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News: 24 June 2019

Focus on Blackwell, The Arts and Crafts House

Images of England features buildings of many different architectural styles including those built in the Arts and Crafts style. One of them is Blackwell, on the edge of Lake Windermere in Cumbria. It is one of the most important surviving examples of the work of architect M. H. Baillie Scott. Baillie Scott was one of the architects associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement and by the time Baillie Scott was working on Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts movement was already influencing the Lake District. John Ruskin, one of the most influential participants, lived at Coniston Water and had encouraged the establishment of Keswick School of Industrial Art.
The Arts and Crafts movement was about a way of life, not just a way of design. As Baillie Scott said in 1906 "A house may possess that inscrutable quality of the True Romance. Not shallow, showy and pretentious as most modern mansions are, but full of still quiet earnestness which seems to lull and soothe the spirit with promises of peace." Architects were beginning to look at new ways for people to live and the designs reflected the beauty of the surrounding nature. This is very apparent in the carvings, tiles and stained glass used throughout Blackwell, which depict wildflowers, berries and birds.
Blackwell Arts and Crafts House - IoE number: 351657 © Mr Peter Jenkins LRPS The exterior of Blackwell has been designed to fit within local architecture with its whitewashed walls and slate roof. But Baillie Scott has also incorporated crisp sharp lines in his exterior, which made the design very modern in its time.
Blackwell was built in 1900 as a holiday home for Sir Edward Holt, a Manchester brewery owner, and his large family. Sir Edward was a man of good works and his charity extended to allowing the house to be opened to underprivileged orphans from the Jubilee School for Girls so that they could have holidays in surroundings quite different from the Manchester slums they lived in.
Blackwell probably owes its completeness to the fact that its owners have never used it as a permanent home so it has never been refurbished. For the Holt family it was a holiday home. Then from 1941 to 1976 it was a school and later it became offices. Girls skating at Blackwell School in the 1940s (photograph courtesy of the Lakeland Arts Trust)
Cleaning the panelling in the Main Hall (photograph courtesy of the Lakeland Arts Trust) In 1997 Blackwell was empty and The Lakeland Arts Trust stepped in to secure its future. After managing to persuade the owner to sell they purchased Blackwell in February 1999. Much fundraising and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund later they were able to ensure that Blackwell's unique features were restored and conserved for future generations to enjoy.
Blackwell was finally opened to the public in September 2001. As well as being able to appreciate the features of Blackwell visitors can also enjoy regular exhibitions.

Other examples of Baillie Scott's work and of the Arts and Crafts Movement can be found on the Images of England Website. Try searching "associated people" for 'Baillie Scott' or 'Morris, William' or 'Ruskin' and see what you can find!

Please visit the Blackwell website for information on opening times.

For more information on The Lakeland Arts Trust click here.

Please note that the majority of properties featured on the Images of England website are not open to the public.

Lakeland Arts Trust, Blackwell the Arts and Crafts House; a Souvenir Guidebook, 2002, Frank Peters Ltd, Kendal.
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