A new buyer for Alfoxden House


Article courtesy of 'The Observer' 16 February 2020

The dilapidated Grade II West Country home where William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge created their joint masterpiece, Lyrical Ballads, has been saved at the 11th hour.

Alfoxton Park, a building judged by some scholars to be as important to English literature as Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, is set to be sold to a new owner this spring, in Wordsworth’s 250th anniversary year, according to the property agent handling the deal.

The substantial white house had previously operated as a hotel, but has been empty for several years. It is now expected to be run as a business, said Richard Thomas, of Christie & Co. “The owner had hoped it could become a single dwelling again, but the new buyer, a high net-worth individual, has plans to run it as a business: either a hotel or as separate lodges.”

The house was sold at auction in 2017 and was put up for sale again in November 2018 with a guide price of £2m.

Wordsworth was based in Alfoxton in the village of Holford, near Bridgwater, Somerset, for 12 months from 1797, along with his sister, Dorothy, the diarist.

There, with his admiring friend Coleridge a constant visitor, they spent one of the most productive periods in poetic history.

Among the greatest works to have sprung from their days watching the seasons pass by on the slopes of the Quantock Hills are Coleridge’s 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' and 'Kubla Khan', while Wordsworth’s equally famous poem, 'Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey', inspired by his walk in the neighbouring Wye Valley, was added to the first edition of their 'Lyrical Ballads' in 1798 at the last minute.

Dorothy began her journal here in January 1798, and continued it when the siblings moved back to their native Lake District later that year.

Champions of Alfoxton include Liz Fuller of the campaign group Save, who has welcomed the “great news” about the property.

“This is a remarkable house with a rich history and clearly needs urgent help to prevent it from standing empty any longer,” she said. “It has been on the market for a while now, so this new development is encouraging.”

The house stands in 50 acres of land and looks out across the Bristol Channel to Wales. Much of it dates from 1710, when it was rebuilt after a fire. During the second world war it became home to evacuated pupils of a preparatory school in Kent and then began a new existence as a hotel in the

The academic Jonathan Bate, presenter of a radio series about Wordsworth, has also lamented Alfoxton’s fate.

“The local council have helped smooth the path to a sale, which had a lot of legal conditions, because they are aware how much the house means to the community,” said Thomas.

Fuller said that the house was added to Save’s buildings at risk register in 2016 after the organisation received a nomination from a member of the public with a personal connection. “His school was evacuated to the house during the war and this is how he could tell us that the rooms were named after poems – he remembers the 'Ancient Mariner' being one.”

Fuller believe the house has “deteriorated quite a lot and is in quite a poor condition”. “We very much hope that the prospective purchasers will bring the house back to its former beauty and find a viable use for it whether as a hotel or otherwise,” she said.

Add comment

Security code