Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House

One of the most important Arts and Crafts houses in England, Blackwell was originally built for the Manchester brewer - later Lord Mayor of the city - Edward Holt. 

Like other northern industrialists of the time he dreamt of quiet breaks in the Lake District and so, in 1898, he commissioned architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott, a significant figure in the Arts and Crafts movement, to build him a house overlooking Windermere.

Blackwell was completed in 1900 but because it was at first a family holiday home, then a school and finally offices, its interiors remained hidden from public view for almost a century. Thanks to a two year restoration project by Lakeland Arts, Blackwell was opened to the world in 2001 and these days is one of Cumbria’s outstanding attractions. It was Culture and Heritage Experience of the Year at the Cumbria Tourism Awards 2018.

What makes this Grade I listed house such a joy to visit is that almost all of the original decorative features have survived. The stained glass, the wood carving, the vibrant fireside tiling by the Arts and Crafts designer William de Morgan, the plasterwork and wrought iron work, the fireplaces and stone carving are all as Sir Edward Holt would have admired them. The main hall, the dining room and the white drawing room, with its views over the lake, are three gems.

Wander around Blackwell at will and keep your eyes peeled for the beauty in the detail: the carved floral ceiling bosses in the corridor, for instance, the frieze of intertwined rowan berries and leaves in the main hall’s wainscoting, the rare hessian wall hanging in the dining room, the door handles and the individually shaped window latches and catches. 

Blackwell is furnished with objects and furniture from the period when it was built, such as metalwork by WAS Benson, ceramics by Ruskin Pottery and furniture by Morris and Co and Ernest Gimson. All this makes it the perfect venue for top quality exhibitions of ceramics, furniture, glass, textiles and jewellery.     

Outside, the inclusion of tulips, peonies and rowan trees in the garden echoes some of the motifs in the house. The views from the terraces over Windermere make you feel that the Lake District is very much part of Blackwell’s extended garden, an ‘illusion’ that Baillie Scott was keen to create. 

Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House, Bowness-on-Windermere LA23 3JT: 015394 46139. Tea room, contemporary craft shop, parking. Wheelchair access: partial. Directions: Blackwell is one and a half miles (2.4km) south of Bowness on the B5360. 

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