BBC poet Ian McMillan to celebrate Coleridge

Coleridge Cottage - Ian Macmillan (c) National Trust - Adrian Mealing

BBC poet Ian McMillan to celebrate Coleridge

Poet and BBC radio presenter, Ian McMillan, will be hosting an entertaining evening celebrating the work of British Romantic poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, on Monday 27 June.

Ian McMillan, presenter of BBC Radio Three’s ‘The Verb’, will give a talk as part of ‘Writing Places.’ The audience will be welcome to join Ian for the evening and put questions to him at the event being held in the village of Nether Stowey in Somerset, home to the National Trust’s award winning Coleridge Cottage.

Ian McMillan's welcome to his Bewdley Festival performance! (c) National Trust / Ruth Bourne

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Coleridge Cottage re-opens

The small West Country cottage, birthplace of poetry’s Romantic movement and where Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote his most remembered poetry is being re-opened following a major re-presentation and restoration project.

The cottage – home to Coleridge for three years at a time when he was at his most creative -has been presented in the style that he would have been familiar with. For the first time, the garden is now open to visitors and rooms not seen before in the Victorian extension to the rear are also open, telling the story of the birth of the Romantic Movement in the West Country.

The National Trust, who has cared for the cottage for over 100 years, has worked with the Friends of Coleridge Society to show what life was like in the cottage.

“We’ve tried to recreate the atmosphere of the cottage in the poet’s day while also preserving original features. In the parlour as you enter the cottage we were delighted to find that the original fireplace had survived, bricked up in the wall. This is almost certainly the fireplace Coleridge mentions at length in the poem Frost at Midnight so we have restored it and made it the prominent feature of the room once more,” said Stephen Hayes, Project Manager.

The kitchen will also be seen by visitors for the first time and, although little survives from Coleridge’s day, it is the place where Sara Coleridge spilt hot milk scalding his foot preventing him from going on a walk with William and Dorothy Wordsworth. Instead, sitting under a bower in the garden of his friend Tom Poole, Coleridge wrote This Lime Tree Bower my Prison, one of his greatest poems, imagining the walk through the Quantocks his friends were taking.

A tour of the house takes visitors through the parlours and kitchen downstairs and to the bedrooms on the first floor – all original rooms Coleridge and his family lived in.

Visitors then move into the Victorian extension on the rear where the rooms have a Victorian décor and tell the story of the birth of the Romantic Movement in the West Country. There is the chance to write with a quill pen and become immersed in poetry in the property’s sitting room.

“We have been fortunate in being able to present the original rooms as Coleridge might recognise them but also in having the later addition to the cottage to tell more of the story of how important the West Country was to Romanticism,” added Stephen. “Our team has done an excellent job in creating something which lets you experience Coleridge’s rooms as if he had just popped out and also explaining the background, allowing visitors the chance to just pause and think.”

“We have planned this project very much with the visitors’ enjoyment in mind and we have even included a small tearoom in our small undercover courtyard.”

The garden has been replanted very much in the spirit of Coleridge’s time at the Cottage with wild flowers, a small orchard, a vegetable plot and Somerset Willow Company’s representation of the Lime Tree Bower, has been placed at the far end for visitors to sit and perhaps write their own poetry.

The 17th Century Cottage was home to Coleridge for three years, from 1797. It was during his time here in Somerset that Coleridge wrote his finest work, including This Lime Tree Bower my Prison; Frost at Midnight, The Nightingale, Kubla Khan, Christabel and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

He and Wordsworth also produced a volume of poetry, Lyrical Ballads, which is regarded as a crucial point in the development of the literary Romantic Movement.

This project has received £175,000 funding from Viridor Credits Environmental Company, through the Landfill Communities Fund and has been supported by Western Somerset Local Action Group, which is part of the Rural Development Programme for England. Additional funding came from Quantock Hills AONB Sustainable Development Fund; the Quantock Centre of the National Trust and The Friends of Coleridge.

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