"The loveliest spot that man hath ever found"
Allan Bank is a grade II listed two-storey villa standing on high ground slightly to the west of Grasmere village in the heart of the Lake District. It is best known for being from 1808 to 1811 the home of William Wordsworth, but it was also occupied at various times by Dorothy Wordsworth, Dora Wordsworth, Thomas De Quincey, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas Arnold, Matthew Arnold and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley. It is now owned by the National Trust and is open to the public.
Allan Bank is designed in a "bleakly Italianate" style according to Pevsner, faced with scored stucco and roofed with slate; it has been described as "large, though not handsome". It was originally built by a Liverpool lawyer, John Gregory Crump, in 1805, and on its partial collapse the following year was rebuilt by him. An extension was added in 1834, perhaps designed by George Webster.
A small arched bridge spans the stream just as the beck goes over the falls giving a spectacular view from the top as the water makes its leap. There is also a second bridge at the foot of the falls. Both bridges were constructed in honour of two members of the Spring family early in the 20th Century. Cecil Spring Rice was the British ambassador to the USA during the First World War, while Stephen Spring Rice was a senior civil servant. The bridges are of particular interest: the lower is made of vertical stones, not traditional in this area of Cumbria, while the higher has horizontal stones, more in keeping with the dale customs.
Initially Wordsworth, who was then living less than a mile away in Dove Cottage, was outraged by the building of Allan Bank. In a letter to Richard Sharp he called it a "temple of abomination", and told him that "the house will stare you in the face from every part of the Vale [of Grasmere] and entirely destroy its character of simplicity and seclusion". He soon had to overcome his objections however, since Dove Cottage was far too small for his growing family, and Allan Bank was the only large house in Grasmere he could rent.
At Allan Bank he would have enough room for all his household, as well as guests, and his children would be able to play on the slopes of Silver How and the banks of Grasmere lake. He accordingly took up the tenancy in the summer of 1807 with the intention of moving in some time during the autumn, though in the event this was delayed until the end of May 1808. "We already feel the comfort of having each a room of our own", wrote his sister Dorothy Wordsworth in June, but as the year drew on the Wordsworths began to change their minds as they realized that on windy days the various chimneys smoked appallingly.
Dorothy called the house "literally not habitable", and complained that "dishes are washed, and no sooner set in the pantry then they are covered with smoke". On one stormy day, she wrote, "we could have no fire but in my Brother's Study – and that chimney smoked so much that we were obliged to go to bed with the Baby in the middle of the day to keep it warm, and I, with a candle in my hand, stumbled over a chair, unable to see it". Workmen were periodically brought in to tackle the chimney problem but their many attempts did not produce a full solution. In the midst of these difficulties the Wordsworths entertained Thomas De Quincey on a visit that lasted for three months, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge moved in with the intention of making his permanent home with the Wordsworths, though after two fraught years he left for Robert Southey's home in Keswick.
By the beginning of 1810 they were looking for another house, and in May they decided to transfer themselves to the old parsonage in the centre of Grasmere just as soon as it had been refurbished. Dorothy immediately began to regret the impending loss of their wonderful views of Grasmere and Easedale, and declared the place "sweeter than paradise itself". After a further year had passed, and without the planned improvements to the parsonage having been made, they moved in June 1811, leaving Allan Bank to their landlord Mr. Crump. During the Allan Bank years Wordsworth had written The Convention of Cintra, the first version of the Guide to the Lakes and most of The Excursion, and revised The White Doe of Rylstone, while Coleridge produced his journal The Friend.
Thereafter Crump sometimes lived at Allan Bank himself, sometimes let it out to tenants, until it fell into other hands in 1831. The educator and historian Thomas Arnold and his family spent the summer of 1833 there while their new house at nearby Fox How was being built; he worked on part of his History of Rome there, and boasted to a friend of the inspiring quality of the view from his window as he wrote.
One Thomas Dawson owned the house from 1834 till his death in 1894, sometimes taking short-term tenants, and it continued in his family until 1911. In 1915 it was bought by Canon Rawnsley, one of the co-founders of the National Trust, and he moved into it on his retirement in 1917. Hardwick died there on 28 May 1920, leaving Allan Bank to the National Trust, though securing a lifetime's tenancy for his widow Eleanor. She remained until her death in 1959. In the 1950s a fire destroyed a large wing at the rear of the house, and a second fire in 2011 did further serious damage. The National Trust thereupon began long-term restoration work, and in March 2012 opened Allan Bank to the public for the first time. In June 2017 they were describing the house as "still very much a work in progress".
Red squirrels are in danger of extinction in England, and Grasmere is one of the few remaining places in the country where they still thrive. Allan Bank is a great place to see our native red squirrels. The National Trust work hard alongside the Grasmere Red Squirrel Group to make the grounds at Allan Bank their ideal home, spending over £900.00 on feed every year.
So many visitors to Allan Bank have loved being able to follow the comings and goings of our red squirrels, you can use our binoculars in the Study to spot one of them on the feeders outside or you could take a stroll along the garden path to see if you can catch sight of one along the way. An outbreak of the deadly Squirrel Pox Virus in Grasmere in 2016 put our native red squirrel population under dire threat. We had over ten confirmed cases of the virus in the valley, but thanks to the constant effort of the Grasmere Red Squirrel Group and the local community the red squirrel population have survived.
As well as the funds that the National Trust commits to red squirrel conservation there in Grasmere, the Grasmere Red Squirrel Group relies heavily on grants from the Forestry Authority. Sadly, due to changes in Forestry Authority funding, these grants have not been available in 2017. Now, more than ever before they need your support to enable the conservation work of the Grasmere Red Squirrel Group to continue. If you are interested in supporting this vital work to keep the red squirrels of Grasmere safe you can help by donating online through their Lakes Red Squirrel Appeal page.
From a relaxing lake-shore stroll to an adventurous fell-top ramble, when it comes to great winter walks you are spoiled for choice here in Grasmere. Here are a few of our favourites to get you started.
Allan bank woodland walk.
Follow the Allan Bank garden path through the walled garden and take in the stunning views of Grasmere. If you have time, a full exploration of the woods is a must. This walk takes you along a rugged path and forms a circuit that takes about 45 minutes. Explore historic features as you go. Allan Bank is very paw friendly – dogs are welcome inside and out. Their distinct lack of carpets definitely has its advantages when it comes to our canine friends. All they ask is that you keep yours on a lead and under control while you're here.
Approx 4 miles (6.5km). This lovely lake sits to the south of Grasmere village. Once a favourite of William Wordsworth who was inspired by its natural beauty, the lake remains popular among visitors to the Lake District today. The walk, along a moderately level lakeshore path, is a great option for all the family, with plenty of fun to be had along the way. Take a picnic if you have the time and be sure to look out for the hollow tree - a great spot for hide and seek. There’s plenty of wildfowl to spot as you go and don’t forget to head to Penny Rock Beach to test your skimming skills before you head back to the village through Deer Bolts woods.
Approx 3.5 miles (6km). Helm Crag, or the 'Lion and the Lamb' as it is more commonly known, is possibly the best known of all the Lakeland fells. Although not the biggest, it is definitely one of the most interesting. Despite its challenging appearance with its steep, craggy sides and bristling summit this walk is the perfect introduction to hiking in the Lake District, requiring moderate effort and offering awesome views. The ascent is moderately steep with well laid paths until you reach the summit which is strewn with shattered and jagged rocks. From a distance these form a striking resemblance to the iconic 'Lion and Lamb'. This walk is very doable in a morning or afternoon, but is well worth a full-day excursion complete with a picnic and camera.
Approx 5 miles (8km). Loughrigg is one of Wainwright’s ‘midget mountains’ - more a sprawling hump than a mountain. Yet it's an absolute must for anyone on their first visit to this part of the Lake District. They think the best approach is via Red Bank Hill which takes you through ancient woodland and then out onto the open fell side for a fairly steep but short ascent. There’s a rocky knoll about halfway up - a perfect place to stop for a breather while you take in the views. The gently undulating hill top begs to be explored, but take care - the network of paths can be confusing particularly if it’s misty. Stunning 360-degree views from the summit offer a feast for the eyes and give a tempting taster of the surrounding landscape for those that want to explore further.
Brackenfell & Alcock Tarn.
Approx 3 miles (5km). This is a great circular walk starting and finishing in Grasmere village. The well maintained paths wind and gently climb uphill through the woods of Brackenfell before zig-zagging up the side of Grey Crag and leading you on to Alcock Tarn. On a fine day the views throughout this walk are fantastic, especially from Alcock Tarn which offers views of Windermere to the south, a skyline silhouette of Helm Crag to the North West and views of Grasmere below. Alcock Tarn lies 1,000 feet above Grasmere village. Originally a natural tarn, it was enlarged in the late 19th-century by means of a small stone and earth dam to create a trout lake. There are plenty of grassy areas around the tarn making it perfect for a picnic and a spot of minnow catching. So grab your net, get your socks off, roll up your trousers and catch yourself some minnows.
Approx 2.8 miles (4.5km). Silver How forms part of the Blea Rigg ridge - the backbone that bisects Grasmere from Langdale Valley. This is a relatively easy walk which delivers all the charm and natural beauty that you might expect in Grasmere. The walk has plenty of interest to offer, including Allan Bank, a Georgian villa perched on the hillside which was once home to William Wordsworth.
A short detour to Wray Gill is well worth a little extra effort if you have the time. The ascent is not difficult and the pathways are well maintained making this a great option for the whole family, young and old. Once up you will be rewarded with stunning views of the vale of Grasmere and at some points Langdale Valley as well. The summit is grassy and open with plenty of space for a picnic if you have the time.
Approx 5 miles (8km). The walk from Grasmere to Easedale Tarn is a great trip out for even the littlest legs! A moderately easy ascent takes you through meadows and farmland before you head upwards, following the course of Sour Milk Gyhll, past the frothy white cascades of the waterfall and onwards until you reach the tarn.
Easedale tarn is beautiful, surrounded by towering fells that rise steeply from the crater-like valley. The tarn has an isolated, tranquil feel making it perfect for a picnic and a bit of paddle in the summer. If you’re looking for a longer, more strenuous outing, Easedale Tarn offers access to more lofty summits including Sergeant Man with its breathtaking views of the Langdale Pikes, or Blea Rigg, a ridge walk that links Easedale Tarn to Stickle Tarn. These walks are suitable for experienced walkers who have allowed plenty of time.
High Close Garden.
Approx 4 miles (6.5km). A short walk from the hustle and bustle of Grasmere village lies High Close Garden - its 11 acres of tranquillity offering a peaceful haven. This woodland walk is truly enchanting. Wander around and sit on one of the many stone 'Courting seats' set into the walls or stop at the bottom of the path for a picnic where the views open up across Loughrigg Tarn and Elterwater. Originally planted in the 1860s, there were once nine gardeners and a full time path sweeper to tend this lovely place. Now most of the work is carried out by National Trust Rangers and volunteers, who are slowly bringing this beautiful garden back to life.
Grasmere is a village and tourist destination in the centre of the English Lake District. It takes its name from the adjacent lake, and has associations with the Lake Poets. The poet William Wordsworth, who lived in Grasmere for 14 years, described it as "the loveliest spot that man hath ever found." Before 1974, Grasmere lay within the former county of Westmorland. Today it is part of the county of Cumbria.
The village is on the river Rothay which flows into Grasmere (the body of water), which lies about 0.5 km to the south. The village is overlooked from the north-west by the rocky hill of Helm Crag, popularly known as The Lion and the Lamb or the Old Lady at the Piano. These names are derived from the shape of rock formations on its summit, depending on the side from which you view it. A number of frequented walks begin in the village, including the ascent of Helm Crag, a longer route up to Fairfield and a moderate 200-metre ascent to Easedale Tarn. The village is also on the route of Alfred Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk.
The A591 connects Grasmere to the Vale of Keswick over Dunmail Raise to the north, and Ambleside to the south. In other directions, Grasmere is surrounded by high ground. (At Christmas 2015, the A591 was washed away on the Keswick side of Dunmail Raise, resulting in a long detour. It was reopened in May 2016.) To the west, a long ridge comes down from High Raise and contains the lesser heights of Blea Rigg and Silver How. To the east, Grasmere is bordered by the western ridge of the Fairfield horseshoe.
Grasmere is served by the Stagecoach 555 bus service connecting towns in and near the Lake District, such as Keswick and Lancaster. In summer it is also served by an open top double-decker 599 service, operated by Stagecoach, which runs between Grasmere and Bowness-on-Windermere.
Grasmere's famous Rushbearing Ceremony, centred on St Oswald's Church, has ancient origins. The present-day ceremony is an annual event which features a procession through the village with bearings made from rushes and flowers. In this procession there are also six Maids of Honour, a brass band, the church choir, and anyone who wishes to join in by carrying their own decorated rushbearing.
The annual Grasmere Sports take place in August and were first held in 1852. This is the main event in the village's calendar and one of the most popular traditional events in the Lake District. Participants compete in a variety of sports, including Cumberland Wrestling, fell running and hound trails (similar to drag hunting). Grasmere is now home to the winner of the 'Get Started Award 2014' awarded by the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs, the Handmade Chocolate Shop.
Today's Grasmere Gingerbread is made to a "secret recipe" popularised by Sarah Nelson (1815–1904). By the early nineteenth century, Grasmere gingerbread was already being sold as fairings, as well as being a popular seller in its own right. Poet Dorothy Wordsworth wrote in 1803 that she and her brother William craved for the gingerbread.
Notable Persons in birth order: William Wordsworth (1770–1850), poet, lived in Dove Cottage with his sister Dorothy Wordsworth (1771–1855), in the hamlet of Townend, on the outskirts of Grasmere, from 1799. He occasionally breakfasted with Sir Walter Scott at The Swan, a 17th-century coaching inn on the A591 road, whose sign still quotes a line from him: "Who does not know the famous Swan?" In 1808 he moved to the larger Allan Bank, where he remained until 1811, moving to Rydal Mount in 1813. He is buried in the churchyard of St Oswald's, Grasmere, alongside his wife, Mary, their family, and his sister Dorothy.
Writer Thomas de Quincey (1785–1859) rented Dove Cottage after the Wordsworths left. A friend, the writer Lady Maria Farquhar, lived at Dale Lodge. Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834), poet, spent time at Dove Cottage and is said to have muttered stanzas for The Rime of the Ancient Mariner while walking across the nearby fells. Paul Frederick de Quincey (1828–1894), New Zealand politician, was born at Grasmere. William Angus Knight (1836–1916), Scottish academic, compiled an 11-volume Wordsworth's Works and Life (1881–89) and presented his library of Wordsworth materials to Dove Cottage. William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930), Oxford University academic and instigator of spoonerisms, was buried here, near the house of his wife's family, How Foot.
John Haden Badley (1865–1967), progressive educationalist and founder of Bedales School, spent time with his sisters the Misses Badley, at their Grasmere home Winterseeds. Charles Morris (1898–1990), philosopher and Leeds University vice-chancellor, died at Grasmere. The husband-and-wife artists William Heaton Cooper (1903–1995), landscape painter, and Ophelia Gordon Bell (1915–1975), sculptor, lived and are buried at Grasmere.
Fred Yates (1922–2008), painter, was living at Cote How near Grasmere (1900–06) when he painted the future United States president Woodrow Wilson and John Haden Badley. Robert Woof (1931–2005), academic, was the first keeper of the collections of the William Wordsworth Museum at Dove Cottage. Bob Barratt (1938 or 1939–2004) was the founder of the Grasmere Records label for brass band and organ music.
Grasmere is one of the smaller lakes of the English Lake District, in the county of Cumbria. It gives its name to the village of Grasmere, famously associated with the poet William Wordsworth, which lies immediately to the north of the lake. The lake is 1680 yards (1540 m) long and 700 yards (640 m) wide, covering an area of 0.24 mi² (0.62 km²). It has a maximum depth of 70 feet (21m) and an elevation above sea level of 208 feet (62 m). The lake is both fed and drained by the River Rothay, which flows through the village before entering the lake, and then exits downstream into nearby Rydal Water, beyond which it continues into Windermere.
The waters of the lake are leased by the Lowther Estate to the National Trust. The waters are navigable, with private boats allowed and rowing boats for hire, but powered boats are prohibited. The lake contains a single island, known as The Island. In 2017 this island was bequeathed to the National Trust. This gift has particular significance to the National Trust, as the organisation was founded in response to the sale of the same island to a private bidder in 1893. Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley felt that such a location should instead be in public ownership, and soon afterwards started the National Trust with Octavia Hill and Robert Hunter.
There are toilet facilities at Allan Bank. Dogs welcome but must be on a lead at all times. Please park in the village pay and display car parks. Tea and coffee are available in the house. If you'd like a bite to eat, please drop by one of the many village cafés or shops in Grasmere. You are welcome to bring a picnic to Allan Bank.
Ideal picnic locations nearby. Art room with painting and drawing supplies. Board games and lawn games are available for the visitor's amusement. Informal woodland grounds to explore. Pedestrian access and limited Blue Badge vehicle access only onsite. House and grounds are not accessible by mobility scooter. The interior of the property is largely uncarpeted, with some uneven floorboards, although there are some rugs. Windows do not have curtains and there are few soft furnishings; as a result there are some sound echoes. Noise levels can be high on busy days, particularly during school holidays. There is a piano in the hallway which is available for visitors to play on request.
There are no narrow doorways or corridors in the property. All ground floor rooms have adequate turning space for wheelchairs. Furniture is not fixed and can be moved if required. Staff or volunteers are available on each floor. There are always staff on the reception desk, which is central to all rooms on the ground floor. Stairs leading to first floor. The accessible toilet is on the ground floor, next to the accessible entrance. There are standard toilet facilities on the first floor of the property.
Location : Allan Bank, Grasmere, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 9QB
Transport : Windermere (National Rail) then 599 bus. Bus Routes : Stagecoach in Cumbria 555/6, 599 from Windermere then 10 minutes.
Opening Times : April to October, daily 10:00 to 17:00; November to March, weekends 10:30 to 16:00
Tickets : Adults £6.10; Children £3.05
Tel : 015394 35143