NATIONAL Trust workers at a former Lake District home of William Wordsworth were left open-mouthed when a surprise benefactor turned up with a cheque for £100,000.
Allan Bank in Grasmere, which was later home to one of the trust's founders, Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, was opened to the public for the first time last year after it was devastated by fire in 2011.
Staff had no idea that when they showed visitor Antony Elliot around the Georgian villa that he would present them with the donation on behalf of his cousin Brenda Donoghue. The former nurse left the bequest to the National Trust in the Lake District when she died last April, aged 83.
After visiting the house, Mr Elliot declared she would have approved of restoration work there as she loved gardens and literature.
He said: "My cousin loved books and beautiful colourful gardens and, though she had no children of her own, she delighted in seeing children play.
"Restoring the house and garden at Allan Bank for future generations is a wonderful and fitting memorial to her and I look forward to seeing her legacy come to life."
Manager Dave Almond said: "This will allow us to continue some of the vital work needed to restore and conserve Allan Bank.
"This is the first step in a very exciting project that will allow us to recreate the original views and restore the kitchen garden, as well as creating more spaces for books and reading.
"Mrs Donoghue's gift will ensure that we can continue to bring Allan Bank back to life."
Visitor services supervisor Elaine Taylor said Mr Elliot, who visited the house with his wife and son, had already pledged to return to Allan Bank in the summer.
She said a lot of the work done at the home, which has mostly bare walls and basic furniture, has been to keep a relaxed, interactive feel where visitors could enjoy a 'home from home'.
"Children and adults can play freely here, inside and out, they can create paintings of the views from the house, spot red squirrels in the grounds, take part in crafting, or just sit and read quietly.
"When we first opened we asked visitors to suggest what we should do with the house, and they said leave it as it is."
Wordsworth leased the property, which he previously said marred his views from Dove Cottage, for three years from 1808.
The house is open seven days a week and staff said they were always on the lookout for volunteers to welcome visitors.