Poets and Pictures
Many notable individuals are inextricably linked with the cultural history of the Limestone Landscapes area, amongst these are a number of poets, writers and painters.
Probably the most famous poet of the area is Elizabeth Barrett-Browning who was born at Coxhoe Hall. She was one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era and wife of poet Robert Browning with her works equal if not more popular with Victorian audiences than those of her husband. Her poetry was widely popular in both England and the United States.
The poet Lord Byron, although not from the area was married at Seaham in 1815. His bride was Lady Ann Isabella Milbanke, the daughter of a local squire. The marriage was not a happy one and the unfortunate wife was later ridiculed in one of Byron’s poems as `Lady Millpond’. Byron did not seem to have enjoyed his time at Seaham as in a letter to a friend he complained, “Upon this dreary coast we have nothing but county meetings and shipwrecks; and I have this day dined upon fish, which probably dined upon the crews of several colliers lost in the late gales”.
Thankfully not all people disliked the area as much! Charles Dickens who often resided at ‘Cleadon House’ on Front Street, Cleadon reputedly gained inspiration here for the character of Miss Havisham in his novel Great Expectations. The description of her house matches Cleadon House and local anecdote alleges that a man who lived in the house was stood-up at the altar and immediately ordered the clocks and reception at Cleadon House to be kept exactly the same as that of the moment he was to be married for a year and so providing the inspiration for Miss Havisham.
Painter L.S. Lowry, although most associated with Salford and Lancashire, would often spend holidays at the Seaburn Hotel in Sunderland, painting scenes of the beach, as well as nearby ports and coal mines. A number of his paintings of the area now hang in the Sunderland Museum.