University of Nottingham

From Goslar to Grasmere: moving through and dwelling in Wordsworth's manuscript spaces

Project outline

This project was a collaboration between Lancaster University and the Wordsworth Trust. It involved the exploration and analysis of manuscript materials for two Wordsworth texts (early Prelude material and Home at Grasmere) which are both about the importance of place to the writing of poetry - either in escaping from a hostile environment through writing poetry that draws on memories of place, or in celebrating a final home-coming to the Lakes.

Joseph Farington (1747-1821), Grasmere Vale, 14th June 1777, drawing (pencil, pen and wash). Wordsworth Trust. Joseph Farington (1747-1821), Grasmere Vale, 14th June 1777, drawing (pencil, pen and wash). Wordsworth Trust. 


The project opened up an understanding of the relationship between actual physical place (today) and imagined, textual space in the content of the poem and the making of the manuscript. The project website enabled methodologically inventive ways of working with manuscript materials, presenting interactive tasks and activities as well as spatial maps, background and full scholarly material about the manuscripts. It thus appeals to specialist, non-specialist and educational audiences and opens up new ways of understanding the relationship between place and textual space.

Themes such as happiness, community, body and mind, repetition, spirituality, poetic form and place have been identified from the manuscripts and allow basic level searches to take place. High-quality photographs have been presented alongside transcribed text, with thumbnails for ease of use, and highlighted line-by-line readings. The integration of the database with GIS technology allowed for a mapping of the movements of William and Dorothy Wordsworth and the integration of letters about places and people with visual representations of place.

A number of presentations of the website and the supporting research have been given. These include talks at the Wordsworth Summer Conference (2007), Lancaster University, and the Landscape and Environment programme's 'Literary Geographies' conference (2007).

In association with David Blacow from Lancaster University Television, Sally Bushell developed a 25 minute film called Wordsworth's Sense of Place: Home at Grasmere, drawing upon the manuscripts, readings from the poem, and Lake District scenery, alongside 'talking head' interviews with leading Wordsworth scholars Simon Bainbridge and Stephen Gill. A successful bid to the Friends Programme at Lancaster allowed for the distribution of 1000 free copies of the film.

The project stands as a model for successful collaboration between an academic and a non-academic institution (Wordsworth Trust). It allowed the Trust to explore a number of the items in its collections in detail and to assess the possibilities and rewards associated with the digitization of material. It will be of particular interest to other literary museums and to those working with hypertext in the field of English Literature.


Ongoing influence

The web resources produced by the project will continue to be of use to the large number of visitors to Dove Cottage each year, to school children and teachers visiting the actual or virtual site, and to individuals from around the world who are interested in Wordsworth but unable to travel to Dove Cottage. The accessible way that the manuscripts and supporting materials are presented online will continue to disseminate the research findings and aid those (particularly children) engaging in the process of writing poetry. 

The website project also initiated a stage of increasingly healthy interactions between the Wordsworth Centre and the Wordsworth Trust, resulting in i) a Five Year Collaborative Agreement (2012-2017), ii) a series of Wordsworth Walks led by Simon Bainbridge in collaboration with the Trust, and iii) the development of a series of online lectures/films about the space and place of the lakes.

The project also fed into the development of a successful bid to the British Academy on the 'literary mapping' of the Lake District. The project 'Mapping the Lakes: A Literary GIS', tests whether Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology can be used to further the understanding of the literature of place and space.

Award details

Duration: 2007-2008 (9 months)

Principal Investigator:
Dr Sally Bushell

Higher Education Institution:
Department of English and Creative Writing, Lancaster University

Selected publications

The project team published a number of peer-review journal articles, as well as contributing to an edited collection:

Bushell, S. (forthcoming 2015) 'Mapping Literature: Spatialising the Literary Work,' in Literary Mapping in the Digital Age eds. David Cooper, Chris Donaldson and Patricia Murietta-Flores. Ashgate.

Bushell, S. (2012) '"The Slipperiness of Literary Maps": Critical Cartography and Literary Cartography,' Cartographica 47.3: 49-61.

Bushell, S. (2010). The Mapping of Meaning in Wordsworth’s Michael (Textual Place, Textual Space and Spatialized Speech Acts). Studies in Romanticism. Spring 2010: 43-78.

Bushell, S.(2009). The making of meaning in Wordsworth's Home at Grasmere (Speech Acts, Micro-analysis and 'Freudian Slips'). Studies in Romanticism. Autumn 2009: 391-422.


Project partner 

Wordsworth Trust Logo

Related links


Landscape and Environment Programme

School of Geography
University Park
University of Nottingham
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 84 66071