Tennyson, King Arthur and Mirehouse

A while ago, on a perfect Lake District day, we went to Mirehouse of the shores of Bassenthwaite, north of Keswick.Castlerigg Circle and Mirehouse 019

Mirehouse is a modest country house and the home of the Spedding family. It is beautifully set above the shores of the lake and below the minor mountainous outreaches of Skiddaw.

But its fame rests with its literary connections.Castlerigg Circle and Mirehouse 024

The Victorian Speddings were hosts to some of the great names of nineteenth century literature, including Thomas Carlyle, Edward Fitzgerald, the Wordsworths and the Coleridges.Castlerigg Circle and Mirehouse 029

But its greatest fame lies with its connection to Alfred Tennyson, who visited several times and composed much of his Morte D’Arthur here, the sections featuring the sword Excalibur and the lady of the lake being directly inspired by the shores of Bassenthwaite. There is a stone monument down by the lakeshore to these aspects of the poem.

The present Spedding owners seem particularly dedicated to conservation.

There are traditional meadows and there is a bee garden with hives. The famous Bassenthwaite ospreys nest nearby each year.

In the grounds, on a public right of way, is the church of St Bega, pre-Norman in origin, though much restored. St Bega is an unusual dedication. The virginal lady herself might have lived during the time that the Vikings were raiding and settling the area. The church is now the conclusion of the St Bega Way, which starts at St Bees Head and crosses the northern Lake District to arrive here.  Not a bad little route for a pilgrimage.

Mirehouse has a great many treasures relating to the writers above, particularly Tennyson. I was allowed to sit in the chair he used to write (as shown in a contemporary illustration in the house) though, unlike the poet in the picture, I didn’t put my feet up on the desk.Castlerigg Circle and Mirehouse 030

This seems to be a year of Tennyson. Just a few weeks ago we were standing outside his birthplace at Somersby in Lincolnshire (see blogs passim).Castlerigg Circle and Mirehouse 032

Well worth a visit if you are in the area.


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