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Planning permission awarded

(December 2017).  Planning permission has been granted for Reimagining Wordsworth.  The Lake District National Park Authority approved the Wordsworth Trust’s planning application, which was drawn up after close consultation with local residents, Historic England and the National Park Authority itself.

The Lake District National Park Authority has approved the £6.2 million project, which will see the conservation, adaptation and extension of Wordsworth Trust’s properties across the hamlet of Town End in Grasmere, Cumbria.

Pending second round approval from the Heritage Lottery Fund, work on the scheme is expected to start in spring 2018, and to be complete by spring 2020, in time to celebrate the 250th anniversary of William Wordsworth’s birth. As well as preserving and enhancing the heritage significance of Dove Cottage and Town End today and into the future, the project will also reinterpret the Wordsworth Trust’s important collection of manuscripts, books and works of art, designated by the government for its national and international significance.

Centred around Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s iconic home, the project draws on the expertise of world-leading specialists in the field of architecture, heritage and conservation, in order to revitalise one of the first ‘writer’s houses’ in England. Led by architect Rob Gregory, Associate at Purcell, the plans consist of seven core proposals, including a museum extension and the provision of a new learning centre, with all proposals serving to create a more holistic and exciting visitor experience and support the sustainable development of Town End as a cultural destination and a living hamlet.

Wordsworth is closely associated with the dramatic landscape of the Lake District, recently designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The architects have ensured that the natural surroundings are incorporated into the designs through the introduction of a range of viewing points and the sensitive enhancement of green spaces to make them more accessible for visitors. Working in close collaboration with interpretation designer Nissen Richards, Purcell has orchestrated a range of meaningful places that will be experienced across the site, paying particular attention to enhance the transition between key rooms and places.

Explaining the team’s approach, Rob Gregory said,

As is true in all Purcell’s work, we stopped, looked and listened hard before we put pen to paper.  In Town End, this led to an appreciation of the existing townscape, and the qualities of space between the buildings, and the formation of four core themes that brought clarity to the design narrative; Townscape, Legibility, Orientation and Threshold.

The final design incorporates seven key proposals that thread their way through the hamlet, all of which centre on enhancing the existing yard. Through this we demonstrated that the Trust did not need to build a new Welcome Centre, but that they could create a new welcome at the centre of the hamlet, adjacent to, but not overshadowing the focal point of Dove Cottage.

The combined effect of our seven proposals creates a unified architectural approach that not only creates new qualities of legibility and orientation at the heart of the site, but also brings a coherent approach to the site as a whole.

At the heart of the plans is the proposed extension and refurbishment of the Wordsworth Museum, which includes a new double-height orientation space, a rooftop viewing platform where visitors can enjoy the surrounding landscape, expanded and enhanced gallery spaces, and level access to Dove Cottage Garden.

Two further proposals that have been approved include a new cafe on the site of the current shop, and the development of a learning centre on the site of the existing tea rooms.  This new facility will help to bring greater prominence to the Wordsworth Trust’s increasingly diverse and extensive programme of activities.

Three new wayfinding gateways will be developed at each of the key approach points to Town End.  These architectural devices serve not only as gathering points but also to introduce the narrative of the visitor journey through sound and typography.

At the centre of the site a new piece of townscape has been approved, a level yard, creating a space that functions as a new heart for the site. Set between a cluster of buildings, the yard will be a crucial threshold for entry into the museum, Dove Cottage and the café.  A welcome, shop and introductory exhibition on the ground floor of the Museum will provide a single point of entry for visitors, improving access and orientation for all areas of the site.

A further stage of the plans will see the creation of a side garden that will serve to ease the transition between the Wordsworth Museum and Dove Cottage. This intimate and informal garden will begin the journey of taking visitors back in time; an immersive introductory film in Dove Cottage’s former stable will complete the transition, prior to visitors entering William and Dorothy Wordsworth’s home.

Michael McGregor, Director of the Wordsworth Trust, said,

I’m delighted that the Lake District National Park Authority has approved our plans for Reimagining Wordsworth.  We are a step closer to realising our ambition, which is to bring Wordsworth’s poetry and legacy alive for more people. It will be a fitting tribute to one of our greatest poets on the 250th anniversary of his birth.

Jeff Cowton, Curator and Head of Learning at the Wordsworth Trust, said,

The project is an opportunity to experience the Wordsworths’ words in their freshness, as if we were alive in their time with their context and concerns.  The project will allow more people vividly to feel their words and their meanings, broadening the appeal of the poet and his work.