“A seemly cottage in this sunny dell”
The Ghyll, Applethwaite has been owned by just two families for over two hundred years.
The present house began life as two semi detached cottages in 1867 on the site of a previous pair of semi detached cottages.
In 1803 Sir George Beaumont, one of the founders of the National Gallery, bought the core of the property and gave it to William Wordsworth “so that he could patch up a dwelling” in Applethwaite and be closer to Samuel Coleridge. The Beaumonts, appreciating the poetry of both, believed that proximity would stimulate their writing. In the event Wordsworth had not the funds to build himself a house and his friendship with Coleridge was coming to an end. However the gift made Wordsworth a property owner and gave him the parliamentary vote enabling him to speak at the hustings. The rents gave him a useful income. In 1804 Wordsworth wrote the Sonnet ‘At Applethwaite, near Keswick’ in which he addresses Beaumont and describes Beaumont’s gift as “A seemly cottage in this sunny dell”.
William Wordsworth died on 23rd April 1850 and his son Willy inherited the property. In 1857 John Stead, builder, sent a bill to Willy for work on the cottages amounting to £18 9s 2 ½ d, including £8 2s 0d for Welsh roofing slate. Presumably local roofing slate was considered unsuitable!
On 6th September 1867, Joseph Crosthwaite submitted a tender to Willy for rebuilding the cottages for £65 odd. The final bill when the work was finished in 1868 was £70 9s 8d. The cottages remained in a semi-detached form intended to be let for rent.
In 1876 a number of improvements were made including the installation of a marble fireplace and a new window in the sitting room. It is likely that at this stage the property became a single house although the two staircases were to remain until the 1960’s.
In 1883 Willy died and the property was left to Gordon Graham Wordsworth, Willy’s youngest son. He owned the property until his death in 1935.
In 1891 a St Andrews University Professor, William Knight, in his book on the English Lake District in the poems of Wordsworth described the Ghyll thus: “This little property lies beautifully on the banks of a rill that gurgles down the side of Skiddaw; and the orchard and other parts of the grounds command a magnificent prospect of Derwentwater, the mountains of Borrowdale, and Newlands.”
From 1892 until 1895 the property was occupied as tenants by the Scottish water colourist, James Douglas, his young wife Anna and their twin children, Derwent (a boy) and Greta (a girl). They were befriended by Canon Rawnsley, Vicar of Crosthwaite and co-founder of the National Trust. James painted several pictures of Applethwaite and took a number of photographs.
In 1935 Edith Russell and her companion Annie Overend took up the tenancy first from Gordon Wordsworth and then from his niece, Dorothy Dickson, the great grand-daughter of the poet. Interestingly the agreement made special reference to the maintenance and replacement of fruit trees should they become ‘unprofitable’. These ladies gained a reputation as gardeners and were responsible for much of the layout which is still being re-discovered.
In 1965 the property was sold to Bishop Treacy, who had also become well known as a railway photographer. He took up railway photography when Vicar of Edge Hill, Liverpool, a parish largely consisting of railway yards and the homes of railwaymen and their families. Bishop Treacy, by then Bishop of Wakefield, and his wife May retired to live at the Ghyll in 1976. The property was inherited by his nieces in 1986.
At Applethwaite, near Keswick.
Beaumont ! it was thy wish that I should rear
A seemly cottage in this sunny dell,
On favoured ground, thy gift where I might dwell
In neighbourhood with one to me most dear,
That undivided we from year to year
Might work in our high calling- a bright hope
To which our fancies, mingling, gave free scope
Till checked by some necessities severe,
And should these slacken, honoured Beaumont! still
Even then we may perhaps in vain implore
Leave of our fate thy wishes to fulfil,
Whether this boon be granted us or not,
Old Skiddaw will look down upon the spot
With pride, the muses love it evermore.
William Wordsworth, 1804
Painting by James Douglas
Bishop Treacy and his wife May