Cockermouth Castle

Last week we decided to visit Cockermouth. It wasn't the most successful visit as we hadn't realised that Wordsworth House and Garden is closed on a Friday! This really surprised me. It seems that since Covid-19 we are always coming across these kind of oddities.

However, even though we couldn't enjoy a wander around Wordsworth's birthplace, we did have a pleasant stroll around Cockermouth, as well as visiting a couple of churches.

I'm always fascinated by literary links and had discovered that Stevie Smith's poem  and drawing - The Castle - is based on Cockermouth Castle, as viewed from the bridge over the River Derwent behind Wordsworth House.

I married the Earl of Egremont,
I never saw him by day,
I had him in bed at night,
And cuddled him tight

Oh, that was a romantic time,
The castle had such a lonely look,
The estate,
Heavy with cockle and spurge,
Lay desolate....

Oh I love the ramshackle castle,
And the turret room
Where our sons were born.

As Grevel Lindop says in A Literary Guide to the Lake District  "the huge certainly ramshackle, as Stevie Smith puts it, and one of the towers leans perilously". The view, in Stevie Smith's drawing, shows Jennings' Brewers, in the foregound of the Castle.

We incorporated a visit to St Bridget's Church in Bridekirk, into our day. St Bridget's is an ancient church which was sadly "restored" in the 1800s. The jewel of the church, however, is an extraordinary and beautiful rectangular  twelfth century font. W G Collingwood wrote of this font, that it is carved "with dragons and strange beasts...the expulsions from Eden and the baptism of Christ, and on the fourth side a portrait of the artist with chisel and mallet, and his autogragh signature in runes of the twelfth century. "Rikarth he me wrokte, and to this merthe genr me brokte...(Richard wrought me, and to this beauty brought me eagerly)." 

The sculptor is thought to be Richard of Durham, the greatest sculptor, of this period, in Northern England.

The final literary connection of the day, unless you count Fletcher Christian, (which I don't!) is Thomas Tickell. 

Tickell was a minor poet, born in the vicarage at Bridekirk in 1686. Tickell was best known for his poem Kensington Gardens (1722).  He was also Addison's editor.

Dr Johnson wrote in the Lives of the Poets of Kensington Gardens "the versification is smooth and elegant, but the fiction unskillfully compounded of Grecian deities and Gothic fairies. Wordsworth comment was "Kensington Gardens: a strange choice for a man...whose birthplace was within a short walk of one of the most romantic rivers in the world, the Derwent."

So we managed to salvage quite a lot from the day, including a delicious lunch at Thornthwaite Gallery and a mooch around the beautiful paintings. We might have felt compelled to buy a Marion Bradley painting!