Wordsworth’s adored family home where the bard penned some of his most celebrated works and now a magnet for worldwide fans has a new curator chosen because of his University of Cumbria studies.
When Leo Finighan took up duties at stunning Rydal Mount, between Windermere and Grasmere, he could not quite believe that he was treading in his hero’s footsteps, caring for a house and grounds that so inspired the poet.
Beating off stiff opposition for the role, it was Leo’s MA in Literature, Romanticism and the English Lake District at the Ambleside campus, along with his passion for the internationally acclaimed luminary, that clinched the coveted job.
It was the place ‘loved best’ by Wordsworth’s family and home from 1813 up until his death in 1850. The estate is owned by descendants and Christopher Wordsworth Andrew welcomed Leo’s appointment, describing him as a ‘breath of fresh air’.
He added: “Leo not only loves Wordsworth, but knows a lot more about him than the family! He brings an enthusiasm to launch us out of Covid in a very positive state of mind.”
From Richmond, in North Yorkshire, Leo wanted to study at Ambleside so he could be in the midst of Romantic-era literature and landscapes that galvanised the movement.
His private sitting room in Rydal Mount is where Wordsworth’s clerk, John Carter, copied out the penultimate edition of The Prelude, one of the most important poems ever written, and etched his name on to a window pane.
Leo explained: “It is the dream job and I’m only here because my lecturer, Associate Professor Penny Bradshaw, not only introduced me to the Romantics but was a significant influence when it came to applying to be curator. Saying she is inspiring is an understatement!
“This is a very special place and where Wordsworth produced his incredibly influential Illustrated Guide to the Lakes, prefaced with the River Duddon Sonnets. In his time here, he saw his beloved Lake District become a tourist destination, but that is another story.
“I’m most excited to be securing funding from projects ranging from replacing the roof to cataloguing Rydal Mount’s collection. I’ve already starting on the library and some 400 books owned by the great man.
“It’s a treasure trove. I’ve discovered many first editions, letters, notes and memorabilia, slipped between pages from two centuries ago, which makes the lives of those who lived here so much more real.”
Dr Bradshaw said she was delighted by Leo’s success, adding the house and grounds, which attract tens of thousands of visitors a year, had a very able and scholarly custodian.
“That Leo was appointed as a result of his studies with us is a source of great pride and we wish him every success.”