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The Jerwood Centre has outstanding facilities for research and conservation
Set in the heart of the English Lakes; a truly inspiring place
The Reading Room contains a major Romantic library featuring many rare first editions
The Jerwood Centre houses the Wordsworth Trust's wonderful collection of paintings
Conservation work is carried out in the cente under controlled conditions
Items in the collection range from letters to albums, personal effects and pictures
The Jerwood Centre, adjacent to the Wordsworth Museum, is a new award-winning building holding the manuscripts, books and paintings not on show in the museum. We estimate that about 65,000 items are stored here, ranging from letters made up of a single page to autograph albums containing literally hundreds of letters and pictures. It was opened in 2005 by Seamus Heaney, Nobel Laureate in Literature.
At the heart of the collection is the family archive of the Wordsworth family that was left to the Wordsworth Trust in 1935. This is the largest collection of manuscripts by the poet anywhere in the world, made all the more special by now being cared for in the same place where most were actually written.
Added to this are letters and works by other key writers such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas De Quincey; but there are many surprises too, as other collections and autograph albums contain manuscripts by thousands of people from all over the world. You may be surprised to know, for example, that a letter by Dr David Livingstone in which he describes returning to Victoria Falls is to be found in Grasmere; a letter by the first President of America, George Washington, is here too.
The books are equally fascinating. They show how people read 200 years ago – books in cheap card covers (interestingly now the most sought after and researched type of cover), or the most expensive leather bindings to suit a particular library’s existing style. The books have pictures added, or comments written in them: to lend a book to Coleridge was to risk it coming back annotated with his comments – but, of course, this now only adds to their interest and significance. The library holds nearly all the volumes published by the major writers of the day during their lifetimes – which given that Wordsworth was publishing books for over 60 years, makes for a wonderful collection of books. There are books that Wordsworth himself owned too – some with pages unopended and clearly unread by the poet.
The Jerwood Centre holds fine art collections too. There are many portraits of the poet, his circle of writers and friends, and of his family; on top of this is one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of watercolours and printed images and books of the Lake District stretching back over the past 250 years. Paintings by major artists are featured: J.M.W. Turner, John Constable, Thomas Girtin, as well as many lesser known artists who visited the Lakes in the years following 1750. The Jerwood Centre also holds a great collection of guide books to the area, again from 1750 onwards.
All the items described above are available to researchers in our reading room, open Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30 pm by appointment.
Please contact the Curator to discuss your research interest. In the interests of preservation, certain collections are on limited access; but we shall do what we can help facilitate research. A large collection of biographies, published letters and critical works is also available.
To see what we hold in preparation of a visit, please visit the Collection website.
See the journal entry for the day when William and Dorothy saw the famous daffodils.
The Jerwood Centre is where our collection is stored under controlled conditions and cared for. If you would like to be shown around please phone before you arrive to check that someone is available.
Wordsworth enjoyed skating on the frozen lakes of the county in the depths of winter. Two very different pairs of his skates survive and can be seen during your visit.
Tea was so precious that it was kept in a locked box like this one and Dorothy Wordsworth wrote that it was used at least twice. See if you can find it on your visit.