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Visitors will be able to discover the secrets of Wordsworth’s former home next week when it opens its doors to the public for the first time in more than 200 years. Allan Bank is a Georgian gem of a building which is perched on a rocky hillside above Grasmere village.
The house has undergone an extensive restoration project following a fire in March last year and visitors may find some surprises when they walk through its doors and explore the wilderness of its gardens this Summer. They won’t see pristine rooms decorated as they would have looked in Wordsworth’s day – the building has been left as a blank canvas so its visitors can help decide its future.
Jeremy Barlow, the National Trust’s General Manager for the Central and East Lakes, said: “This won’t be like other historic houses - you won’t find Wordsworth’s spectacles laid on a desk in his study. In each of the rooms we’ve given our visitors hints about the fascinating history of this lovely home and the chance to be creative in the way so many of its former occupants were. In this way we hope to find out about the things which most interest our visitors so that they can play a part in shaping its future. We’re even encouraging our visitors to write on the wall to tell us what they think and what they’d like to see in the future.”
Each of the rooms of the house has been given a theme. The famed artists of the Heaton Cooper family, who have a gallery in Grasmere village, have helped create the art room where visitors will be inspired by sketches of Allan Bank and the Lake District never seen by the public before. In the room where Wordsworth once slept we’ll be encouraging visitors to help us design the planting for the gardens, while song lyrics and famous quotes will inspire the writing on the wall –literally - in the literature room.
Budding interior designers can get arty and even help influence the future paint colours of the interior, and there will be some intriguing ways of bring the outdoors indoors in yet another of the interactive rooms.
Jeremy added: “This was a building and a landscape which inspired not only William and Dorothy Wordsworth, but has also influenced other writers and artists, film makers and photographers. Another of Allan Bank’s famous residents was Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, one of the founders of the National Trust, and it was Grasmere and the proposed sale of the island in the middle of the lake which made him act and led to the creation of the Trust. We want all of our visitors to love this place as much as they did.
Dave Almond, National Trust Lead Ranger, has been heading up the work to open the grounds up to visitors, including a mysterious tunnel and unusual viewing platform. He said: “It’s amazing to think that you can walk on the same paths as William Wordsworth. We’ve found some evidence that he was involved in the creation of the gardens and some would say that the kitchen gardens, formal terraces, walled garden and woodland with all their historic features are more important than the house itself.”
A fascinating Gothic castle is also about to open its doors to the public for the summer season.
Wray Castle, which is owned by the National Trust and sits grandly amid beautiful grounds on the west shore of Windermere, will be welcoming visitors from Monday 2 April. The castle, which dates back to the 1840s, welcomed 20,000 visitors last year and, this year, even more of it is open to the public. Lots of activities and events are also planned to showcase its impressive architecture and intriguing history.
Wray Castle was built by Liverpool surgeon James Dawson, using the fortune of his wife, Margaret, whose family, the Prestons, owned a distillery in Merseyside. It was one of a number of impressive villas built along the Windermere lakeshore, including the roundhouse on Belle Isle and Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts house.
John Moffat, National Trust General Manager for the South Lakes area, said: “Wray Castle is an elaborate building. James Dawson could essentially build whatever he wanted, from a portcullis to turrets which don’t have any access to them, as well as arrow slits and even mock ruins in the grounds – James ordered the lot. The Dawsons didn’t have any children so it’s always amazing to me that this was in effect a retirement home for two people.”