On a wet August Bank Holiday Sunday in the English Lake District (I know it’s hard to believe) we took the chance to visit a house we’d been meaning to visit for years – Blackwell – The Arts and Crafts masterpiece on the edge of Lake Windermere. Designed by Mackay Hugh Ballie Scott in 1898 and completed in 1901 it is one of the greatest Arts and Craft style houses in the UK.
Sir Edward Holt and his wife Elizabeth commissioned the house. Sir Edward was a successful industrialist from Manchester and he built Blackwell as a holiday home for his wife and family. Bowness-on-Windermere had become fashionable as a rural retreat following the railway being built from Kendal in 1847.
Ballie Scott (1865- 1947) was one of the most important architects in Arts and Crafts Movement. The movement was a reaction to the increasing mechanisation of the world brought about by the industrial revolution. William Morris (1834-1896) and John Ruskin (1819-1900) are considered the fathers of the Arts and Craft Movement and they extolled the virtues of craft and local skills. The architecture of the movement, therefore, used local materials and craftsmen to build domestic scale houses that ‘fit’ with the place they were built. This is shown at Blackwell by the use of local stone and oak in many of the details. There is also the use throughout the house of a Rowan tree motif along with wildflowers, berries and birds in many of the carvings and stained glass.
John Ruskin had a home at Brantwood near Coniston Water and he had established the Keswick School of Industrial Art in 1884 so the Arts and Craft movement was established in the area prior to Scott’s masterpiece being started.
The White Drawing Room is stunning. With its inglenook fireplace, light walls and fantastic detailing on walls and ceiling. The west facing bay window giving beautiful views over Lake Windermere and, on a clear day, to Coniston Old Man.
The other principle rooms on the ground floor are darker in style and include oak paneling with the Rowan Tree motif and copper lights that originally lit a billiard table. The dining room beyond this and has more oak on ceilings and half paneled walls and another inglenook fireplace.
The oak style flows up the staircase and through to the upper floors with the corridor linking the bedrooms. The whole house has been dressed beautifully in the arts and craft style and is now owned by the Lakeland Arts Charity.
You can feel the linkages to the other stars of the Arts and Craft Movement – Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) the genius of Scottish Arts and Craft design and the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) the American super star and to Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) the English architect and designer of New Delhi in India. Perhaps Ballie Scott is not as well know outside of architectural circles but he should be Blackwell is a masterpiece.
I’d thoroughly recommend a visit.