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.”

 

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Wordsworth curators say farewell to Rydal Mount

The curators of William Wordsworth’s house at Rydal Mount are retiring after 25 years in the Lake District.

Peter and Marian Elkington came from South Africa to take up the post and were employed by the descendants of the poet, who still own the house today.

marian and peter

They became popular members of the local community, making many friends among artists, poets and patrons of the arts, as well as transforming the House into a significant tourist attraction.

During their time at Rydal Mount they hosted weddings, poetry readings, dinners for Japanese visitors, and musical soirees including a night when two grand pianos were carried out onto the lawn.

gorgeous view of house

There were special events in the tea-room, which became famous for Marian’s home-baked cakes, and they entertained many notable visitors who loved Wordsworth including the late Terry Wogan and, more recently, the actresses Petra and Kika Markham (the widow of Corin Redgrave).

Film nights were organised in association with Zeffirellis in Ambleside, including a special screening of The Carer, starring Brian Cox, and they staged drama performances in the gardens in the summer with the touring theatre company Three Inch Fools.

Peter and Marian hosted many art exhibitions, most notably the launch of a new portrait of William Wordsworth by Hideyuki Sobue to mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of the poem Daffodils. And they launched a poetry competition for Cumbrian schoolchildren which has become an annual event, attracting poems from youngsters across the county.

P, M and Chris

Peter and Marion with Christopher Wordsworth at the opening of a Rydal Mount exhibition

Peter and Marian have added to the collections in the house with items they find at auctions and sales. But perhaps their most important legacy has been the development of the extensive gardens, using plans drawn up by William Wordsworth, to return the grounds to the naturalistic landscape that the poet had envisaged. It was a labour of love for Peter, and head gardener Helen Green, and they won awards year after year.

“Wordsworth wrote that if he had not made a success of poetry, he would have liked to have been a landscape gardener,” said Peter.

After coming to live at Rydal, Marian discovered that her great grandfather, Henry Poultney, had been an editor of the Westmorland Gazette in the 1880s, a post once held by Wordsworth himself. Poultney went on to edit the Birmingham Daily Post.

“We came planning to stay for five years, and stayed 25,” said Peter, who is more than just an admirer of the poet and his work. “You can’t help but be inspired by his spirit. Living here one feels the atmosphere. It’s been a very different experience from just studying his work.”

Their place will be taken by Matthew and Emily Heath who will start work in the new year.

Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the poet’s great great great greatgrandson, said:  “The last 25 years seems to have gone by so fast. But over this period Peter and Marian have developed and improved Rydal Mount beyond recognition. We now have a fantastic tea-room and a garden that is regularly winning awards. The whole welcoming feel of the house and the reason visitors return year after year is entirely down to the hard work and love that they have both put into the house.

“Our whole family is going to miss Peter and Marian terribly. Over 25 years they have become close friends and we are sad to see them go. We wish them all the very best and hope they will come back to visit regularly.”

Peter recites to Marian