Blackwell, The Arts and Crafts House, Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House, Bowness-on-Windermere, LA23 3JT – Visit Now
Unlike many of the ‘historic houses’ that dot the English countryside, Blackwell in Cumbria embodies the entire opposite of rarefied stately-home-stuffiness. Realised in 1901 by the rising star architect, Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott, who was able to put his pioneering ideas regarding the use of space, light and texture into practice on a grand scale, this airy and tranquil icon of the Arts & Crafts movement positioned on the banks of Lake Windermere and overlooking the Coniston Fells is a truly special place to visit.
This airy and tranquil icon of the Arts & Crafts movement positioned on the banks of Lake Windermere and overlooking the Coniston Fells is a truly special place to visit.
The house was commissioned by the Manchester brewer and twice Lord Mayor Sir Edward Holt as a rural retreat for him and his family of five children, who understandably spent their every summer there. Many of its decorative features – including tiled fireplaces, stained glass windows, mosaic floors and carved stone – reflect the resurgent interest in traditional techniques and craftsmanship during the period in response to rising mass production. The rooms are likewise furnished with original items by many of the leading Arts & Crafts designers of the day, such as the magnificent Liberty chair (1900) by The Silver Studio – a recent landmark acquisition now on permanent display.
Alongside its permanent collection, Blackwell’s ambitious exhibitions programme also celebrates the work of contemporary artists, designers and makers, such as Laura Ford and Halima Cassell. (A display of ‘narrative ceramics’ by the acclaimed illustrator Laura Carlin promises to be one of the highlights of art in the region this summer.)
Despite its aching elegance, however, Blackwell was first and foremost a family home, and it’s a great place to take the kids.
Despite its aching elegance, however, Blackwell was first and foremost a family home, and it’s a great place to take the kids. Adventure trails, eye spy prompts, colouring-in and a well-stocked dress-up box can be enjoyed throughout the year, complemented by a changing roster of school holiday activities. They’ll love the stunning garden, too, where there’s plenty of space for a run-around and nooks and crannies for hide-and-seek. With its abundant flower beds, fragrant herbs, long stretch of lawn and sheltered terrace, this is equally the perfect spot to enjoy an afternoon tea, served outdoors by the Blackwell Tea Room (or inside, depending on the weather).
And let’s be honest, as much as we appreciate the wild, bleak beauty of a Cumbrian storm as much as the next person, it’s better admired from the comfort of the dry. With the Lake District’s climate so changeable, it’s always best to visit equipped with a solid list of places that will provide interest as well as shelter from the rain. Being one of the few museums in the region that remains open all year round, this gem is well worth knowing about. (Along with the nearby Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Windermere Jetty: Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories and Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry.)
Though just five minute’s drive from tourist hot-spot, Bowness-on-Windermere, the island of peace that this remarkable house offers feels as if you’ve stepped into another world.
Blackwell’s shop sells a carefully selected range of jewellery, textiles, ceramics, silver, glass, metalwork and wood by leading British makers and can be visited (along with the café) without paying admission to the house, making a quick stop-off worthwhile even if you don’t have time for a full explore.
Though just five minute’s drive from tourist hot-spot, Bowness-on-Windermere, the island of peace that this remarkable house offers feels as if you’ve stepped into another world. Blackwell is a must visit for anyone interested in the Arts & Crafts movement, or who simply values the beauty of well-designed space.
Note: Summer opening hours for the house and shop are 10.30am-5.00pm and 10.00am-5.00pm for the tearoom. Winter opening hours (1 November-28 February) for the house and shop are 10.30am-4.00pm and 10.00am-4.00pm for the tearoom.
Admission ChargesAdult £8.90
Services and FacilitiesTea Room, Craft and Book shop, Free parking
AccessibilityLift access to first floor galleries
Commercial and hire servicesEducation room for hire