HE was Queen Victoria’s favourite poet whose works are among the world’s most popular – and now 200 years after his birth, Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s links to a North East village are being celebrated.
Tennyson was born in August 1809 and to commemorate the anniversary villagers in Brancepeth, near Durham, are planning to highlight the former Poet Laureate’s links to their community.
It was while visiting his aunt in Brancepeth Castle that Tennyson wrote some of his epic love poem Come into the Garden Maud.
Tennyson was supported financially by his wealthy aunt Elizabeth Russell, of Brancepeth Castle.
Now his links with the village will be explored in an exhibition mounted by the Brancepeth Archives and History Group, coupled with a lecture by Dr Valerie Purton of the Tennyson Society. The lecture “Kind Hearts and Coronets” takes its name from lines in Tennyson’s poetry but also relates to the kind support from the family in Brancepeth Castle, which has two “crowned” drum turrets at its entrance.
It was in the adjoining rose garden that Tennyson is said to have been inspired to pen his serious love poem. This was later used with music to become the rousing music hall song – of which he disapproved – but which became even better known than his acclaimed Charge of the Light Brigade.
Jim Merrington, of the Brancepeth Archives and History Group, said: “The links between Brancepeth and the Tennyson family began in 1796 when William Russell bought the castle, which passed to his son Mathew, who married Elizabeth Tennyson, the aunt of the poet.
“Tennyson remained close to her throughout her life and her emotional and financial support played a major role in his development.”
It is claimed the most famous lines in the complex poem – “Come into the garden, Maud, For the black bat, night, has flown, Come into the garden, Maud, I am here at the gate alone” – were written in Brancepeth.
The one-off lecture will be held in the castle at 2.30pm on Saturday, November 14. Admission at the door is £5, with concessions.
Tennyson’s links to Brancepeth Castle are by no means its only claim to fame.
In the 1770s, Bridget Bellasyse, heiress of the castle estates (or Mary Bellasyse in some sources), was involved romantically with Robert Shafto of neighbouring Whitworth Hall, and this inspired a world famous rhyming song; -
“Bobby Shafto’s gone to sea,
Silver buckles at his knee;
He’ll come back and marry me,
Bonny Bobby Shafto.
And the poet William Wordsworth also stayed at Brancepeth, which he featured in a long poem The White Doe of Rylston.