Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts House

Image Source: Vivienne Crow

Style and simple elegance are the watchwords at Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts house, about a mile south of Bowness-on-Windermere. Couple this with truly spectacular and uninterrupted views over England’s longest lake, and you’ve got the ingredients for a memorable visit.

Blackwell was designed by renowned architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott for Manchester brewer Sir Edward Holt in 1901. Baillie Scott was a proponent of the Arts and Crafts style, a design movement that sought to move away from soulless industrialism and return to more traditional craftsmanship, and, at Blackwell, he worked with some of the leading designers of the age.

Many of the original features of the house, built as a holiday home, have been restored including its beautifully carved wood panelling, intricate plasterwork and small, tasteful stained-glass windows. Decorated inglenook fireplaces adorn several rooms, including the dining room which also features a rare hessian wall-hanging. Downstairs, visitors are inevitably drawn to the amazing White Drawing Room, where sunlight floods in through the massive lake-facing windows. It’s easy to imagine Sir Edward and his family spending many happy hours in the window seats here, entranced by the beauty of the scene outside. It must’ve seemed like a world away from the bustle and the grime of Manchester.

From the exquisite oak-panelled main hall, a staircase featuring a mock minstrels’ gallery leads up to the first floor. Although little evidence of the original furnishings exist, the main bedroom has been recreated by Arts and Crafts specialists to resemble what such a room would’ve looked like if Baillie Scott had designed it. It features colourful friezes, a carved ceiling, woven curtain trim and, the tour de force, a specially commissioned oak bed. 

Exhibitions in the upstairs rooms explain more about the Arts and Crafts movement and include displays of ceramics and other decorative items. A side room tells the story of how, during World War Two, the girls of Huyton College were evacuated to Blackwell to escape the Luftwaffe’s bombing of Liverpool.

The grounds were designed by Thomas Mawson, who laid out many formal gardens in the area including those at Holker Hall, Brockhole and Rydal Hall. To use the views from the house to their best advantage, he created a series of terraces. Visitors today are free to explore the gardens, and there are tables and chairs on the south-facing lawn for when the Cumbrian weather allows a more relaxed approach to spending time outdoors.    

Former servants’ rooms and the Holts’ kitchen on the ground floor are now occupied by the reception area, gift shop and licensed café, serving hot and cold light meals.

On certain days of the year, visitors can join an exclusive guided tour of Blackwell followed by a visit to the nearby Broad Leys. This private clubhouse was built by Arts and Crafts architect Charles FA Voysey in 1898.