Bank holiday weekends in the Lakes can be a tad hectic, especially when the weather is as nice as it was last weekend. So we tend to try to get ‘off the beaten track’ and steer clear of the main tourist hot-spots. Luckily, there are still plenty of places to choose from.
One we keep for just these occasions is Blackwell, an amazing Arts & Crafts house just a couple of miles south of Bowness. Built as a holiday home for the Manchester brewing family the Holts in 1901, it was designed by the well-known architect M H Baillie Scott in a [ ] Arts & Crafts style where everything from the structure to the interior décor and furnishings adds to the overall design. The result is stunning.
The house sits on a terrace overlooking Lake Windermere, but unusually the main rooms face south, away from the best views, in order to catch the sun. There are odd glimpses of the fells from some of the windows, making sudden dramatic ‘statements’ as you move around the house. And if you like Arts & Crafts, then the interiors are to die for. The main living room resembles a medieval great hall complete with vast inglenook fireplace and minstrels’ gallery, while the smaller drawing or sitting room is a confection of delicate white pillars and foliage, more like some of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s iconic designs.
And although most if not all the original furniture has vanished, the new owners Lakeland Arts have done an amazing job of filling the house with appropriate and complementary pieces by the likes of Knox, Voysey and Benson, as well as furniture designed by Baillie Scott himself, and other pieces by local Arts & Crafts designer Arthur Simpson of Kendal. It all fits remarkably well and gives a good indication of how the house would have looked in its heyday, while still giving plenty of free space for visitors to wander about.
My own favourite bits are the fireplaces in the main rooms, all built as inglenooks with stained glass windows overlooking the garden, and beautiful tiles. The garden, although comparatively small, is pretty, and then there are those amazing views. It must have been a stunning place to live (even for part of the year) and it’s still a lovely place for a mooch.
Here’s a selection of photos I took on Saturday including the windows in the main reception hall, the impressive south-facing “back” of the house, a detail of the garden, and the spectacular view across the lake.