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Purcell wins go-ahead for Wordsworth Museum revamp


The Lake District National Park Authority has approved plans by Purcell for its £6.2 million Reimagining Wordsworth development project in Grasmere, Cumbria

The scheme for the Wordsworth Trust, which the practice won alongside interpretation designer Nissen Richards Studio following a contest in late 2016, will ‘conserve, adapt and extend’ a number of properties linked to the English Romantic poet across the hamlet of Town End.

Led by architect Rob Gregory, a former senior editor at The Architectural Review and now associate at Purcell, the plans consist of seven key proposals, including the extension of the existing museum and a rooftop viewing platform, and the revamp of Dove Cottage, the poet’s one-time home.

The project will also reinterpret the Wordsworth Trust’s important collection of manuscripts, books and works of art.

Two further approved proposals include a new café on the site of the current shop and the development of a learning centre on the site of the existing tea rooms.

A trio of ‘subtle’ wayfinding gateways, inspired by the region’s traditional sheepfolds, will be created at each of the key approach points to Town End.

Explaining the team’s approach, Gregory said: ‘We stopped, looked and listened hard before we put pen to paper. In Town End, this led to an appreciation of the existing townscape, and the qualities of space between the buildings, and the formation of four core themes that brought clarity to the design narrative: townscape, legibility, orientation and threshold.

’The final design incorporates seven key proposals that thread their way through the hamlet, all of which centre on enhancing the existing yard. Through this we demonstrated that the Trust did not need to build a new Welcome Centre, but that they could create a new welcome at the centre of the hamlet, adjacent to, but not overshadowing the focal point of Dove Cottage.

He added: ’The combined effect of our seven proposals creates a unified architectural approach that not only creates new qualities of legibility and orientation at the heart of the site, but also brings a coherent approach to the site as a whole.’

Subject to second-round approval from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other fundraising, work on the scheme is expected to start in spring 2018.

Construction is due to complete in early 2020, in time to celebrate the 250th anniversary of William Wordsworth’s birth.

004 seven proposals purcell

004 seven proposals purcell

Project data

Location Town End, Grasmere, Cumbria
Type of project Culture/Museum
Client The Wordsworth Trust
Architect Purcell
Design and Interpretation Nissen Richards Studio
Landscape architect Optimised Environments, Manchester
Structural engineer Civic, Manchester
M&E consultant Max Fordham
Quantity surveyor Appleyard & Trew
Project manager Faithful & Gould
Funding HLF and private donors
Tender date Summer 2018
Start on site date Autumn 2018
Completion date 2020
Contract duration 12-15 months
Gross internal floor area 961m²
Form of contract and/or procurement JCT Standard Form
Total cost Main contract £2,323,869; exhibition fit-out £918,682


Readers' comments (2)

  • No mention of the original Wordsworth Museum that appears in some of the photos being done by Benson & Forsyth!

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  • Paul.
    We have great admiration for the neighbouring archive building that Benson & Forsyth designed up to planning. Indeed it inspired many of the conversations we had with the client and Historic England about form, with particular reference to their Rotunda. However, in the end the region’s Tower Houses became the reference point for our new form with the viewing platform. We are extending the original 1980s Museum, which occupies the historic Bank Barn, and the Jerwood remains out of our scope. We have however proposed subtle changes to the Jerwood steps, as shown on the carousel images of this article, that we believe will strengthen the axis that this building steps up on approach from Grasmere to the north-east. Rob Gregory.

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