With Wordsworth Grasmere reopening after a £6.5 million reimagining on May 18 2021, here at the K-SAA we thought it was the perfect time to have a chat with Jeff Cowton MBE.
Jeff Cowton is Curator & Head of Learning at Wordsworth Grasmere, in the Lake District in the north of England, on the edge of a beautiful town called Grasmere. Jeff has worked in the museums world for many years, having begun his career as a volunteer with the Wordsworth Trust in 1981 before becoming Curator in 1994.
In 2010, Jeff was awarded an MBE in recognition of services to museums. He has been leading on the reinterpretation of the site and Museum for the HLF-funded project Reimagining Wordsworth.
In this fascinating interview, K-SAA’s Director of Communications, Dr Anna Mercer, and K-SAA Communications Fellow 2020-1, Amy Wilcockson quiz Jeff on all things Wordsworth, the new interpretation of the site, and the ongoing work in the community which Wordsworth Grasmere excels at.
In 1799 William Wordsworth arrived in Grasmere aged 29, largely unknown and writing innovative poetry that came as a shocking contrast to the fashionable verses of the time. Whilst living at Dove Cottage with his family, Wordsworth wrote many of his greatest poems and his sister Dorothy kept her fascinating Grasmere journal. Wordsworth Grasmere tells the story of this remarkable period of ‘plain living and high thinking’.
Step into another century as you experience the sights, sounds and smells of Dove Cottage. Moments taken from the Wordsworths’ poems, journals and letters have been recreated, telling the story of their life here.
Stroll through the Garden-Orchard, which has been restored to resemble the ‘domestic slip of mountain’ that the Wordsworths lovingly created. Wordsworth described this humble fell-side garden as ‘the loveliest spot man hath ever found’ and the feelings of joy, solace and inspiration it provided can still be felt in this special place. Play and explore in The Woodland, a wild and relaxed space.
Wordsworth’s poetry centred around the ideals of love of Nature, the power of the imagination and the importance of empathy for others. His writing still has the power to speak to us today. The Museum tells the story of Wordsworth’s radical and creative life through a collection of handwritten manuscripts, journals, letters, published poetry and personal items. It features contemporary voices from Poet Laureate Simon Armitage to people living and working in Cumbria today. There are hands on things to do for all ages, including a working printing press and quill and ink writing. Finishing your visit atop the Viewing Station, take a moment to reflect and appreciate Grasmere vale, which Wordsworth described as ‘paradise’.
From gallery tours to nature journaling, there are guided activities running every day of the week. The Café serves wholesome, locally sourced food and drink.
To follow Jeff Cowton on Twitter, click here!
Thank you to Jeff for a wonderfully insightful interview – we can’t wait to visit!
All images by Gareth Gardner.