Visitors to Coleridge Cottage in Nether Stowey, Somerset, are now able to draw water from the building’s original Georgian well following its restoration. The well, which is 16 metres (over 52 feet) deep, was built in the 1640s at the same time as the cottage. Thanks to the help of visitors who bought raffle tickets to raise money, the well can now be returned to its former use.
For many years, the well was not visible to the public. In 2011, a big restoration project aimed to show the National Trust cottage like never before – opening up new rooms, exposing the fireplace in front of which Coleridge wrote his poetry, and the wildflower garden at the back of the cottage. The winding mechanism on the well, restored by Dorothea Restorations of Bristol, is the latest stage of this project.
Kate Chandler, Visitor Experience Officer, said: ‘It’s great to finally have the well up and running. The cottage is full of ways to really see what life was like as a Georgian in rural Somerset, and this was the obvious next step. It’s harder than it looks – you’ll definitely need to dose up on spinach before trying it!’
The well provided residents of the cottage with water for drinking, washing, and cooking for hundreds of years, including Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who lived in the cottage for three years between 1796 and 1799. His short stay gave rise to some of the most significant poetry in English literature, including ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ and ‘Kubla Khan’.
Coleridge lived in relative ease at Nether Stowey, writing poetry and walking the Quantock Hills whilst relying on his wife, Sara, to do most of the housework. This included drawing water from the well – probably around 60 litres a day.
Visitors to the cottage can learn all about Coleridge, his family, and his poetry in a hands-on way. As well as finding out just how tough it is to haul a bucket up the well, visitors can also try writing with a quill and ink, and dress in period costumes to experience what life might have been like in a 17th-century cottage.
Coleridge Cottage is open to the public on Thursdays to Mondays until the 29 October, and for the first three weekends in December for a Georgian Christmas.
For more information about visiting, please go to: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/coleridge-cottage