Set on the banks of Windermere, Blackwell is a Grade I listed house and one of the finest examples of Arts and Crafts design in the UK. The property was designed by Ballie Scott, one of the foremost designers in the Arts and Crafts movement, and built between 1889-1900. On a gloomy Saturday in late September, I headed to Blackwell to take a step back in time….
Reaching Blackwell feels like a mini adventure in itself, leaving the main tourist hustle of Bowness behind and winding through the quiet country lanes for a mile and a half before turning into the main driveway.
Blackwell was originally built as a holiday residence for the wealthy brewery owner Sir Edward Holt, his wife Elizabeth and their five children, who would visit from their home in Manchester to enjoy the peaceful surroundings. The fact the house was a holiday residence allowed Ballie Scott to design the house less formally than a domestic house may have been.
Once you’ve paid your entrance fee, you are given a reusable laminated map of the house and invited to start at the White Drawing Room at the end of the property. A bay window frames stunning views over Windermere and the Coniston fells; this room has an airy, feminine feel compared to the rest of the house, with intricate detail in the plasterwork on the ceiling and a beautiful central fireplace with marble tiles.
Leaving the drawing room behind, the Main Hall is the central heart of the house and would have been the principal place for entertaining. The house’s other rooms lead off this space, giving it a very ‘organic feel,’ with steps heading into tiny spaces and corners that overlook the Main Hall and an inglenook fireplace tucked away by the window.
The more intimate dining room was one of my favourite rooms in the house. The oak panelling of the Main Hall is echoed here alongside a stunning block printed and stencilled hessian wall covering.
One of the things I loved about the house is all the intricate Arts and Crafts details you notice when walking slowly around the house – from the wood carvings on the walls to the delicate stained-glass windows of flowers and birds.
Upstairs, the Master bedroom is a re-imagining of what Lakeland Arts believed the room would have looked like based on photographs and paintings of Ballie Scott’s previous work.
The additional rooms consist of a permanent exhibition on the Arts and Crafts movement alongside how Blackwell was later used as an evacuation site during the Second World War for Huyton College for girls near Liverpool – charming photos of the girls on an ice rink created by their creative head teacher!
It continued to be used as a school until the mid-1970s, when it was bought by a local businessman and used as offices by English Nature. The house was bought by Lakeland Arts in 1999 and opened to the public in September 2001 by the then Prince of Wales.
Blackwell also has several changing art exhibitions throughout the year. During our visit, there was a stunning collection of Halima Cassell’s mesmerising exhibition showcasing a large selection of ceramic sculptures, drawings, collages, and wallpapers beautifully incorporated throughout the house. Cassell was born in Pakistan and brought up in Lancashire. Her work is in various national and international collections, including at the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Hepworth Wakefield and Birmingham Art Gallery.
I highly recommend visiting Blackwell House – it’s also the perfect place to head to on a wet Lake District day!
Essential Information on Blackwell House
You can learn more about a visit and the changing exhibitions at Blackwell House here.
Where is Blackwell House? The house is 1.6 miles or a 5-minute drive from Bowness, and the postcode is LA23 3JT. Public transport does not serve the house, and the narrow roads would make walking there a little hairy!
When is Blackwell open? The house and cafe are open from 10-5pm from April to October and 10-4pm in November to March.
How much are the tickets at Blackwell? Tickets start from £9 for adults and £4.50 for children (in 2023)
Are there any refreshments at Blackwell? A small cafe at the house serves hot and cold drinks, cakes and light lunches.