Drawing 87: Wordsworth’s birthplace, Cockermouth

Direction of view: N

Notes: Opposite a busy road junction at the western end of the high street. The foreground has changed significantly since AW did his sketch, and the house itself has been repainted orange.  The trees in Cockermouth have been heavily pollarded.

Wainwright notes that the bicentenary in 1970 of the birth of Wordsworth was marked by the making of a permanent garden of daffodils opposite the house where he was born, and the erection there of a bust of the poet. [Note that A Second Lakeland Sketchbook was only published in 1970; Wordsworth was born on 7th April 1770].

This picture also appears on page 166 of Wainwright in Lakeland.

Comments: I first took this picture on slide film on 5th April 1977 (image 1).  Peter Messenger, Andrew Amos and I were heading for Fellbarrow and Low Fell as a “bad weather alternative”, but managed to get this sketch and 313 in reasonable conditions before embarking on the walk.

I visited Cockermouth on 8th July 2016 to size up this and sketch 313 for the digital project.  This was immediately after a walk round the Wythop valley and fells – see 313 for an account.  There was no sun (image 2), so a return visit was called for.  This took place in March 2018.  Sheelagh Hughes Hallett and I stayed at the Trout Hotel, Cockermouth, for three nights to celebrate her birthday.  The Trout is actually next door to Wordsworth’s birthplace, which we could see from our room.  Even so I didn’t manage to get full sun shining on it (image 3).  We looked round the house, which was interestingly presented, and enjoyed also a small exhibition based around John Lewis-Stempel’s book “Where Poppies Blow” which, by pure coincidence, I happened to be reading at the time.

The photograph from which this sketch was drawn is in the County Archives at Kendal, reference WDAW/4/1/1/2/20.  See image 4, © The Estate of A Wainwright. Note how AW has moved the bust and its plinth to one side when drawing the sketch.  Also, Wainwright was further away from the bust when taking his picture than is now possible; a wall has been erected where the great man stood.