Dorothy Wordsworth

Halifax town centre in the 18th century

One of Halifax's lesser-known literary associations is that of Dorothy Wordsworth. The connection of William Wordsworth and his devoted sister to the Lake District, and in particular Grasmere, is well known, but Dorothy in particular was no stranger to Halifax.

When Dorothy was six, in 1778, her mother Anne died suddenly, and she was sent to her mother's cousin, Elizabeth Threlkeld, at her home at a draper's shop near the Old Cock Hotel. She lived there for nine years, attending a private school at Blackwall and Northgate End Unitarian Chapel on Sundays, before being sent to stay with William and Dorothy Cookson in Penrith. This experience only served to deepen her fond memories of her Halifax sojourn.

Even after she left the town, she frequently returned for visits, and in 1794 was accompanied by her brother William. By this time 'Aunt' Threlkeld had married William Rawson and had moved to Mill House in Triangle, and the Wordsworths stayed for nine months, over Christmas and Dorothy’s 22nd birthday.

Another set of close friends from her Halifax childhood were daughters of the Pollard family, who had moved to Ovenden Hall. Jane Pollard's wedding provided the chance of another visit, this time with another of her four brothers, Christopher.

There are records of visits on three other occasions. In 1807, she came with William and his wife, Mary, to Savile Green, where the Rawsons had moved, and she made another visit in 1816, staying for five months. The last time we know that Dorothy visited Halifax was in 1818, and each visit was a busy round of meeting her old friends in homes across the Halifax district.

The image (which can be viewed in the Central Reference Library), showing Halifax town centre as Dorothy would have known it, is part of John Moore's 'Map of the Town and Township of Halifax' 1797.

For a list of materials relating to Dorothy Wordsworth currently in stock in Calderdale Libraries, enter Dorothy Wordsworth as a 'quick search' term in the Online library catalogue .