Blackwell is one of Britain’s finest Arts & Crafts historic houses from the turn of the last century and survives in a truly remarkable state of preservation retaining its original decorative features, including the rare and fragile hessian wall-hangings in the Dining Room. One of the real joys of Blackwell lies in its wealth of detail, from the leaf-shaped door handles and curious window catches to spectacular plasterwork, stained glass and carved wooden panelling. Blackwell remains an internationally important icon of Arts & Crafts architecture.
Blackwell’s period rooms have been carefully furnished with the blend of Arts & Crafts furniture and early country-made pieces advocated by its architect, Baillie Scott. The Arts & Crafts Movement, a reaction against the increasing dominance of mechanisation brought about by the Industrial Revolution, was championed by John Ruskin and William Morris, the ‘fathers’ of the movement, who sought to re-establish the importance and worth of designer-craftsmen. Britain’s consumers were urged to achieve beauty, simplicity and practicality in the home.
The rooms contain furniture and objects by many of the leading Arts & Crafts designers and studios – furniture by Morris & Co., C F A Voysey and Ernest Gimson, metalwork by W A S Benson and ceramics by Pilkingtons, Maw & Co. and Ruskin Pottery.
Blackwell is a large historic house, but with its half-landings and split-level spaces its architect created somewhere with the atmosphere of an intimate family home. Nature’s flowing lines, which inspired Art Noveau, can be seen throughout the house, from the design of the stained glass plants and flowers to the rhythmic scrolling foliage in the carved wooden panelling in the Hall.
Visitors are encouraged to sit and soak up the atmosphere in Blackwell’s fireplace inglenooks, which boast fine examples of tiles by Arts & Crafts designer William de Morgan, and are free to enjoy the house as it was originally intended, without roped-off areas. The inviting window seats offer stunning views of the surrounding Lake District scenery over Lake Windermere to the Coniston fells.
The Arts & Crafts gardens were laid out by Thomas Mawson, in a series of terraces to achieve the best views from the historic house. Blackwell is bordered by beautiful flower beds set against a terrace of York stone paving, providing one of the loveliest outdoor places in Bowness, Cumbria if not the Lake District to enjoy morning coffee, lunch or afternoon tea.
The herbaceous terrace provides shelter for chairs, surrounded by fragrant flowers and herbs. On the lower terrace, climbing flowers are trained against the retaining wall and there is a long sweep of lawn where visitors can stroll and take in the intoxicating beauty of the Lake District.
Blackwell offers more than most historic houses; several of its first floor rooms have been adapted for use as galleries, and exhibitions are held throughout the year. The Gallery Rooms are perfect for showing contemporary work by established as well as emerging craft-makers and displaying historical exhibitions that explore different aspects of the Arts & Crafts Movement.
- © Tony West Photography