My girls: Madam Hetty (foreground), with Maisie (behind) and Poppy, the white hen
I’m getting really excited as it will soon be time for me to come out of hibernation in Amanda’s shed and begin the season’s work here at Wordsworth House and Garden.
I’m particularly looking forward to welcoming back my special friends, the girls, aka our Scots Dumpy hens Poppy, Madam Hetty and Maisie, who have been spending the winter enjoying the hospitality of Chris, the National Trust’s Whitehaven coast ranger.
Some people think one hen is much like another, but they all have distinct personalities.
Poppy is the boss of our trio and is always first out of their replica 18th-century henhouse in the mornings. She’s the most confident and, if she gets annoyed, tends to peck.
Madam Hetty was called plain Hetty to begin with but quickly acquired her prefix as her true nature made itself known. She’s rather moody and tends to throw clucking strops.
Maisie may be bottom of the pecking order with the other two, but she’s certainly our favourite. An absolute sweetie and very clever, she gets the most treats as she’s so savvy and quick to learn.
If you haven’t already met our girls, do come and see them after we open for the new season on Saturday, March 9.
Lonely this winter: House Steward Rachel (left) and Interpretation and Comms Manager Alex check the empty henhouse
As I mentioned in my previous post, Amanda has tracked down some wonderful pictures of how her garden used to look in the 20th century – we can’t be much more specific with many of the dates, as the ones she found in the National Trust’s online image library are undated.
We can be fairly certain about this one (above) though, as it shows Mrs Ellis, who lived with her family in the house in the 1930s, on the terrace with her mother. The picture belongs to her daughter Odille, who remembers growing up here, before the house was sold to the town of Cockermouth in 1937 and handed over to the National Trust a year later.
This is how the terrace looks now – I’m sure Mrs Ellis would be pleased that we have recently rebuilt the summerhouse.
This one shows the back garden some time before 1985, when the house received a coat of terracotta limewash.
This is how it looked in summer 2012 – with historically authentic vegetable plots in the place of lawn – as taken by Chris Smith, a visitor with a talent for photography!
Amanda’s been delving into the National Trust’s fascinating online photographic library and has found some wonderful images of her garden – and the house exterior – in decades gone by.
The only problem is there are no dates on any of them. We’ve managed to work out a few, but with others it’s been impossible. If anyone out there thinks they can help, please let us know!
The only thing we know for certain about the picture above is that it dates from pre-1985, as that’s when the house got a coat of Georgian-style terracotta limewash – the colour it still wears. This ‘new’ colour was based on fragments of 18th-century limewash found under the eaves, but local paper The Times & Star reported at the time: ‘It does little to enhance the appearance of the building’!
This image shows a similar view – judging by the outfit of the woman pushing the pram – taken some time before the Second World War.
Sticking with pictures of the house front, we’re guessing this might be specially invited guests leaving after enjoying tea on the lawn on 3 June 1939 to mark the public opening of Wordsworth House and Garden. The property was gifted to the National Trust by the town the year before, after being saved from demolition to make way for a bus garage!
Look out in a coming post for some archive images of the back garden…
Happy New Year everyone!
Wordsworth House and Garden is about to make its appearance on former Corrie star Sean Wilson’s new food show The Great Northern Cookbook.
Tune in to Channel 5 at 8pm on Thursday, January 10, to see my friend Sophia, the maid-of-all-work (pictured above with me), helping Sean cook a full Georgian dinner in our amazing 18th-century kitchen. As well as working only with historic equipment, he uses recipes from the period, which means he has no cooking times, temperatures or quantities to help him.
And when it comes time to sample what he’s produced, keep your eyes peeled in the dining room scene for gardener Amanda and her lovely helper Kat.
To whet your appetite, there’s a little glimpse of what he achieved towards the end of this trailer.