Windermere town centre isn’t particularly big, but it’s well stocked with a selection of shops, cafes and restaurants – and more than a few interesting or unusual features if you know where to look.
One of these is on Crescent Road, one of two main streets that form the town centre. At first glance, it doesn’t look very unusual – just a pair of large gate posts in front of the local hardware store. But the odd thing is, they don’t belong to that store. In fact, they don’t seem to belong to anywhere. They’re quite impressive – a matched pair and around six feet tall, but there’s no gates, no driveway, no big house – just a small courtyard, a barber’s, and Musgraves’ back door.
So what is going on? Why would you have a grand pair of gate posts that lead precisely nowhere? Well, it seems the Victorians are to blame for that. When Windermere railway station opened in 1847, local builders were falling over each other to develop the town centre and provide the shops, guest houses and residential buildings that the sudden rush of tourists and visitors required. As with any boom town, corners were sometimes cut. And, according to the entry for Windermere in Niklaus Pevsner’s excellent Buildings of England for Cumbria, that’s exactly what happened here.
The clue is in a large house called Fairhaven in Crescent Road, the other main street in the town. You can see it peeping over the rooftops of the nearer buildings in my photograph above. Seen close up it’s an impressive double-gabled house and was built in around 1850, presumably with a sizeable front garden – and nice big gateposts onto the existing road. But according to Pevsner, “so rapidly was open country swallowed up by building”, that an entire extra road was cut through, and lined with shops and boarding houses, between Fairhaven and its own front gates – leaving the posts stranded in a completely different road.
I don’t know of anywhere else where this has happened, but if you know of another example I’ll be fascinated to hear it.