Although there has probably been a dwelling on this site since ancient times, the oldest part of Lancrigg as it is today dates back to the 1600’s when it was a farmhouse. In 1840 William Wordsworth, acting as the agent for his friend Elizabeth Fletcher of Edinburgh, paid the then farmer £1030 for the house and surrounding land. Wordsworth was instrumental in the renovation, carefully retaining many of the original features, including the traditional round chimneys for which he made a particular personal crusade. Lancrigg soon became a favourite place to William and his sister Dorothy, who wrote in her journal: “We had only been in Grasmere four days when we discovered the terraced walk at Lancrigg, which long remained our favourite haunt”.
Elizabeth Fletcher had a wealth of prominent friends in the intellectual, literary and political life of the 19th century. She was particularly interested in prison reform, education, women’s welfare and the emancipation of slaves. She had a real love of revolutions, and was a close friend of Guissepe Mazzini, the Italian revolutionary who played a prominent role in the creation of modern Italy. She also supported Byron’s revolutionary activities in Greece, the American revolution and the Hungarian uprising.
Elizabeth was also a close friend of Sir Walter Scott, Tennyson and Robert Southey. She also spent much time with the elder and younger Coleridge and with Humphrey Davey - the inventor of the miners lamps. Everyone who met Elizabeth Fletcher talked of her charm and beauty. Her autobiography gives a fascinating account of the famous Literati visiting Lancrigg and enjoying the surrounding valleys and mountains. Her son Angus was a great friend of Charles Dickens who used to stay at Lancrigg on his visits to the North. Charles Dickens, Angus Fletcher and Wilkie Collins frequently holidayed together from here to Southern Scotland, seemingly spending most of their time playing practical jokes on one another. Mary Fletcher, Elizabeth’s eldest daughter married (at Lancrigg) Sir John Richardson, and they moved into Lancrigg after Elizabeth’s death in 1860. Sir John grew up with the Scottish poet Robert Burns, also a frequent visitor to the house. Burns instructed Richardson in literature, poetry and recitation.
Sir John Richardson was a surgeon and went on the first two expeditions with Lt. John Franklin to the Arctic to attempt to discover the North West passage. The story is a fascinating one, and though they failed to discover the passage they returned home as heroes. Before a later, ill-fated, expedition which Sir John Richardson was unable to accompany, John Franklin came to Lancrigg to get a ‘clean bill of health’ from his friend Sir John. Franklin never returned from the Arctic and it was Richardson who organised the party to determine Franklin’s fate, though he was unsuccessful in his attempt.
Sir John Richardson was a best friend of Charles Darwin, to whom he sent samples and specimens from all around the world. Many trees and plants growing in Britain today were first introduced by Sir John. He also spent much time laying out and planting the gardens and woods at Lancrigg, where some of the rarer trees are attributed to him. Later in his life Sir John Richardson became the Chief Medical Officer of the Royal Naval Hospitals. It was in this capacity that he became a close friend, and subsequently a patron of Florence Nightingale.
Sir John Richardson in his study at Lancrigg
After Sir John’s death in 1865, Lancrigg was occupied by Mary Fletcher’s brother Henry, the Rector of Grasmere. Various people have lived here since then, but it was in 1985 that the house was turned into Lancrigg Vegetarian Country House Hotel by the present occupants, Robert and Janet Whittington. Janet has a BA (Hons) in Fine Art and Robert (also a trained musician) has a BSc in Applied Zoology. The artist William Heaton Cooper described Lancrigg as ‘a perfect example of a gracious country house in precisely the right place’. We have always aimed to keep the original charm of Lancrigg in the context of a present day hotel. Hopefully during your stay you will experience something of the spiritual atmosphere created by the visits of so many artists, scientists writers and poets - a magical aura of peace and timelessness, which will leave you relaxed and ready to return home inspired and rejuvenated.