The tiny National Trust property of Bridge House is located to the north of Ambleside town centre. Spanning the waters of Stock Beck, it’s a curious sight and one which features in many holiday snaps of the town. The lack of detailed information about its history, and the many local stories that have sprung up to fill the gap, make it all the more intriguing.
It was probably built in the seventeenth century by the wealthy Braithwaite family as both a bridge and an apple store. (At this time, the area around the building would’ve been surrounded by orchards.) What functions it has served in the intervening centuries is a matter of some conjecture but it seems it may have been a weaving shop, a cobbler’s, a chair-maker’s workshop and even a home to a family of eight. You’ll appreciate that last fact more when you visit, and have to wait outside if there are more than a handful of other people already inside this cosy little construction!
It was probably also a counting house for the mills that once thronged this part of Ambleside. As in many other Lakeland towns and villages, the beck would’ve powered wool fulling mills, paper mills and bobbin-turning mills. Little of this industrial heritage remains today, although there are water wheels at the Fulling Mill restaurant, a few yards from Bridge House, and in nearby Rattle Ghyll.