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Title: Grasmere  
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Subject: Ophelia Gordon Bell, William Heaton Cooper, Westmorland, William Wordsworth, Lake District
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Grasmere is located in Cumbria
 Grasmere shown within Cumbria
OS grid reference
Civil parish Lakes
District South Lakeland
Shire county Cumbria
Region North West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Dialling code 015394
Police Cumbria
Fire Cumbria
Ambulance North West
EU Parliament North West England
List of places
Grasmere village and lake as seen from the fell of Stone Arthur

Grasmere is a village, and popular tourist destination, in the centre of the English Lake District. It takes its name from the adjacent lake, and is associated with the Lake Poets. The poet William Wordsworth, who lived in Grasmere for fourteen years, described it as "the loveliest spot that man hath ever found".[1]

Before 1974, Grasmere lay within the former county of Westmorland, but today it is part of the county of Cumbria.


  • Etymology 1
  • Geography 2
  • Transport 3
  • Communal events 4
    • Rushbearing 4.1
    • Grasmere Sports 4.2
    • Grasmere Chocolate Cottage 4.3
    • Grasmere gingerbread 4.4
    • Religious 4.5
  • Government 5
  • Notable persons 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


" 'The lake flanked by grass'; 'gres', 'mere'. Early spellings in 'Grys-', 'Gris(s)-' might suggest ON 'griss' 'young pig' as 1st el.[ement], but the weight of the evidence points to OE/ON 'gres' 'grass', with the modern form influenced by Standard English....The medial '-s(s)e-' may, as suggested by Ekwall in DEPN,[2] point to ON 'gres-saer' 'grass-lake' as the original name...".[3] Plus the element "'mere' OE, ModE 'lake, 'pool'."[4]

(OE is Old English, the language spoken until about AD 1100; ON is Old Norse.)


The village is on the river Rothay which flows into Grasmere lake which lies about 0.5 km to the south. The village is overlooked from the NW by the rocky hill of Helm Crag, popularly known as The Lion and the Lamb or the Old Lady at the Piano. These names are derived from the shape of rock formations on its summit, depending on which side you view it from.[5]

A number of popular walks begin near the centre of the village, including the ascent of Helm Crag,a longer route up to Fairfield and a moderate 2 mile ascent to Easedale Tarn. The village is also on the route of Alfred Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk.[6]

Grasmere Village

The A591 connects Grasmere to the Vale of Keswick over Dunmail Raise to the north, and Ambleside to the south. In other directions, Grasmere is surrounded by high ground. To the west, a long ridge comes down from High Raise and contains the lesser heights of Blea Rigg and Silver How. To the east, Grasmere is bordered by the western ridge of the Fairfield horseshoe.


Grasmere is served by the Stagecoach 555 bus service which connects it with other towns in and near the Lake District such as Keswick and Lancaster.[7] In summer it is served by an open top double-decker 599 service, operated by Stagecoach, which runs between Grasmere and Bowness-on-Windermere.

Communal events


Grasmere's famous Rushbearing Ceremony, centred on St Oswald's Church, has ancient origins. The present-day ceremony is an annual event which features a procession through the village with bearings made from rushes and flowers. In this procession there are also six Maids of Honour, a brass band, the church choir, and anyone who wishes to join in by carrying their own decorated rushbearing.

St Oswald's Church, decorated for the Rushbearing Day

Grasmere Sports

The annual Grasmere Sports take place in August and were first held in 1852. This is the main event in the village's calendar and one of the most popular traditional events in the Lake District. Participants compete in a variety of sports, including Cumberland Wrestling, fell running and hound trails (similar to drag hunting).

Grasmere Chocolate Cottage

Grasmere is now home to the winner of the 'Best New Business of the year' awarded by the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs, the Handmade Chocolate Shop.[8]

Grasmere gingerbread

Today's Grasmere Gingerbread is made to a "secret recipe" popularized by Sarah Nelson (1815-1904).[9][10] By the early nineteenth century, Grasmere gingerbread was already being sold as fairings, as well as being a popular seller in its own right.[11] Poet Dorothy Wordsworth wrote in 1803 that she and her brother William yearned for the gingerbread.[11]


Until September 2013 Grasmere's three main church parishes (Catholic, Church of England and Methodist) gathered three times a year to celebrate mass in the Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Wayside.


The former civil parish was for a time governed by an urban district council before becoming part of the Lakes UDC in 1934. The village is now part of Lakes Parish. Grasmere is currently represented by Liberal Democrat politicians on both the district council and county council, as well as at Westminster.[12] Grasmere has experienced population decline since the 1960s.[13]

Notable persons

  • William Wordsworth lived in Dove Cottage, in the hamlet of Townend, on the outskirts of Grasmere, from 1799. He occasionally used to breakfast with Sir Walter Scott at The Swan, a 17th-century coaching inn that is still in use, just outside of the village on the A591 main road. In his poem "The Waggoner", Wordsworth asks "Who does not know the famous Swan?", a line which is quoted on the Swan's pub sign to this day. In 1808 he sold Dove Cottage to his friend Thomas de Quincey and moved to a larger house in the village, Allan Bank, where he lived until he moved to Rydal Mount, Rydal, in 1813. He is buried in the churchyard of St. Oswald's Church, Grasmere, alongside his wife, Mary and their family. His sister, Dorothy is also buried alongside him.[14] One of William Wordsworth's friends, Lady Maria Farquhar, also lived in Grasmere at Dale Lodge
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge also spent time at Dove Cottage and is said to have muttered stanzas from his poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" whilst walking across the fells to Grasmere.[15]
  • Fred Yates the painter lived at "Cote How" near Grasmere from 1900 until 1906. During this period he painted the future United States president Woodrow Wilson and John Haden Badley.
  • John Haden Badley, the progressive educationalist and author who founded Bedales School, often spent time with his sisters the Misses Badley at their home "Winterseeds" in Grasmere in the first half of the 20th century.
  • The husband-and-wife artists William Heaton Cooper, a landscape painter, and Ophelia Gordon Bell, a sculptor, lived, and are buried, in Grasmere.


  1. ^ A Farewell. Retrieved 02 December 2013
  2. ^ Ekwall, Eilert (1960). The concise Oxford dictionary of English place-names (4th ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. pp. l, 546. 
  3. ^ Whaley, Diana (2006). A dictionary of Lake District place-names. Nottingham: English Place-Name Society. pp. lx,423 p.136.  
  4. ^ Whaley, 2006, p.411,
  5. ^ Retrieved on 2008-02-07
  6. ^ Wainwright: Coast to Coast
  7. ^
  8. ^ The IOEE brings together the enterprise sector for House of Lords celebration. Retrieved on 2014-10-25
  9. ^ Grasmere Gingerbread Co: History. Retrieved on 2012-08-27
  10. ^ Davies, Caroline. The Guardian:Wordsworth's village bakers fight over their gingerbread. Retrieved on 2012-08-27
  11. ^ a b Broomfield, Andrea (2007). Food and cooking in Victorian England : a history (1st ed.). Westport: Praeger Publishers. pp. 161–163.  
  12. ^ Tim Farron MP
  13. ^ Retrieved on 2008-02-07
  14. ^ Visit Cumbria: St Oswald's church
  15. ^ Retrieved on 2008-02-06

External links

  • Cumbria County History Trust: Grasmere (nb: provisional research only - see Talk page)
  • South Lakeland - Ward Profiles
  • The Cumbria Directory - Grasmere
  • Grasmere at DMOZ
  • - official Grasmere site
  • Lake District Walks - Grasmere Walks
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