Ambleside where she lived with her brother, the poet William Wordsworth, and his wife Mary.   Dorothy was an author, poet and diarist herself.

Louise Ann Wilson

Louise Ann Wilson

The new installation was created for Rydal Mount and used film, sound and objects brought in from the outside landscape. It was inspired by Dorothy Wordsworth’s Rydal Journals in which she describes “rural sights and sounds” in vivid detail and recollects the landscape and walks she was no longer able to do.

“In older age Dorothy gradually became house, bedroom and terrace bound, relying on memory to transport herself into the landscape she had once walked,” says Louise Ann.

“It was really radical at that time for a woman to walk in the landscape.”

Dorothy also brought “treasures” into her “quiet” room. The walls were hung with paintings, pots of flowers lined her window ledge, plants grew around her window, which framed the fells she once walked, sunshine and the “sweet sound” of a robin singing entered from the garden. William acknowledged the importance of her influence in some of his poems.

The exhibition last summer had a display of objects and artefacts on the bed, on whose pillows were copied scripts from the journals. There were knitting needles and thimbles, birds’ eggs, feathers, dried flowers and herbs. A repeating film of Dorothy’s landscape was projected onto the bedroom wall.

Dorothy's bed

Louise Ann Wilson has a Ph.D. in Theatre Studies from Lancaster Institute of the Contemporary Arts, Lancaster University, where she is a visiting lecturer. The Rydal Mount curator at the time, Peter Elkington, said: “This adds an extra dimension because it brings people to see Dorothy in a new light, in the very room where she spent a lot of her time.”

Now the project will be included in the show at the prestigious RGS in Kensington, and will showcase the talents of 15 artists in all, in aid of the charity Wilderness Foundation UK.

Dorothy's pillow

The Wilderness Art Collective is a non-profit group of creatives, artists, explorers and environmentalists whose work discusses the natural world. The Collective’s goals are to highlight the plight of the world’s wildernesses and wildlife; to act as a space for discussion about interaction with the environment; to encourage re-engagement with the natural landscape; and to promote preservation and care through art and other creative endeavours.

The new curator at Rydal Mount, Emily Heath said: “We are thrilled that a small part of our heritage here in the Lake District will be given a much wider audience in London. Dorothy’s room is loved by visitors who come here.”


Wordsworth, environmental campaigner


Rydal Mount has joined forces with the University of Cumbria to give students on a new course an insight into the life of William Wordsworth.

Dr Penny Bradshaw is the leader of a new Masters degree course at the university, Literature, Romanticism and the English Lakes.

penny bradshaw

In their first week of study, her students will go to Rydal Mount, the house where Wordsworth lived for most of his life, and is still owned by his descendants.

And they will learn how Wordsworth the poet was also one of the first environmental campaigners.

Dr Bradshaw said: “Not only is William Wordsworth one of the most influential of British poets in terms of the development of poetic language, his insights regarding the importance of living in harmony with the natural environment seem to speak more powerfully to us today than ever before.

“Wordsworth teaches us to value and protect the natural landscape and shows us, through his own lived experience, how close and sympathetic engagement with the natural world can have a powerful effect on our own lives and well-being.”

The new course is based at the Ambleside campus and students will also work with Dove Cottage, where the poet lived for nine years.

Dr Bradshaw said: “The landscape of the English Lake District has been a source of inspiration to generations of poets and writers. This course offers a unique opportunity to study a rich body of literary and non-literary texts within the geographical landscape which inspired them, at the University of Cumbria’s Ambleside campus in the heart of the Lake District National Park.”

Students will explore critical ideas about the relationship between the creative imagination and place, and have the opportunity to visit some other locations which have inspired and which continue to inspire writers.

RM natural garden today

Wordsworth, environmentalist and gardener as well as poet

Curator at Rydal Mount Emily Heath said: “This is a really exciting new MA course and we are delighted that the students are coming here to see where Wordsworth lived and worked, and to absorb the atmosphere and spirit of this very special place.”

Rydal Mount, a mile north of Ambleside, is open to the public daily from 9.30am to 5pm, and visitors can also tour the extensive gardens.

For more information about the MA course:

Noa wins Wordsworth poetry prize

The winner of this year’s Wordsworth Poetry Prize for young people is 11 year old Noa Calman.

Noa, a pupil at Grasmere primary school, wrote her poem on the theme of New Beginnings following the death of her uncle in New Zealand.

The award is organised by the descendants of William Wordsworth and the presentation ceremony took place at Rydal Mount near Ambleside, the house where Wordsworth lived.

More than 100 entries were received from pupils in junior and secondary schools across Cumbria.

Noa’s father comes from New Zealand, and she loves writing and reading stories that link to Kiwi culture.

She also has a passion for baking and has applied to take part in the junior version of TV’s Great British Bake-off. She has old twin brothers Dylan and Luca, a younger sister Isla, and a baby brother Sonny.

Noa was presented with a trophy and a £50 cash prize. Her name is now on a plaque at Rydal Mount and her winning poem will be framed and displayed in Wordsworth’s sitting room at the house.

Teacher Mrs Eleanor Knowles said that the poem was Noa’s response after her uncle’s death. “It was her way of dealing with difficult emotions. She poured it out one morning at playtime, the whole poem.”

The poems were judged by Susan Wordsworth Andrew , the great great great grand-daughter of the poet, and her son, Christopher, who both attended the award ceremony organised by the curators, Emily and Matthew Heath.

The winner in the junior school section was Ambleside’s Tom Ashworth and the secondary school winner was Anna Bray from Keswick School.

Christopher said: “The standard of entries was very high once again. We are delighted to see that schools and parents are encouraging their children to read and write poetry.”

Noa’s poem:

The coffin

a coffin

lying still


across the world

a letter is flown

friends and family


while I stare

stare into the sky


whispering my last goodbye

and as if in answer

to my call

a voice I knew

a voice I knew well


while people want

to be your sun

that burns

burns through

your day

I will

be your moon

that shines

shines through

your darkest