TV series takes the train to Wordsworth country

Rydal Mount near Ambleside, the home of William Wordsworth, will be seen in a new series on BBC Four to be broadcast on October 13.


Railways: The Making of a Nation is a new weekly six-part documentary series exploring Britain’s rail network and The Age of Leisure episode will examine the poet’s campaign to halt the development of the branch line to Windermere.

His great great great great grandson Christopher Wordsworth will be seen at the house, still owned by the Wordsworth family, discussing the poet’s objections.

William Wordsworth believed that bringing in “uncultured travellers” would destroy the beauty they had come to enjoy. Wordsworth’s campaign failed, and the line opened in 1847, but one of the great ironies surrounding the great poet was that whilst he was against tourism, he himself would become one of the Lake’s greatest tourist attractions.

christopher in the daffs

Christopher Wordsworth at Rydal Mount

The programme looks at the idea of excursions to distant places which became popular from the 1840s onwards. The ultimate experience was often to head to the hills and sample clean air, far away from the industrial grime and pollution, and working class northerners now had access to the beautiful Lake District.

Historian Liz McIvor explores how Britain’s expanding rail network was the spark to a social revolution, starting in the 1800s and through to modern times.

Liz says: “A fast system of transportation shaped many areas of our industrial nation – from what we eat to where we live, work and play. The railways generated economic activity but they also changed the nature of business itself. They even changed attitudes to time and how we set our clocks. Our railways reflected deep class divisions, but they also brought people together and helped forge a new sense of national identity.


“Before the railways most people lived local lives and had little, if any, interaction with people from other regions with different accents and cultures. With an expanding network people became to mix and learned to co-exist with their fellow countrymen and women.

“This series tells the story of how the railways changed the way we live – giving us a modern, industrial, suburban, consumer nation. This is a social, cultural and economic history of the railways.”

Peter Elkington, the curator at Rydal Mount, said that Wordsworth was, in reality, very welcoming to tourists. “He might have objected to the railway, but he really enjoyed chatting to people who walked by the house, and often showed them round the gardens.”

Wordsworth lived at Rydal Mount, now one of the most famous literary homes in Britain, for most of his life after moving from Grasmere. He wrote and revised much of his poetry there, and the Prelude was published from there, along with the definitive version of the world’s most famous poem, Daffodils. The house and gardens are open to the public daily.

You can watch the full programme on Thursday 13th October on BBC Four at 8pm and later on BBC iPlayer.


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