If you find yourself on a scenic drive along the A39 near Bridgwater, do make a stop at the village of Nether Stowey. This is the location of one of my favourite National Trust’s properties which has just reopened after restoration – Coleridge Cottage. Its name gives away its interesting part in history, as the home for a time to the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. An ornate stone plaque on the front of the cottage on Lime Street celebrates the cottage’s historic brush with fame from 1797 to 1800.
An area full of inspiration
There must have been something inspirational about this lovely area for poets, as William Wordsworth and his wife lived for a while at Alfoxton Park, just three miles away, and now a country hotel. Wordsworth and Coleridge worked together on a joint book of poetry called Lyrical Ballads which became the inspirational starting point of the English Romantic Age and marked the beginning of British romantic literature.
If you are a lover of English literature, like me, you will be interested to know that Samuel Taylor Coleridge certainly wrote some of his most famous poems while living in Nether Stowey, including the Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is one of Coleridge’s longest works and focuses on the long-held belief by sailors that killing an albatross would bring terrible bad luck on the boat.
Kubla Khan was a totally different work, about a Mongol Emperor, Kublai Khan, and his legendary palace at Xanadu. Coleridge admitted it was based on an opium-invoked dream, and interestingly his writing of the poem was interrupted by the arrival of “a person from Porlock”, adding a touch of local authenticity. Coleridge’s poems and life certainly came vividly to life for me as I explored his personal abode.
High times at Coleridge Cottage
Coleridge’s poetry is well-known; his addiction to opium perhaps less well broadcast but the cottage highlights Coleridge’s life as a journalist, playwright, philosopher, translator and as a brilliant orator and communicator, gifted in the art of words.
This typical Somerset home has been in the hands of the National Trust since 1909 and has had some major restorative work done on a number of occasions. However, the latest work uncovered some real gems that relate back to Coleridge’s well-known and long-recited poems.
Part of the restoration project uncovered an old soot-blackened fireplace in the parlour. Surely this would have been the inspiration for Coleridge’s lines of a “thin blue flame lies on my low-burnt fire” which is part of his poem “Frost at Midnight”? I thought it was fantastic to now be able to walk through the house, seeing his personal items and pause in front of the very fireplace and recall his written words.
The cottage parlours, kitchen and bedrooms are all furnished to represent an authentic representation of how they would have looked in Coleridge’s day, in the late 18th century. I felt the cottage also brings vividly to life some of the stories of his life there, thanks to the informative guides in the property. The cottage aims to create the feeling that Coleridge has just stepped out, leaving the cottage ready for his imminent return. In my opinion, it succeeds admirably.
I got a feeling of deja-vu as I strolled around the cottage garden to see the representation of the lime tree bower. This interesting place was immortalized when Coleridge vented his annoyance at not being able to join William and Dorothy Wordsworth on a walk as he had scalded his foot with boiling milk. He put pen to paper and wrote “This Lime Tree Bower, my Prison” which describes the walk he imagined he was missing.
A must for all fans of the Romantic Poets
For every fan of the Romantic Poets, a visit to Coleridge Cottage is a must. Treat it as a pilgrimage or a journey into the past and enjoy this characterful property, now fully restored for us all to enjoy, thanks to the National Trust.
Have been inspired to visit Coleridge Cottage? Do you know of other places that are former homes of writers or poets? We’d love to hear about your visit; feel free to share in the comments box below.