A whole year has whizzed by since the last set of Heritage Open Days and suddenly they’re on us again. This year it’s better than ever since the event lasts for two weekends rather than one, with the same fascinating mix of history and culture to explore.
We’re whizzing about ourselves at the moment and didn’t have time for a longer trip out, so we picked a property that was pretty much on the doorstep – Silverthwaite, in the wonderfully-named village of Clappersgate, just north of Ambleside.
Normally this is a holiday let run by the National Trust, but on Saturday they’d kindly thrown open the doors, for one day only, to let the general public in. The reason? Well, two, mainly. First, this is a wonderful example of Lakeland Arts & Crafts, built in the early 1900s and featuring fireplaces, floorboards and carved wooden staircases that reminded us of (the admittedly much grander) Blackwell House, a few miles down the road.
And second, the house was planned and paid for by a local suffragette, Amy Amelia Sharp, who moved to the area in 1896 and who was passionate about women’s rights, having studied at Cambridge University but been denied a degree because she was female.
The house is generous but not stately (five bedrooms, two large reception rooms on the ground floor) so it only took us a few minutes to stroll round – but it was still fascinating. The National Trust had put up information signs about the property’s history, and about Amy Sharp’s background, together with amusing snippets – including the fact that she regularly chatted about suffragism with her (male) neighbour over their shared garden gate!
And it was lovely to see how many of the original features, and even apparently the furniture, had survived. There’s even an original wooden water closet in the bathroom, seat up and ready for use – although whether it’s actually fixed to the plumbing is anyone’s guess!
When Amy Sharp designed the house she deliberately planned it so that all the main rooms got their share of the sun, and the stunning view across Langdale. Sadly, the surrounding trees have grown up over the years and mostly blocked the latter, but this is still a charming home with a wealth of history, and we were delighted to have the chance to explore somewhere we’d never normally have been able to.